When students begin working toward a college degree, there's one burning question that they must all ask themselves: What is a major in college that I should choose? In fact, most colleges and universities require an answer as early as the start of your sophomore year. While you may have the option to change majors if you're not feeling right about a specific major you selected, it's often best to settle on something as early as possible to help you collect your diploma in a timely manner.
Consider asking yourself the following questions before you make this big declaration in your academic career.
1. Why do I really want to choose this major?
Some colleges and universities offer a plethora of academic majors and minors, sometimes totaling over 100 per school. So, choosing an area of study with just a single major can be a challenge. If your sights are set on creative writing, cybersecurity, or business, think about why such a major you like is appealing to you. Review the course requirements and think about whether you would enjoy specific classes – and, more importantly, if you could see yourself succeeding in those courses. You may even consider becoming a double major.
2. Is the school I will be attending strong in this major?
Some institutions of higher education have a general reputation for being great schools. However, this doesn't mean that these colleges and universities are necessarily strong in each and every degree program they offer. It's just impossible to find the equal level of high-quality courses throughout a wide range of programs.
So, do your research before making a decision on your specific major. If you haven't already been accepted into a school of your choice, identifying one that is strong in a major you'd like to pursue should weigh pretty heavily on your decision on where to attend. If you are already enrolled, be sure to choose your academic track carefully.
In some cases, it's well worth your time and money to enroll at a smaller school that is known for being strong in your desired major. Doing so can help you get a better education for a more rewarding career and future.
3. Do I have any knowledge or experience about this major?
Whether you're just finishing high school or are going back to school in your fifties, consider whether you have any knowledge or experience within a particular discipline you'd like to study. Perhaps you have family members or friends who have studied the same thing. Maybe you've done a little work in the field and already have some practical experience. Or, maybe you've read up on certain topics that interest you, such as state and federal laws if criminal justice has always piqued your interest. Regardless of which major you pick, having a little background on it before diving in headfirst can be a big help so that you aren't totally caught off-guard by your class schedule. You may even include some elective courses related to your major that may help you decide.
4. Do I know or can I find anyone who has gone through this major?
Talking to others who have gone through anything in life that you may go through yourself can be a tremendous help. This applies to higher education as well.
If you have siblings, friends, former classmates, or anyone on your Facebook friends list who has already completed a similar academic program, don't hesitate to contact them to find out what it was like. It's even better if you can find individuals who have attended the specific school and declared the same major you plan on pursuing. Firsthand accounts of these experiences can be incredibly beneficial to help you know if your avenue of choice would be best for you.
5. What is the career outlook for this major after graduation?
While identifying a decent school, major, and specific program are all important steps, perhaps the biggest factor in determining your career path is what the job market looks like now – and how it's projected to look in the future – if you select a particular major and degree program.
You can do some quick research online by simply checking out job sites like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, or ZipRecruiter. Just type in keywords associated with a major to see what pops up. Visit company websites within specific fields, and check out the social media pages of various groups and associations tied to particular industries. All of this can give you a nice view of the vibes currently within fields like healthcare, computer science, or history to help you more effectively identify the ideal route for you to take in your academic and professional careers.