Choosing a college major can be a difficult task, particularly because of the perceived weighting that it has on your life and career. When it’s time to start thinking about college, you may not even have a clear idea of what you want to do in the future. This can make it difficult to choose from the various majors at the colleges you are eligible for.
If you are confused or simply unsure about what you want to study in college, then it is a good idea to follow a line of study that you are passionate about and is marketable. This can keep you motivated and can increase the likelihood that you will complete your college degree.
What Kind of Career Do You Want?
Some careers don’t require college degrees, which is why college is not for everyone in every situation. However, if you can understand the type of jobs that result from the most popular majors, then you could have a better idea of how to make your college application. Here are examples of six areas of studies and the careers they can lead to.
- Humanities Majors can lead to high paying roles in law, advertising manager, editor, professional writing (journalism related) and business communication. Majors include communication, philosophy, human health, and foreign languages.
- Computer Science Majors can be beneficial if you want to work on the cutting edge of modern technology. A degree in computer science or information technology can lead to careers in software development and engineering, information security, systems administration, management information systems and IT consulting.
- Social Science Majors like political science, economics, anthropology and psychology can lead to jobs in consulting, government affairs, analytics, investment banking, and public relations.
- Art Majors are popular with the creative types who still want to pursue a college education. Majors like graphic design and interior design can help you to develop the technical and business skills that would help you to succeed in related industries.
- Engineering Majors including chemical engineering, petroleum engineering, and mechanical engineering, can all give you the knowledge that is required to work in complex and highly rewarding industries. Note that engineering degrees are notoriously difficult and you will need a high level of focus and aptitude. For those that persevere with majors in these areas, the mid-career median salary is often in excess of $110,000.
- Health & Medical Majors are for those who wanting to improve the health and wellness of people. Majors in biology, chemistry, microbiology, or any other life science. The pursuit of medical career is challenging and will require dedication especially if medical school is a goal. Careers in medicine includes primary care physician, physical therapy, dentistry and diagnostic medical sonography.
4 Tips for Deciding on Your Major
First, the decision of your college major should not be taken lightly. Many college students have taken six months to a year to settle on their major. If it helps and if you can afford it, then taking a semester or even a year between high school and college can help you to reflect on your goals and decide upon a major that you are passionate about. This also keep you from taking unnecessary courses, waste time and money.
Second, when deciding on a career path, consider how relevant that career will be in the future. Many professions are going the way of the dinosaurs due to driving forces within the industries, changing consumer preferences and advancement in technology. For example, if you want to be a graphic artist, it is important to know quality graphic software that can replace the need for a graphic artist. To save money, many businesses are using such tools to create their own websites, promotional materials and other graphic needs. The question you should ask yourself is, “is there a viable future in this field?” Reading industry publications, field experts and government salary and outlook reports should provide you with some understanding of where your chosen career field is heading. Bottom line: you need to remain vigilant and ready to adapt to changes in your chosen field.
Third, avoid degrees that do not really give you value in the real world. For example, many students graduate with a bachelors in psychology. They may have gravitated towards this major with a true desire of wanting to help people or fascinated by the workings of the human mind. They may have envisioned themselves as a psychologist, maybe even owning their own practice. What many of these students fail to understand is that to reach such a goal, it requires a terminal degree, i.e. a PhD/doctorate. Such a degree requires several more years of formal education which many of them have no desire in pursuing. So, these psychology graduates end up working in regular administrative office jobs, call centers or even Human Resources depts., often a bit disillusioned with the education they earned.
Finally, you should also:
- Talk to your high school career advisor.
- Speak with trusted teachers who you respect. Their advice can be invaluable.
- Talk to your parents about your goals for the future. While you shouldn’t let your parents choose your degree for you; their input can put things into perspective.
- Make a short list of majors and note the pros and cons of each one.
Choosing a major that isn’t right for you can lead to decreased motivation and low academic achievement. When you follow your passion with a major that relates to your future goals, you will be more likely to see your degree through and gain the most benefit from a college education.
Summary: Choose a major that matches your passion AND has real employment value. Meaning, you can actually work in that field of study and make a decent living. Do not pick a major because its sounds cool, you like your professor(s) or because of your friends or family wants you to. If you are really interested in such a field, choose it as a minor instead. However, choose a major that can help fulfill your passion but also pay the bills.