Did you know 65% of jobs now require an education above high school level?
If you want to get your dream job, you will probably need to go to college. But when applying, the first thing you’re asked is to declare your major.
How are you supposed to make such an important decision? Keep reading to learn all about how to choose a college major and what your options are.
Listen to Your Inner Child
When you’re faced with declaring a major, there seem to be a million options. Maybe everything sounds interesting–or worse, nothing does.
It’s all well and good for advisors to say, “follow your passion.” But it can be surprisingly difficult to determine what your passion actually is. So how do you know what you’re passionate about?
According to experts like Bill Nye, it’s whatever you were passionate about when you were ten years old.
At that time in your life, you were freely experimenting with hobbies and interests. You didn’t have any financial concerns. You were experiencing the world and developing lifelong mental preferences.
So when you were ten, were you scrawling stories in spiral notebooks? Or flying RC airplanes? Did you love math homework and hate history reports?
These clues to the “inner you” translate into guidance for selecting your major.
One of the most important things you should do before declaring a major is to try out possible careers. This might be shadowing someone in that job, interning, or volunteering.
If you think you’d like to be a dentist, shadow a dentist. If you want to be a sports reporter, get an internship in that field for the summer. This will enable you to determine if a career is a good fit.
It’s usually immediately clear whether you enjoy it or not.
When visiting a career, listen to your instincts. It doesn’t matter how well a job pays if you hate it. If money was the only consideration for a career, we would all be anesthesiologists.
It’s great to experiment in high school, while you have zero obligation and no risks. However, even if you’re already in college, it’s not too late to sample careers. If you discover you dislike your current trajectory, changing your major is very easy.
Treat it like a game. Try out many different things, not just the one thing you think you might (or should) enjoy.
You might discover that you like certain aspects of the job but not the job itself. Let this guide your next experiment. It might feel like playing, but you’re saving yourself time and money down the road.
Know Your Options
There are different college degree options you should consider based on your career goals. An associate’s degree is only a two-year commitment. There are two types: Associate of Science and Associate of Arts.
Some associate’s degrees allow you to transfer to a 4-year degree, while others enable you to start working immediately. These degrees are good for budget constraints and are available at many community and career colleges. There are also convenient options online.
A bachelor’s degree is four years and the standard undergrad degree. There are two main types: Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Arts (BA).
If you know you want a career in a STEM-related field, you should pursue a BS. This way, you won’t waste your time on courses that have nothing to do with engineering, science, or math.
However, many employers value an employee with diverse interpersonal and critical thinking skills. If you’re interested in a more well-rounded education, consider a Bachelor of Liberal Arts.
Build a Castle in the Air
One method to decide on a college major is to visualize yourself in five or ten years. What does your ideal life look like? What do you do for your hobbies and vacations?
If you want to have a family in ten years, what kind of job would you need to support them? You might consider if a career has work-at-home options, so you could spend time with your kids.
Next, consider where you want to live.
If you think you would like to be a diplomat, are you okay with living outside the country for years? You won’t see your parents or friends very often. You might even be placed in a country undergoing dangerous turmoil.
Ask yourself detailed questions about what you value, and answer truthfully. Once again, the lure of making big money can tempt you to fudge the facts. Ask yourself, “would I still be interested in this job if it paid minimum wage?”
Consider what beneficial causes stir your passion. Perhaps in ten years, you see yourself fighting to save at-risk species like the American bison, which is ecologically extinct. Or you might see yourself solving the energy crisis or curing cancer.
These overarching goals can guide you on your choice of major.
There are many people eager to tell you what to do with your life. Your parents probably have some opinions about “having a doctor in the family” or “wasting money on an acting degree.”
However, you should seek out advice from third parties who can view the decision in an unbiased way. Examples include school advisors, both high school and college. Most colleges also have career counselors, so take advantage of this free resource.
These people will ask you guiding questions that illuminate unconsidered aspects of yourself. They may offer career statistics and specific career path ideas.
There are many great self-help books that also offer advice on choosing your vocation. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans offers practical activities to discover your calling.
Let Your Life Speak is a short book by Parker Palmer that offers wise advice based on the Quaker tradition of “clearness committees.” There are also many great resources online that help you determine your interests and ideal job.
Go Choose a College Major
When it’s time to choose a college major, don’t feel overwhelmed. Examine your childhood passions and experiment with possible careers. Seek out unbiased advice, and take into account your long-term goals and values.
If you follow this simple guide, you’re sure to get it right! And if you enjoyed this, check out more of our great articles on education.