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Six Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Major

Jul 25, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Some students know exactly what they want to major in before they ever step foot on a college campus. For others, it’s a bit more difficult to choose. If you’re not sure what you want to major in, here are a few questions to ask to help you narrow down your choices.

What are the career opportunities in this major?

What are the possibilities—and do you see yourself enjoying any of them? Be sure the career your major prepares you for is something you can see yourself doing forty hours a week—or more.

Sometimes you won’t know that until you’ve actually worked in that environment and seen for yourself what the working conditions are like, so if you get an opportunity to do an internship early enough, take it.

What is the job market like?

Non-Traditional Students

Choosing a major isn’t easy. But it’s possible to narrow down your options by giving some careful consideration to the major, the job market, and your own goals and talents.

Is this major preparing you for a stable job market? Do you frequently hear horror stories about people you know with this major who graduated and languished for years without a job—or did most students you know with this major find a job fairly quickly after graduating? What does the Occupation Employment Handbook say about job growth in this area? What kind of entry-level salary can you expect—and is it enough to cover your student loan payments as well as your living expenses? Of course, if you have a true passion for this subject, such as online fashion merchandising, you may want to dive right in regardless of the job market—and for you, that could be the right decision. But it’s still smart to know what you’re getting into first.

Does my college have a good program in this major?

Not all college programs are created equally. Even if you’re going to a highly regarded school, not all the programs in that school may be top quality—some schools rely mainly on the reputations of a few flagship departments. If the department in that major is quite small and seems under-funded, that may be a bad sign. If there is some kind of national accreditation for departments that provide that major, see if your school’s department has that accreditation - also, make sure to take a look at online college reviews for information about the programs.

Does this subject come naturally to you?

Do you like this subject? Is it fun? Did you get good grades in this subject in high school? Is it something you’re good at, or is studying a struggle? Everyone has a natural talent, and you’ll find it easier and more fun getting through college if you choose a major that draws on your natural strengths.

What are the requirements for success in this field?

Is a Bachelor’s all you need for most entry-level jobs in the field, or will you need an advanced degree? Some fields, including law, medicine, and science, require at least a Master’s degree if not a PhD or a professional degree in order to get started. Find out how much schooling you’re realistically in for—and think about whether or not you want to spend that much time in school, or whether it’s worth it from a debt perspective.

What do you want out of life?

Sometimes it takes a long time to figure this out—and sometimes it changes throughout a person’s life. But it’s never too early to think about it. Some people are galvanized by artistic self-expression; others get true satisfaction only by helping others. Some live for making a strong impact in leadership positions; others are motivated more by family and stability. Think about what excites you—and whether the major you’re pursuing will naturally lead to opportunities to pursue what you really want in life.

Choosing a major isn’t easy. But it’s possible to narrow down your options by giving some careful consideration to the major, the job market, and your own goals and talents. Consider the job prospects and career opportunities that face you with this major—whether those appeal to you, and whether or not this is a difficult or low-paying field to break into. Think about yourself as well—what makes you happy, what subjects you’re best at, and the kind of life you really want. If you do, you’re more likely to make the right decision the first time.


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