How to Choose Your Major

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The major you choose in college will forge a path you’ll be following for the rest of your life, so it’s natural to feel anxious about your decision.

College is a great time to explore your interests, but every adventurer needs a plan, especially when they’re paying tuition. If you want to pick the right major, it’s important to identify your priorities and interests, then match them up with a high paying career.

Learn to do that, and you’ll have everything you need to know to choose what major will be best for you.

When to Choose Your Major

Don’t know yet what major to choose? Most people go to college without much confidence in what area they want to study.

You have some time to explore different subjects and figure out what interests you. Every school will have a different timeline for when you have to declare a major, but your initial decision isn’t necessarily carved in stone. You can get started on your degree and investigate your interests at the same time.

In order to obtain a bachelor’s degree, many colleges and universities require you take a number of general education classes and electives. These classes give you the opportunity to dip your toe into two or three of the majors that interest you while simultaneously working towards finishing your degree.

After you’ve picked a major, the process of changing it is basically as simple as filling out some paperwork. Approximately three out of every four students end up changing their major.

However, that doesn’t mean you have unlimited time to decide. Ideally, you should have permanently settled on your major before the end of your second year of college. A sophomore will have completed most of their general education and elective requirements, and also have taken a number of courses that are unlikely to apply to a different degree program. The result is having to pay more in tuition and delaying your graduation.

Factors to Consider When Picking a Major

If you’re not sure what you’d like to study, college counselors are great at helping match people with majors that interest them. You should also check out what our Career Wizard can find for you.

Once you have an idea about what you want to study, try talking to students in that major, as well as people who work in the industries you’re thinking of entering. These are the people most likely to have the insight you’ll need to figure out whether or not that major is a fit for you.

Considering Your Interests

It’s great when one of your hobby interests overlaps with a career, but that doesn’t mean your hobby would make a great job.

If you loved to draw but had no interest in working on someone else’s designs, your hobby would probably make a lousy profession. Great careers usually have two components, they involve something you’re skilled with or passionate about, plus they’re highly employable and lucrative.

Sometimes finding the best major relative to your interests is easy. For example, if you’re interested in programming, the best major for you to study is computer science. Or if you’re interested in therapy or criminology, a psychology major would be right up your alley.

Sometimes, there are less obvious career opportunities open for people who pursue a specialized degree. For example, a math degree doesn’t just give you the skills to teach math; it opens doors to careers in scientific research, analysis, accounting, and many more.

Do your homework (literally and figuratively) and investigate what career opportunities your major offers you. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Earning Potential and Employment Rates

The starting salary of a business major is around $42,000. With a few years of job experience, that figure leaps up towards $53,000. But not all bachelor’s degrees have the same earning potential.

For example, education degrees have fantastic rates of employment. Even for fresh graduates, only slightly more than 2% of education majors are unemployed. But education degrees also have relatively low earning potential, even mid-career.

By contrast, architecture majors have amazing starting salaries, but graduates can face unemployment of 7% of higher. Paying attention to these figures will help you  understand not just if you’ll have a job after you graduate, but how much you’ll make, and the potential for career growth.

One place where you can find both excellent employment rates and high earning potential is the insurance industry. Insurance companies are hungry for variety of skilled people, from accountants to programmers. And they’re offering some of the best starting pay for a bachelor’s degree.

A benefit analyst can start making over $54,000 not long after graduation. Whether you’re skilled working with people, working with math, or working with computers, there are explosive job opportunities in insurance.

What Happens If I Have Multiple Majors of Interest?

Minors are a good place to explore one of your passions without having to fully commit to an area of study. If you loved playing an instrument, you could minor in music studies without turning it into a career. These types of hobby minors show character and can help you stand out when applying for jobs.

You can also take a minor to enhance your degree. For example, a math major with a minor in physics or biology could find themselves in an engineering position and a standout among others in their field.

The downside to adding a minor is that they require you complete about half as many courses as a major. You may wind up spending more on tuition, and possibly even delaying your timeline for graduation.

If choosing a major is hard because you’re interested in two things, you might find yourself considering a second major. On one hand, having taking two majors in complementary subjects can make you a much stronger job candidate. A business major who also studied communications would stand out to employers from both industries.

On the other hand, finishing a major usually requires you take around 15 classes. That means more than a full year at school, and all the tuition that comes with it.  You’ll also have fewer chances to take more experimental classes outside of your field because of all the extra required courses on your plate. Having a second major can pay off, but you have to work almost twice as hard.

Nevertheless, choosing the right major (and potentially a minor) can be a great way to set yourself up for a bright future. It may take a little extra work to find the right one, but the end result can be a fulfilling career.