how to choose a major

Top 10 Ways to Decide on a Major

This article is for those of you who are looking for ways to decide on a major. You might know what majors interest you but are choosing between a few, or maybe you have absolutely no idea what you’d major you should get in college. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, this top 10 list contains a few tips.

1. Start with your Interest and Strengths

College is a journey and keeping up with your studies takes dedication. It’s important to choose a major that piques your interest to get you to the finish line. You can start with an evaluation of your interests and strengths. Perhaps there were subjects in high school you enjoyed or a hobby you think you could see yourself making a career out of. After all, you will be spending on average 95,000 hours at work in your lifetime.

There are a few ways to consider your career interests. You can sit down with a career counselor at your local college or the school you might attend and discuss your career ambitions or goals. You can also take our free career tests to determine what your career interests may be.

2. Ask People in the Workforce

You might be surprised by the advice friends or family members might have to offer. If you ask people who are already professionals in the workforce what they think you’d be good at, they may recommend certain careers or degree programs you never though of. In fact, they could recommend a career or degree program you didn’t know exists.

3. Research College Majors and Careers

Once you think you have an idea of the career or careers you’d like to work toward, research the educational requirements for that career. Some careers are more flexible than others when it comes to education. For instance, you could discover that one career requires a degree in a science or math. Another career might require a degree in computer science or software development. Next, check if you’re chosen college has the degree track you want. Some colleges also have a particular focus such as science, medical, liberal arts, or business – so don’t assume that every college offers the degree you want. You’ll also want to then check that you meet the prerequisites to be accepted into that degree program. For instance, a college may want to see a certain level of math attained on a high school transcript or that you completed a certain level of science.

Also, check if the college offers courses to help you specialize in a focused area while attaining your degree. This can make you more marketable in the workforce. For example, let’s say you really wanted to get a degree in business but you want to use that degree to gain a position human resources after you graduate; check if the college has coursework or minors in human resources. A college’s academic advisors are also a great resource when you start your research.

4. Decide on the Length of School

Do you want to get a degree as soon as possible and enter the workforce or do you want to earn your doctorate? The timeframe of obtaining your degree can also play a major role in deciding on a major. Degrees can take less than 2 years or 6-10 years pending on what degree you choose. For example, if you want to become a lawyer you are required to earn a bachelor’s degree which typically can take anywhere from 3-4 years if you attend full time. Next, you must attend law school which is an additional 3 years before you can even start working. You can check out our careers page to look at the educational requirements for various career fields.

5. Review the Degree’s Course Requirements

Most degrees have core classes required to gain the degree but they also have several prerequisites. Prerequisites are required to demonstrate proficiency in areas such a writing, math, general sciences, literature, and social sciences prior to entering your chosen program. These prerequisite can be found in the college catalog or on the school’s website as most colleges list all of their degree tracks online. In addition, an academic advisor can also assist in this area.

6. Research Careers

One of the largest factors to consider before deciding on a degree is the employment opportunities available after you graduate. It’s easy to choose a degree without thinking of this, but you want to ensure jobs will be readily available to them. Unfortunately, the reality available after graduation. It may be wise to research employment opportunities prior to investing in a degree that may not lead to a job. Check out our article explaining how to research careers.

7. Salary vs Cost of the Degree

College tuition can be expensive, so another factor to consider is how much the degree will cost to earn compared to your earning potential after you graduate. If the career you choose requires a master’s degree and you go to school for 6 years and must pay the cost of tuition, will the career field you choose earn enough to comfortably pay that amount back. You can also consider going to a more inexpensive school such as an in-state school or start out at a community college.

In addition to earning a degree, some career fields have additional requirements. Most medical fields require licensing or passing boards to practice. Accountant, lawyers, paralegals, real estate managers, and many other careers require certification or state licensure. To ensure you understand the requirements in your career field, research what additional requirements are necessary besides the college coursework.

8. Shadow, Volunteer, or Intern

Shadowing someone, volunteering, or being an intern in a career field that you may have an interest in is highly recommended prior to starting a degree program. This gives you a true sense of what this career path may look like prior to earning a degree. Coursework does not always relay to the hands-on components of a chosen career field. Shadowing and internships allow hands-on experience, exposure to job duties, the ability to ask questions to experts in the field, and truly gain a sense of what the job entails on an everyday basis prior to even starting a degree. After all you will spend a minimum of 35-40 hours a week after college performing these job duties. Some internships may even pay you wages while still attending high school.

9. Are there Scholarships

Not that scholarships should be a deciding factor in choosing your degree field. However, there is a shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) professionals. Because of this, many colleges offer scholarships or grants that can help reduce the cost of your tuition. Look for scholarships that correlate to your career field. You may be surprised how much free money is out there for certain degrees. Check out the Fund College page for more information.

10. Accreditation

Be sure to also check a college’s accreditation. A degree that is accredited has met quality standards by educational boards and ensures that your chosen school is reputable. In addition to the school being accredited, if you are going into a degree field that requires licensing or certification at the end, ensure the college and your degree program is accredited by the correct governing board. For more information, visit our article on how to research a college.

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