More than 61% of students report that they would change their majors if they had the opportunity to go back to college. This is just one of the reasons why the answer to the question “What should I major in?” is so important. Students tend to change their majors during college, and there are many considerations that must go into choosing a major in the first place.
To help answer the overarching question of “What major should I choose?” we’ve put together this guide. We’ll touch on what a major is, why it’s so important, and some important considerations that are aimed at helping you choose the major that’s right for you.
What is a Major?
A major in college is a specialized area of study. Most colleges require students to complete general education before enrolling in higher division and major-specific coursework. When you choose a major, then a majority of your classes will be within that subject so that you can become well-versed.
In many cases, students choose from their school’s list of majors. But, sometimes, it’s also possible for a student to design their own major for approval by the school. Upon graduating, you receive a degree in said major. This is what’s used to obtain a job in the field or apply to further higher education institutions for a master’s or doctoral degree.
Is a Major Important?
A major is important in the sense that it sets a foundation for your learning. You’ll spend the majority of your time in classes dedicated to your major, so it’s a good thing to choose something you actually enjoy learning about.
However, a major isn’t the end all be all of your entire future. The average person changes their field of work two to three times in their lifetime. That being said, your future career could depend on your major. If you want to work in a profession, you’ll need to have the academic knowledge to either obtain the higher degree or apply for certain jobs. Since you spend time, money, and energy in school, you’ll want to consider your major seriously.
When Do I Declare a Major?
Different students will declare their majors at different times. Some students apply to college with the knowledge of their major. Others choose their major in the first few months or even years of school. Since most bachelor’s degrees require 120 units to graduate, and about 40-50 of them are within one’s major, there is some time you can spend learning before declaring a major.
Students can complete general education coursework before moving into major-specific coursework. This can provide one to two years of runtime before you will be ready to pick a major. The upside of this setup is that you’ll get to explore general education classes and a variety of subjects, which can all impact your thoughts about specific subjects and play a role in choosing a major.
Considerations When Choosing a Major
When the time comes to declare a major, you’ll need to consider these important factors:
Programs costs can vary based on one’s major. This is because the required classes and length of study can vary. On the bright side, there are some affordable colleges where the program costs don’t vary greatly. For example, at University of the People, our four programs are tuition-free, but you will have to cover the relatively low costs of exam fees.
Naturally, if you’re attending college to advance in your career, then you’ll want to consider your future earning potential. In most cases, the higher education you receive, the higher your salary potential can be. This isn’t to say that you should select a major solely based on how much money you can make, but it is definitely a consideration. Some of the most lucrative majors include: engineering, computer science, economics, government, actuarial mathematics, and physics.
At the same time you consider earning potential, be sure to research the job outlook and growth potential for your chosen career path.
Advanced degree options:
Depending on your career path, you may need to seek advanced degrees. For example, you’ll need a master’s in education or related subject to become a professor. Therefore, it makes sense to choose a major related to your career path and higher degrees so that you can fulfill the requirements.
Is there a certain subject that you’ve always been good at or loved learning about? Choosing a major you’re genuinely passionate about will aid in your ability to do well during school. You’ll be engaged in your classes and then you may even want to pursue more education to obtain a terminal degree in the field.
Can I Change My Major?
Despite the pressure you may feel when choosing your major, you can alleviate the burden by knowing you always have the option to change your major! Even if you declare a major and begin taking classes, you could still change majors. You may just need to fulfill the introductory requirements.
The only potential downside of changing a major mid-college experience is that you could delay the time it takes to graduate (and potentially spend more money). However, this is often worthwhile so that you can obtain a degree in a major that will fulfill your future goals and dreams.
What If I Have Multiple Interests?
Choosing just one major isn’t always black-and-white. You may be really good at multiple subjects or interested in one subject for your career and another for fun. You could even want to major in two subjects that complement one another, like business administration and communications.
For students looking for more options, take time to look at double majoring or choosing a minor.
- Double major: If you have the time and ability, you can graduate with two majors. This means that you’ll have to complete the course requirements for both majors. For some students, it may mean staying in school longer to complete all the classes.
- Minor: A minor is a smaller area of focus. You get to enroll in the major-specific courses, but you will complete less of them in a minor than a major. So, you can graduate with a major and a minor. This can be a solid route to take if you want to major in a subject for a particular career, and then you want to learn more about a subject as a minor because you’re genuinely passionate about it. For example, you may major in computer science, but minor in art history.
A Major Consideration
Whether you’re looking to attend college or are early in your college career, you’ll probably find yourself questioning, “What should I major in college?” Take the time to consider program costs, career goals and opportunities, and what you really like to do. These answers will help to inform your decision of what you choose for as your major.
Remember, most students do change their majors (and also careers) within their lifetime, so there’s no harm or foul in doing so. Your future is yours to create, so choose wisely!