College prepares students with everything they need to succeed in the professional field of their choice. Yet many incoming freshmen struggle to decide what they want to study.
This is normal. Choosing a college is already a life-changing decision, and figuring out what you want to do afterward can be daunting. If you’re struggling with this choice or you need some clarity, we can help.
What is a major in college, anyway? To answer this question and make it easier to choose the right major for you, read on.
What Is a Major in College?
A major is the field a college student chooses to study. Students choose a major based on a variety of factors, including skills, financial investment, potential earnings, and personal passion. Most colleges and universities will require you to choose a major by the end of your sophomore year.
Majors direct your course of study throughout college, requiring you to take specific classes in order to graduate with that degree. Some students have a clear idea exactly what they want to study.
Others choose to enter college with an undeclared major. This simply means they haven’t decided yet. While there’s no harm in doing this, it’s better to have some direction for which fields you’re interested in pursuing. If you can narrow down your options to two, you can explore each field during your first semester to get a better feel for whether it’s right for you.
How To Choose a Major
There are a number of factors that high school or early college students consider when choosing a major. It’s important to consider all factors, including personal and financial reasons, to make sure you’re making the right choice for you.
Interests and Passions
Primarily, consider your interests and passions. Majoring in chemical engineering or computer science solely for financial reasons isn’t going to serve you well in the long run. Remember: College is a significant time investment.
A bachelor’s degree will have a hefty workload. A significant time investment is especially prevalent in fields that require an advanced degree. If you can’t imagine yourself delving deep into that subject area for the next four years (or more), it likely isn’t the best course of study for you.
Then, think about which majors will suit you best in the long term. Aside from having some personal passion or motivation for your coursework, it’s important to consider the professional opportunities a job can lead to.
For example, someone might want to pursue criminal justice because they’re more introverted and they enjoy conducting research. Yet a degree in criminal justice often leads to more public roles, like a police officer, corrections officer, or FBI agent. All of these roles would require someone with an extroverted personality, leadership skills, and an ability to interact with strangers.
Be mindful of your personality type when choosing a major. The happiest students choose a major that strikes a balance: It’s something they’re interested in, and it leads to a well-aligned career.
Financial investment is another key factor to consider when choosing a major. The price of attending college depends largely on the institution you attend. A community college will certainly be less expensive than a private university. However, these institutions may not offer the same resources, especially if you’re seeking a more niche field of study.
Certain majors also require more years in college, or an advanced degree. This is relevant if you want to pursue healthcare, architecture, or psychology, for example. Other majors, like science or math, prepare students for the future without requiring an advanced degree (though you can still pursue one).
But that’s not all. The price of textbooks, materials, and tools is another element to consider when choosing a major. For example, a major in information technology will likely require a more expensive, specific type of computer. In contrast, someone in a social sciences major, like sociology, may not need anything specific.
This leaves many students and their families wondering: What is a major in college that will contribute to significant financial gain? According to a college salary report, the top five highest-paying majors are petroleum engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, applied economics and management, operations research, and political economy. Each of these majors only require a bachelor’s degree and all maintain a mid-career salary average of over $130,000.
If you’re struggling to choose what to study, it may help to see which majors are the most popular. Majoring in a popular field of study may ensure that there are ample resources available at your school.
A popular academic major can also increase a student’s chances of finding a job after graduation, as popular majors are often in-demand in the job market.
The most common major is business, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Students who study business can pursue fields in business management or leadership, marketing, advertising, or entrepreneurship.
Natural sciences is a popular major too, because it’s the foundation for a career in healthcare. Whether you want to be a nurse practitioner or an oral surgeon, degree programs in biology, chemistry, or psychology are often considered pre-med. This is the second most popular area of study.
Social sciences, history, psychology, and software engineering are other popular areas of study for college students.
Less Popular Majors
Less popular majors may indicate a less competitive job market. Fields with high demand and low enrollment can ensure job security. For example, computer science is increasingly in-demand in our computer-driven world. Yet it doesn’t rank highly as a popular major. A computer science degree can lead to a variety of career paths, including software development, hardware security, or data management.
Artistic students often choose to study a field like graphic design, as it combines cutting-edge technology with creativity. Graphic design students can pursue a wide range of jobs in business, marketing, health sciences, and more.
Changing Your Major
College is a transformative experience. Sometimes, you enter college with a set idea of what you want to major in, only to change it later.
Changing your major is normal, but keep it mind that it may require a heavy course load later on. If your own major is social work, but you want to switch to kinesiology, you may need to stack up on science classes to make up for the ones you likely didn’t take. In contrast, it may be easier to switch between two majors in liberal arts, like creative writing and a foreign language.
Your major will direct the core courses you need to graduate on time.
However, you’ll also get elective courses where you can explore other passions and interests. A college education is just as much about exploration and experimentation as it is about knowledge. Give yourself the opportunity to see what you like and what you don’t like. You may be surprised.
Choose the Right College Major
If you’re struggling to choose a college major, you’re not alone. This is a common challenge, but it’s one that only you can solve. Students who are satisfied with their majors chose it based on a variety of factors, including personal interest, financial need, and considering the best colleges for them.
Remember that your major will eventually lead to a career, so you’ll want to choose something you can remain inspired by for decades to come.
To find more helpful information on college majors and how they rank against one another for areas of study, campus beauty, tuition price, visit College Rank.