What Should I Major In? How to Choose a Major in 5 Easy Steps!
What should I major in? It’s one of the biggest questions for prospective college students — and many current college students — for good reason. Choosing your major is one of the first and most important steps to choosing your career. Your major is your specialty. It’s an indicator of the specific courses you’ve completed, skills you’ve learned, and knowledge you’ve attained. Your major is your key to certain careers and post-college pursuits, but it can also direct you away from other paths. So, how do you choose the right one? On this page, we’ll show you how.
What is a Major?
The first step to choosing a major is understanding what, exactly, a major is. Put simply, a major is a single specialty that every college student must choose and complete. Majors are available in a wide range of subjects, including those in the humanities (such as English, foreign languages, art, history, philosophy, and more) and those in STEM (including math, physics, biology, computer science, engineering, and more). To earn a major, college students must complete several specialized classes and (in some cases) complete a thesis or final project. (Though uncommon, students may double major.) Graduates’ majors are listed on their degrees and requested by nearly every employer.
Related to majors, minors are alternate specialties that also require students to complete several classes (and, in fewer cases, a final project). As their name suggests, minors have fewer requirements than majors. They also do not supplant a major, but rather supplement it. (All graduates must have a major.) For this reason, many college students add a minor or two to their major in order to boost their degree with more depth, or breadth. For example: some STEM majors may have a STEM minor, while others may pursue minors in the humanities.
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When Should a Major or Minor be Declared?
Colleges differ on when students should declare majors and minors. In most cases, majors must be declared by the end of a student’s sophomore year, though there are exceptions. As minors have significantly fewer requirements, they can be declared later on in a student’s collegiate career. For college applicants, listing potential majors (unofficially declaring them) can sometimes be beneficial for acceptance. This is up to the discretion of the student and the school in question.
5 Steps to Choosing a Major
1. Identify Your Interests, Passions, and Aspirations
You may love your Sculpture 101 class, but can you really see yourself devoting the rest of your college career (and possibly the rest of your life) to this field? Choose something you know isn't just a hobby or phase. If it takes you a year or two to figure that out before declaring a major, that's fine. Explore general education classes to give you an idea of what fields may really excite you. It's also perfectly okay to change your major if you decide the subject isn't something you're truly interested in or passionate about.
Also, please don't feel pressured to declare a certain major just because your parents want you to be a doctor or a lawyer. Their aspirations aren't necessarily yours, and you don't want to spend years of your life studying a subject you can't stand.
2. Marketability & Salary Outlook
We've all heard some majors are more marketable than others. While it's true you shouldn't major in a subject you hate just because you think it'll get you a job, you shouldn't necessarily major in something you love without regard to the job market either. It's all about balance.
If you really do want to study a subject that may not lead to a related full-time job after college, why not make it a minor? Plenty of people love philosophy or creative writing, but doubt they can make a career of these subjects. So thus, they choose an in-demand major and minor in something else they're interested in.
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3. Career Goals
Maybe you've always known you want to be a teacher or geologist. In some cases, choosing a major is easy because it's directly related to the field you want to pursue.
However, it's not that easy for everyone! If you want to be a public relations professional in a school that doesn't have a designated PR program, you'll need to figure out a way to make your major relevant to your career goals. Maybe you will choose to major in communication and minor in marketing instead. You can absolutely frame this experience as relevant to a PR job later on.
4. Talk to School Advisors and Professionals
While the process of choosing a major may sound daunting, it’s important to remember that there are many people around who have done it before. In fact, there are likely several people in your immediate life who have excellent personal or professional advice on how to choose a major. Teachers, career counselors, parents, and coaches — these people are excellent resources. Make time to talk to them before you make a decision. They may have input that you can use to make the right choice for you. Likewise, if you have a major or two that you’re strongly considering, it’s a good idea to reach out to professionals in your network or hometown who majored in those same subjects. They may have insights to help you along in your decision-making process.
5. Choosing the Right College
Choosing a major goes hand-in-hand with choosing a college. If you’ve narrowed your choice down to a few majors, you want to be sure to choose a school that offers those majors. Better yet, it’s a good idea to select a school that excels in the majors you’re considering. If you have no idea what you’d like to major in, schools that emphasize a more well-rounded and exploratory education — such as liberal arts colleges — may be the best option.
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Choosing a Major FAQs
What Electives Should I Take?
Figuring out which high school electives suit your interests, skills, and class schedule can be tough. Think about what you love to do and what makes you happy as a sort of guide when you’re choosing classes for next year. Then, you may have a better idea of how you’d feel working in a certain field.
Which Extracurriculars Do I Choose?
Being actively involved in high school can have an impact on whether or not you get into your first-choice major or college. Do you love sports, crafts, politics or writing? Find out which clubs can best serve your passions, and this can help you network and gain real experience in the field of your choice!
Are Volunteer or Internship Opportunities Right for Me?
Volunteering or tutoring can be a good indicator of whether or not you’d actually enjoy getting a degree pertaining to that subject or activity. Most organizations are happy for people to give some of their time, so take advantage and start testing out majors and careers by volunteering.
Which Colleges Are a Good Fit?
Choosing a school that meets your academic, social, and budget requirements can be a challenge. Add your interests to a list and research which colleges have majors relating to that subject. You may even discover some schools you never heard of! The more colleges you connect with, the better your chances of ending up at a school that really is the best match for you. Create a Cappex account to find which schools match what’s most important to you — your budget, your majors, your style.
What Scholarship Opportunities Are Open to Me?
While many scholarships are open to all types of students, it's not uncommon to see some awards that are restricted to students who want to major in a certain topic or work in a specific field. So if you want to study nursing or computer engineering, you can see if you qualify for any scholarships relating to those topics. You can also find general scholarships to help pay for college by making a Cappex account.
Choose Your Major with Cappex!
Still asking yourself: “what major should I choose?” turn that question into action with our help here at Cappex. Learn more about available majors by browsing our majors folder.