A major in college is your specialized area of study. Beyond general education requirements, you'll also take a group of courses in a subject of your choosing that will become your academic focus (such as Chemistry, Psychology, Political Science, etc.). Choosing a major might be one of the most important decisions you'll make, and while some students might have known what they wanted to do since toddler age, others might not have a clue, and that's okay! Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, these tips will help you evaluate what matters to you most. And don't worry, your choice of major will not lock you into a specific career for the rest of your life — but you will spend many long hours in whatever subject you choose, so let's make try to make it perfect for you!
TIP 1: Consider how far a major will take you on an undergraduate level
For many jobs, a Bachelor's degree is sufficient. But some professional roles require additional training. For example, if you're thinking about becoming a doctor, professor, or lawyer, undergraduate studies are just the beginning. So while picking a major that coincides with these careers may be the right step at the undergraduate level, you should be aware that additional degree(s) are sometimes required beyond your Bachelor's. Before declaring your major, think about your end goals to figure out if you'll need a graduate or professional degree to succeed in the career you want.
TIP 2: Don't overthink earnings
While there may be a vast financial gap between social work and engineering, you shouldn't overthink your chosen major's prospective salary. Salaries shift, needs shift, and the world is constantly changing, so don't get hung up on what a potential salary might be when declaring your major. It's okay if your first job out of college isn't your dream job. What's important is that you're challenged, enjoying the work you're doing, gaining transferrable skills, and learning. Many employers hire across several majors for their positions, so don't fret: your major isn't always the defining factor.
TIP 3: Acknowledge subjects you love
Have you always had a love for architecture, math, health, history, or some other subject? If you love what you're studying, you're more likely to engage with your classes and college experience entirely, and that can mean better grades and excellent relationships with others in your field. If your calling is philosophy, don't write it off just because you're unsure about graduate school or what the job market holds for philosophers. Many liberal arts majors provide students with critical thinking skills and writing abilities that employers highly value.
TIP 4: Consider what type of lifestyle you want upon finishing and establishing your career
This is a crucial factor to consider and one that's more difficult to figure out when you're 17 or 18 years old. But when deciding on a major and ultimately a career, it's not just a matter of what you want to be when you're older. You also have to factor in 1) how much time you want to spend getting a college degree and 2) what kind of lifestyle you want to achieve when you finish your education. So while some careers offer a higher salary, they also may be more demanding of your time, leaving less time for yourself and family, and may require frequent travel. If that works for you, great; if not, consider this before jumping into a major headed down that path.
TIP 5: Talk to advisors
An excellent source for college advice is your school counselor. They can tell you more about majors you're interested in, what the job outlook is like, courses to take, and so much more. They can likely even point you to professionals working in the field you're interested in to find out how they got from college to where they are now.
After all that, I'm sure you're wondering, "Well, can I change my mind?!" Depending on what country you’re studying in, yes, you can certainly change your major. Most students end up changing their major at least once, with many others changing several times. No matter what year you're in, sometimes the major you declare doesn't end up being the right one. If you decide to change your major, make sure the credits you need align with your expected graduation date. Go to your counselor for guidance on picking a new major and setting up your schedule.
It's a big decision, but you know yourself and your interests better than anyone. Remember, when choosing a major, the most important thing is to make sure you're happy and clear about your life priorities and career after college.