As you head into your collegiate study, declaring a major will probably be the most important decision you’ve made in your life to this point. And indeed, it will set the stage for your career path and play a role in your future success and happiness. In short, it will determine the course of your life after graduation – so no pressure. It is probably for this reason that so many students opt for the category of “undeclared” in order to gain more time to think through their decision. But making the decision earlier rather than later can help you to get through your prerequisites during your first two years of college so that you graduate expediently instead of becoming a 5th-year senior. And by considering a few pertinent factors, you should be able to figure out which major best suits you. Here are some things you’ll definitely want to think about when making this weighty decision.
- What you’re good at. Although you might have dreams of being a doctor, you can’t get there if your grades in math and science are in the toilet. College is the time to be honest with yourself and pinpoint the subjects in which you truly excel, whether they are technical, creative, humanitarian, organizational, or other. This can help you to determine which careers are likely within your wheelhouse. This isn’t to say that you couldn’t put in the time and effort to drastically improve in areas where you’re not so savvy in order to make your dream job a reality. But you’re obviously going to have an easier go of it if you choose a major that relies heavily on subjects in which you harbor some natural talent.
- What you enjoy. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t necessarily mean you want to turn it into a career. For example, you might have a flair for creative writing, but having to sit at a keyboard day in and day out just might not sound like your idea of fun. Or you might worry that doing something just because you’re good at it simply won’t leave you fulfilled or offer the type of exciting job opportunities you’re looking for. Unless you want to end up hating the activity that takes up most of your time after graduation, you need to really stop and think about what you love, whether it’s solving problems, helping others, or creating something beautiful, just for example. Often you can find overlaps between what you’re good at and what you enjoy to make for a truly exceptional career.
- The lifestyle you’re looking for. For some people, struggling financially is worth it so long as they’re getting another type of payoff through job satisfaction. But many students entering college are concerned about the type of pay they’re likely to receive when they get a job after graduation. And this is only natural. After all, you’re spending a lot of money to earn a degree in the hopes that you can one day start a career that allows you to pay back your student loans and support yourself and possibly a family. So it’s definitely something you’ll want to take into consideration before selecting a major course of study.
- Flexibility versus specialization. When it comes to your major there are two ways you can go. You can opt for something like a business degree that allows you a wide variety of job opportunities, or you could major in an extremely narrow field like, say, medieval women’s medicine. While the latter will certainly pigeonhole you into a specific type of position, extreme specialization often leads to higher pay, if fewer job opportunities.
- The future job market. In addition to everything else you should consider before declaring your major, you need to take some time to research what the job market is expected to look like when you graduate. The career center on campus can probably help you here, although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics can also offer some valuable data. What you’ll want to look for is industries in which job growth is projected in the coming years. For example, right now it looks like there will be high demand at all levels of the health care industry over the next 10-20 years. So you might want to check out the http://www.healthadministrationdegree.usc.edu page to see if something strikes your fancy. The point is that a major that speaks to your talent and desire will only take you so far if there are simply no jobs available.