5 Tips for Choosing A College Major

Selecting a college major is an important and exciting decision. Schools have different deadlines and study requirements for undecided students, so it’s generally a good idea to select an area of study as soon as you can (for specific advice on the timeline for choosing a major, please see: When Is It Necessary to Declare a College Major?). If you aren’t sure what you want to major in, follow these tips.

1. Use Your Skills

After years of schooling, most students have a feel for which subjects they like or excel in as well as which are difficult or unappealing. Ideally, your career should combine your personal and professional interests. Some people are fascinated by history while others think that it’s boring. If you enjoy a particular subject, explore potential majors in that area. Students with multiple interests, such as math and computers or history and books, can sometimes find majors that combine several subjects. You can also think about where you want to work and how you want to use your skills.

2. Learn More About Prospective Majors

Exploring a prospective college major can help you determine whether the career path is right for you. Talk to upperclassmen about their studies. Ask professionals in the field how they like their jobs. Find opportunities where you can experience a real-life work environment. You might go to the office with a stockbroker in your family, or you might volunteer in a nursing home for a week. These experiences can show you what you might like or dislike. Online resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics can give you an inside look into the work environment and educational requirements of many careers.

3. Compare Specialized Areas of Study

When you’re spending four years and a considerable amount of money studying a specific field, you want to acquire professional skills that can pay you back. In a diverse area, such as engineering or computer science, the right specialization can earn you an extra $30,000 to $50,000 annually. For example, the median salary for petroleum engineers is $130,000. On the other hand, civil engineers bring home $82,000 annually. For network and systems administrators, the median pay is $77,000. However, if you’re a network architect, you could earn $100,000 annually. It doesn’t hurt to look at wage statistics when selecting a major that offers specialization.

4. Build a Support System

When you’re embarking on your college studies, it helps to have a strong support system. See if prospective colleges have study groups or resources that can help you to excel in a particular major. You may also be able to find supporters among your family and friends. A mentor can be an invaluable guide during and after college. A person that you look up to can inspire you to do your best. Someone who’s completed a degree and entered the professional world can share important experiences and give you good advice as you select a college major that’s right for you.

5. Find In-Demand Professions

Focusing on a high-demand field can give you more job opportunities. For example, if you train to become a registered nurse, you have a good chance of getting a stable and fulfilling job. Since many qualified nurses have retired or are expected to retire by 2025, there will be plenty of openings. The demand for qualified nurses means that you could get a job quickly, enjoy promotions and land a desirable position. There’s great demand for graduates who have specialized in new disciplines, such as robotics, next-generation aviation and climate engineering. These skills are expected to be in high demand.

As you select your college major, don’t forget to consider things that might make a potential job more satisfying. At least one major will fit your personality and skill set. If you pick a major now, you can always change it later.