How To Choose A College Major: A Quick And Easy 5 Step Formula To Help You Pick A Major TodayIf you’ve been asking yourself “What major should I choose” surely you’ve considered the consequences and benefits of each major and career track it may offer. It is important that you discover how to choose a college major to you can avoid deadly mistakes that lead to regret or lost time and money down the road.
Stir clear of losing time and money switching majors a few semesters from now if you feel you made a mistake or your interests change. It’s not a pretty sight if you graduate with a degree you hate or can’t use. If you don’t take the time to research and carefully and clearing think and plan before choosing a major, it will take you an extra year or more of additional semesters of course work to finish school. That can cost you a small fortune in additional tuition and lost opportunities getting experience and good income working in the current job market.
According to the National Center For Education Statistics 40% of students who started 4 year programs in 2007 failed to complete their bachelor’s degrees by 2013 even after 6 years in school.
In fact, The National Center for Education reports that the longer it takes you to settle on a major, the more likely you are to leave school without finishing any degree. This guide provides a simple 5 step system to help you think about and decide on the right college major.
So what can you do to avert common pitfalls and choose the very best college major for you? Read on to see 6 fast and effective steps in how to choose a college major below.
- Use Your General Education Requirements To Explore Different Majors
Freshman and sophomore years at most 4 year universities and colleges are used to fulfill General Education Requirements. These required classes are in many different fields. You should take advantage of the requirements and take a variety of classes in the first two years. By exploring many classes, you can eliminate majors you thought you would like and discover majors you never even thought about exploring.
If you’ve done an internet search with: “help me find a college major” here’s a simple tool you can use. As you take the required courses is to keep a list of your favorite professors, favorite assignments, and your best classes in terms of grades. Then, when it is time to make a decision you can just take out this list and look at the classes where you did very well and where you enjoyed the material.
- Go To Your School’s Career Center And Take A Career Assessment Test
You are not just choosing a major you are choosing a career and a profession. So think about your future career when you are choosing a major. Tools such as a Career assessment tests can help you figure out what you enjoy and what skills you have. The tests then recommend specific job industries for you based on your skills and interests. Most schools offer free tests.
The tests are useful because you can take the results to your career counselors and figure which classes and majors are offered by your school which fit your profile. The Office of Career Services at Harvard University, like many schools, even offers free career assessment tests online.These career assessments look at your “values, interests, and skills” and help you determine your ideal careers. With this information you can identify the right major for you.
- Schedule Informational Interviews
According to a report by Basit Zafar, one of the keys to success in a major is to use upperclassmen and professors as resources. Therefore, gather as much information about the majors you’re considering as possible from these people. Before you make a decision, do your research and talk to students and professors in the majors you are thinking about. You will be much more likely to understand the requirements of the major if you have coffee or lunch with upperclassmen and professors.
Make sure you write down questions for the upperclassmen and professors you will be meeting with. Think about asking questions such as how many students who begin the major finish the major; what is the most difficult course; what is the easiest course; or how many classes are required for the major.
Be sure to get enough information about professor teaching styles, assignment loads, and the best schedules.
Find out what is required to get a job in field of that major or in getting a job with that major. Sometimes a major you love, but isn’t readily marketable to an employer can beefed up if have a minor in another area, have participated in a broad range of extracurricular activities where you gain leadership or other abilities and or had a valuable internship. Another way of gathering data, is to send out emails to upperclassmen or professors in advance so that they have time to think about your questions before the meeting.
- Consider The Employment Prospects Of Your Major
A 2012“College Reports, Unemployment and Earnings” study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce studied the different unemployment rates of many college majors. The report is useful so that you can look at the job prospects of your major. For instance, since 2008, degrees in Architecture have the highest rates of unemployment at 13.9%. Additionally, Music, Humanities, and Art degrees all have high unemployment rates above 8%.
To choose a college major, be sure to clarify what job and career paths are not dependent on one specific major or course of study. Of course, some jobs, for example, engineering or nursing require a specific degree to work in the field. However, for other types of jobs and career paths employers are looking for employees have a broad education, are motivated, disciplined, work good with others and can get things accomplished despite what they studied back in the university.
You can reach high levels of career success with a liberal arts degree or more non-specific educational background if you’re willing to apply yourself, learn on the job and continue your education as you grow in a company or organization.
In fact, if you expect to hold up a piece of paper or diploma as a your main ticket in moving to better career opportunities, you’re wrong. You’ll need to prove yourself as a reliable employee who can get results accomplished in the workplace for the best opportunities and to continue to grow in your career track.
Therefore, for many employers a college degree may only be one of several credentials an employer considers that helps you get a job and/or get promoted to a higher position. The merit of your work ethic, effectiveness in the workplace and experience will typically outweigh whatever subject matter was covered back in college. This will more true as years go on. What you learned in your career, additional training, work accomplishments and experience will often completely eclipse what you studied back in school.
In fact, after college, within a few years of experience in a career, continuing to learn and upgrade your job skills you could be in the top 10% in a completely different field, in high demand and irreplaceable to any employer.
If you are worried about being employed immediately after graduation, than statistics such as the lowest and highest unemployment rates broken down by major is invaluable. The report states that “majors with high technical, business and healthcare content tend to earn the most among both recent and experienced college graduates.” Students should consider the relationship between their major and the job market when choosing a college major.
- Choose 2 College Majors
In a study by Basit Zafar, a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 25% of college students graduate with two or more undergraduate degrees. Zafar’s study found that students were influenced by parental approval, income earning potential and the love of a subject matter when choosing multiple majors. Zafar found that student used strategy to choose majors “that differ in their chances of completion and difficulty, and in finding a job upon graduation.” So be smart about combining majors. By choosing 2 majors in different areas, students can maximize their chances of finding a job when they graduate. If you are having trouble deciding between two majors, consider declaring both majors and working closely with an advisor to create an appropriate schedule.
- Avoid Analysis Of Paralysis
Considering the cost of college tuition and semesters of extra time required to change majors in midstream, most students would be better off finishing a major they started. Even if after getting new information and perspective the major you’ve started is no longer your first choice or not the most ideal for getting a job immediately out of college, you should stay with the major you began.
If changing your major will delay graduation by 6 months or more and/or exceed $5,000 in additional tuition, most of the time you’ll be better off financially and farther ahead on your career track by staying with your major. Remember, in most careers what subjects you studied in college doesn’t matter as you’ll need to be constantly updating your education, job skills every month and year to keep your job and/or move up to a better one.
Any lack of job skills and experience specific for marketability can be bridged less time outside the walls of a university. If any doubt be sure you read point #4 above.
Consider a student who was a junior and almost completed his first of two years of classes in his economics major, but suddenly had an epiphany that he should get his degree in business for an edge with employers upon graduation. In other words he would graduation from college in economics in another year, but could start taking business classes as a business major and graduate in a year.
If he wanted to be in college 2 more years and pay an extra year of university tuition he’d be better off finishing the economics degree and having one year of an MBA completed or getting invaluable business experience in the real world than starting all over from scratch.
Whatever, you do don’t get into analysis of paralysis and avoid making a decision. Choose a major that has the highest upside potential of not just making the most money, but a career path you’re passionate about and that will fulfill you for a lifetime. Mark a date on your calendar when you promise to yourself you will have gathered all the necessary information and have had ample time to think through what major makes the most sense to you. Then stick to that date and make a decision on or before that deadline.
How To Use This 6 Step System How To Choose A College MajorTake your 3 favorites from the 6 steps above and write them down on a “to do” list. Out of the your favorite 3, choose which step above would help you choose your college major faster and with the highest level confidence. Take action on it immediately. Don’t delay.
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- Georgetown University, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not all college degrees are created equal. http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/Unemployment.Final.update1.pdf
- Zafar, B (2012). Double Majors: One for me, one for the parents? Economic Inquiry, 50(2), 287-308.
- National Center For Education Statistics Fast Facts http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=40