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Choosing Your College Major: A Guide to Get Started

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Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Miranda Zavala
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Written By Miranda Zavala  |  College, Education  |  0 Comments | June 5, 2024

Choosing your college major can feel like a big deal, right? Most of us grapple with this choice, wondering if we’re making the “right” decision.

But guess what? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

It’s important to match your interests with different career paths, especially if you love engineering or have a talent for business management.

Table Of Contents:

Choosing Your College Major

Choosing your college major is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your academic career. The decisions you make now can influence your future career and your entire college experience. But with so many options available, how do you choose the right one for you?

Identifying Your Interests and Passions

When it comes to choosing your college major, it’s essential to identify your interests and passions. What subjects excite you? What topics do you find yourself constantly drawn to?

I’ve found that students who pursue majors they’re genuinely interested in tend to be more engaged and motivated throughout their college journey. They’re more likely to excel academically and feel a sense of fulfillment in their studies. Reflect on your hobbies, extracurricular activities, and favorite high school classes.

Finding Potential Career Paths

While pursuing your interests is important, it’s also crucial to consider the practical aspects of your college major. Research potential career paths associated with the majors you’re considering.

What kind of jobs do graduates with these majors typically pursue? What are the employment expectations and earning potential in these fields? Will the major you choose provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve your long-term career goals?

Websites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics ‘ Occupational Outlook Handbook can be incredibly helpful resources for exploring different career options and their projected growth.

Considering Your Strengths and Skills

What subjects come naturally to you? In which areas do you excel academically? While it’s possible to develop new skills throughout your college journey, starting with a major that plays to your existing strengths can set you up for success.

It can also make the learning process more enjoyable and less stressful. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, but also be realistic about your abilities. Choosing your college major that aligns with your abilities can lead to a more fulfilling college experience and future career.

Consulting with an Academic Advisor

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the decision-making process, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from an academic advisor. These professionals have a lot of knowledge and experience in assisting students in selecting a college major. Your advisor can offer valuable insights into the requirements and expectations of various majors, and can also help you explore potential career paths.

I’ve found that students who actively engage with their academic advisors throughout their college journey tend to have a more focused and successful experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek advice, and take advantage of the available resources.

Popular College Majors and Their Career Prospects

It can be beneficial to explore some of the most popular options and their associated career prospects. Here’s a closer look at five major categories and the opportunities they offer.

Business and Management

Business and management majors are some of the most popular choices for college students. For good reason, graduates with these degree options often enjoy a wide range of career opportunities and strong earning potential.

  • Financial Analyst
  • Marketing Manager
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Entrepreneur
  • Management Consultant

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for business majors in the class of 2020 was $58,869.

Engineering and Technology

In our increasingly technology-driven world, it’s no surprise that engineering and technology majors are in high demand. Some popular engineering and technology majors include:

  • Computer Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Software Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering

Healthcare and Medical Fields

Healthcare and medical fields offer strong career prospects due to the aging population and advances in medical technology, leading to increasing demand for skilled healthcare professionals. Some common healthcare majors include:

  • Nursing
  • Biology
  • Pre-Med
  • Public Health
  • Physical Therapy

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.4 million new jobs.

Social Sciences and Humanities

Social sciences and humanities majors provide students with a broad set of valuable skills in many industries. Some popular social sciences and humanities majors include:

  • Psychology
  • History
  • English
  • Political Science
  • Sociology

Many of these fields offer opportunities for growth and advancement.

Natural Sciences and Mathematics

If you’re into figuring things out and are curious about how the world works, natural sciences and mathematics majors could be perfect for you. These areas can lead to careers in research, teaching, and industry. Some common natural sciences and mathematics majors include:

  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Environmental Science
  • Mathematics

Exploring Double Majors and Interdisciplinary Studies

Pursuing a double major or interdisciplinary studies can be a good option for students with multiple passions or diverse academic interests.

Benefits of Pursuing a Double Major

Pursuing a double major can offer several benefits, both personally and professionally. By studying two fields, you can:

  • Expand your knowledge
  • Enhance your problem-solving skills
  • Increase your marketability to potential employers
  • Explore multiple areas of interest
  • Prepare for a wider range of career opportunities

Combining Complementary Fields of Study

When considering a double major, it is important to select fields of study that complement each other and are in line with your career objectives. Some popular double major combinations include:

  • Business and Foreign Language
  • Computer Science and Mathematics
  • Psychology and Sociology
  • Economics and Political Science
  • English and Journalism

By combining fields, you can develop a unique skill set that sets you apart from other graduates.

Challenges and Considerations

Double majoring often requires careful planning and time management to ensure that you can meet the requirements for both majors. Some things to keep in mind when considering a double major include:

  • Increased course load and academic demands
  • Potential for a longer time to graduation
  • Balancing requirements for both majors
  • Possible overlap in coursework
  • Impact on extracurricular activities and social life

It’s essential to have a clear plan and communicate regularly with your academic advisor to ensure that you can successfully navigate the challenges of a double major.

Examples of Successful Double Major Combinations

Many successful professionals have leveraged the power of a double major to launch their careers. Some examples include:

  • Emma Watson – Brown University, English Literature, and Theater.
  • Sergey Brin – University of Maryland, Mathematics and Computer Science.
  • Condoleezza Rice – University of Denver, Political Science and Piano Performance.
  • Mira Nair – Harvard University, Sociology, and Theater.
  • Steve Jobs – Reed College, Physics and Literature (though he dropped out).

By exploring different options, seeking guidance from advisors, and staying open to interdisciplinary possibilities, you can find a path that aligns with your passions and sets you up for success in your future career.

Key Takeaway: Choosing your college major means figuring out what you’re into, checking out job options, thinking about what you’re good at, talking to advisors, and maybe even looking into double majors. It’s important to find a balance between following your passions and considering practical career opportunities.

The process of actually declaring a major can feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. I’m here to guide you through the twists and turns.

Understanding University Requirements

First things first, you need to crack the code of your university’s requirements for declaring a major. Every school has its own set of rules and deadlines. Some may require you to declare by the end of your sophomore year, while others give you more wiggle room.

I remember when I was a wide-eyed freshman, eagerly exploring different subjects through general education courses. Little did I know, I was already laying the groundwork for choosing my major.

So, take your time and use these classes to your advantage. They’re like a buffet of academic flavors – sample a little bit of everything and see what tickles your taste buds.

Timeline for Choosing Your College Major

Now, let’s talk timelines. While the specifics vary by institution, most colleges want you to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year.

This gives you time to explore your options and make a good decision. But keep in mind, that some majors, especially those in STEM fields, may have earlier declaration deadlines to ensure you can complete all the necessary coursework.

I’ll never forget the moment I finally chose my major. Suddenly, I had a clear direction and purpose. But trust me, it’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out right away.

Changing Your Major: Pros and Cons

What if you declare a major and then realize it’s not your true calling? Don’t panic. Changing your major is a common occurrence.

In fact, a 2020 BestColleges study found that 3 in 5 graduates wished they could go back and change their majors . It’s all part of the learning and growth process.

However, before you make the leap, carefully consider the pros and cons. Changing majors can open up opportunities to pursue new passions and align your studies with your evolving goals.

However, it may also require additional coursework and potentially delay your graduation. It’s a balancing act, but with the right guidance and planning, you can make a smooth transition.

Utilizing Campus Resources and Support Services

Don’t be afraid to seek their expertise and advice. They can help you explore your interests, identify your strengths, and map out a plan for success. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncertain, they’re there to lend a listening ear and offer reassurance.

Preparing for Your Future Career: Internships and Experiential Learning

Choosing your college major is not just about what happens inside the classroom. It’s also about setting yourself up for success in your future career. One of the best ways to do that is through internships and experiential learning opportunities.

The Value of Internships and Co-op Programs

Internships and co-op programs are like a sneak peek into the real world of work. They give you a chance to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to actual projects and challenges.

These experiences not only offer valuable hands-on learning but also help in building your resume and making connections in your field. Many employers use internships as a recruitment tool, so impressing them with your skills and work ethic can open doors to future job opportunities.

I still remember my first internship, I was nervous and excited all at the same time. But that experience taught me so much about the job industry and helped me land my first job after high school graduation.

Gaining Practical Experience in Your Field

Internships are just one way to gain practical experience in your field. You can also look for research projects, volunteer work, or part-time jobs related to your major. The key is to immerse yourself in the world of your chosen field and start building a portfolio of relevant experiences.

I once had a professor who told me, “The best way to learn is by doing.” And she was right. Every project I tackled, and every challenge I faced, helped me develop the skills and knowledge I needed to succeed in my career.

Networking and Building Professional Connections

Internships and experiential learning opportunities are also a goldmine for networking and building professional connections. You never know who you might meet or what doors they can open for you down the line.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reached out to former colleagues or mentors for advice or job leads. Those connections have been super important throughout my career. So, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself, ask questions, and stay in touch with the people you meet along the way.

Discovering Your Preferences and Work Style

You might think you want to work in a certain industry or role, but actually doing the work can give you a whole new perspective. So, embrace opportunities to explore and experiment. You might be surprised by what you learn about yourself and what you want in a career.

Myths and Misconceptions About Choosing a College Major

But fear not, my friend. I’m here to bust some of those myths about choosing a college major and set the record straight.

“Your Major Determines Your Career Path”

One of the biggest misconceptions about choosing your college major is that it solely determines your career path. People might tell you that if you major in English, you’re destined to be a teacher, or if you study biology, you have to become a doctor. But that’s simply not true.

Your major is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s the foundation upon which you build your skills, experiences, and interests. But it’s not the be-all and end-all of your career prospects.

Many graduates pursue careers that are not directly related to their major. It’s all about how you use your education and experiences to create your own unique path.

“Some Majors Are Better Than Others”

Another myth that needs to be debunked is the idea that some majors are inherently better than others. You might hear people say that STEM majors are the only ones worth pursuing or that liberal arts degrees are a waste of time. But let me tell you, that’s a load of nonsense.

The value of a major depends on your individual goals, interests, and strengths. Sure, some fields may have higher earning potential or more obvious career paths, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for everyone.

“You Should Be Choosing Your College Major Before Starting College”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard incoming freshmen stressing out about not having their major figured out before starting college. They think they need to have it all mapped out from day one. But here’s the truth: it’s okay to be undecided.

Most colleges offer a variety of general education courses that allow you to explore different subjects before declaring a major. Taking the time to explore your options can help you make a more informed decision and reduce the likelihood of changing majors later on.

I remember feeling so much pressure to choose a major right away. Once I gave myself permission to explore and take classes in different fields, I discovered passions I never knew I had. So, don’t rush the process, embrace the journey of self-discovery.

“Changing Your Major Is a Sign of Failure”

Changing your major is a common and often beneficial experience.

It’s normal to rethink your academic path as you figure out more about yourself and what interests you. Changing your major doesn’t mean you’ve messed up; it means taking charge and ensuring your education matches your changing goals and passions.

I know plenty of successful people who changed their majors multiple times before finding their true calling. It’s all part of the learning and growth process.

Key Takeaway: Choosing your college major is crucial but can be confusing. Most colleges expect you to declare by sophomore year, though some majors have earlier deadlines. Changing majors is common; weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Thoughts From a Student

It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do after high school. I was sure I knew my career goals until my senior year of high school. Once it was time to start applying to colleges I knew dentistry wasn’t my passion anymore and my family asked questions checking if I was sure.

Many of my friends even changed their majors once they began to explore college. Don’t feel bad for not liking what you are pursuing. You are going to be the one pursuing it, no one else so the best thing you can do is go for what you love or what you think will make the biggest impact.

Even if you don’t plan on attending college continue finding new things that pique your interest or stacking your skills to be prepared for any opportunity that comes your way. Choosing your college major shouldn’t be worrying especially when there are tools to help you find your career interests.

Conclusion

So there you have it—choosing your college major doesn’t have to be daunting! It’s about exploring what excites you and matching that with real-world opportunities.

Student Hires offers job and skill growth opportunities to college students around the Inland Empire. These opportunities can help expand their skill set and help them gain valuable work opportunities. 

Your journey starts now. Ready?


Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Miranda Zavala

About Miranda Zavala

Miranda Zavala is currently a student at California State University of San Bernardino earning her degree in Design with a concentration in marketing. Miranda enjoys inspiring students, and helping them find their passion just like her.

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