Choosing a Major

Today’s college students are more likely to choose a major in business than previous students, but a large number are also selecting majors in the health professions (e.g., nursing or physical therapy), biology, and engineering. Your college or university might require you to select a major during or before your first year, even before you have figured out your own purpose for college. Some institutions will allow you to be “undecided” or to select “no preference” for a year or two. It’s OK if you don’t know which career to pursue yet; in fact, it’s perfectly normal. Although many students will declare a major when they enter college, more than 60 percent of them will change majors at least once, often because they discovered a match between their strengths and a potential career field they had never considered before.

Even if you are ready to select a major, it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. You can pursue so many avenues while you’re in college, many that you might not have even considered. Or, you might come to learn that the career you always dreamed of isn’t what you thought it would be at all.

Connecting Majors and Careers

At some point you might ask yourself: Why am I in college? Although it sounds like an easy question to answer, it’s not. Many students would immediately respond, “So I can get a good job or education for a specific career,” yet most majors do not lead to a specific career path or job. You actually can enter most career paths from any number of academic majors. Marketing, a common undergraduate business major, is a field that recruits from a wide variety of majors, including advertising, communications, and psychology. Sociology majors find jobs in law enforcement, teaching, and public service.

Today, English majors are designing Web pages, philosophy majors are developing logic codes for operating systems, and history majors are sales representatives and business managers. You do not have to major in science to gain admittance to medical school. Of course, you do have to take the required science and math courses, but medical schools seek applicants with diverse backgrounds. Only a few technical or professional fields, such as accounting, nursing, and engineering, are tied to specific majors.

Some students will find that they’re not ready to select an academic major in the first year. You can use your first year and even your second year to explore your interests and find out how they might connect to various academic programs. Over time, you might make different choices than you would have during your first year.

You can major in almost anything. In fact, it is how you integrate your classes with your extracurricular activities and work experience that prepares you for a successful transition to your career. Try a major you think you’ll like and see what develops. Keep an open mind, though, and don’t pin all your hopes on finding a career in that major alone. Your major and your career ultimately have to fit your overall life goals, purposes, values, and beliefs.

Aligning Your Sense of Purpose and Your Career

Receiving a college degree will improve your earning potential.

Here are some additional questions to ask yourself as you continue to think about why you’re at this particular college or university:

  • Am I here to find out who I am and to study a subject that I am truly passionate about, regardless of whether it leads to a career?

  • Am I here to engage in an academic program that provides an array of possibilities when I graduate?

  • Am I here to prepare myself for a graduate program or for immediate employment?

  • Am I here to obtain specific training in a field that I am committed to?

  • Am I here to gain specific skills for a job I already have?