How To Choose a College Major: (A Definitive Guide 2020)

Figuring out how to choose a college major on your own can be pretty stressful since there are many factors that should be taken into consideration.

You have to take into account tuition costs, career salary, employment rates, job market demand, and if it’s something you will actually enjoy doing.

Of course it’s important to choose a college major that you are passionate about, but also one that pays you good money so you don’t have to struggle.

Picking the wrong college major can drastically affect your future and life choices.

In a survey from American Student Assistance, 53% of respondents reported that student loan debt had an impact on their choice of career.

In other words, college graduates were searching and applying for jobs that would help them pay off bills and debt instead of focusing on their actual career of choice.

The study also revealed that college graduates are delaying their decisions to get married, buy a home, have children, and save for retirement due to student debt.

Our goal with this guide is to provide you with statistics on what research shows about college graduate experiences to help you make the right decision on which college major is right for you – both personally and financially.

Learn from the experiences of college graduates and use that knowledge to make better decisions as you begin your college journey.

In this guide, I am going to walk you through:

  • The Importance of Choosing the Right College Major
  • How to Figure Out How to Choose a College Major
  • Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a College Major
  • What to Do Once You Choose a College Major
  • Can I Change My Mind About My Major?

The Importance of Choosing The Right College Major

Choosing a college major is important. But choosing the right one is highly critical.

So you should be spending an incredible amount of time cultivating your passion and finding the right college degree.

According to PayScale, between April and May of 2019, approximately 248,000 respondents in the United States were surveyed to identify any regrets about their time in college.

Other than student loans being the number 1 regret, the choice of major was the 2nd most popular regret reported.

The study revealed that college students who graduated with majors like humanities, physical & life science, and social science reported higher regrets in their choice of major. 

This was mainly because they ended up in jobs that didn’t compensate them with enough money to pay back their student loans while having to pay rent, bills, etc.

On the other hand, survey responders with a degree in engineering, education, and computer science reported the least amount of regret in their choice of major.

There are many majors that lead to low-paying jobs compared to higher salaries from people with degrees in engineering or computer science.

That’s why it’s important to consider majors in a field you are passionate about and also those that are going to help you thrive financially in the real world.

In this next section, we are going to learn some effective ways on figuring out what to choose as a college major.

How to Figure Out What to Choose as a College Major

STEP 1:

Visit any college major assessment website that analyzes your strengths, interests, and personality traits to provide you with a list of the top 10 careers that best suit you based on your answers.

First we have The Princeton Career Quiz:

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The Career Quiz from Princeton Review is a great way to find out which type of career you might be interested and it’s simple process.

Then we have my favorite one that I would use for all my students called Career Cruising.

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They will then ask you a series of 20-25 questions.

Based on the answers you selected, you’ll receive an explanation of your choices along with a list of careers that best suit you.

They even provide you with a ‘day in the life’ view of whatever career you click on and a general overview of what your present and future will look like in that career path.

Based on your answers to those questions you will then be given your top 15 career jobs that are best suited for you.

Once you receive your top 15 career jobs, each job provides you the salary rate, education requirement, a video showing what they do everyday and other future career opportunities.

STEP 2:

Write down the top 8 things you love doing and want to spend your time on every day for the rest of your life.

Once you decide on the top 8 things you love doing, pick 4 of those 8.

Narrowing down your passions the better.

Once you’ve selected your top 4 passions, you can move on to the next section of this guide .

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a College Major

During this section of the guide, we’ll go over the important questions college students should be asking themselves when choosing a college major. 

Try to be as honest as possible with yourself.

1. Is this what I want or what my environment says I want?

It is fairly common for college students to select majors based on careers their mom and dad specialize in.

Sometimes even professors and counselors themselves will tell students what they think the student should do as a career.

As a recent Academic Success Coach, I would catch myself doing this as well.

Truth is, nobody but you knows what’s best for your future because you know you best.

So you shouldn’t let your environment pick a college major for you just because it would make them happy.

After all, you are the one who is going to be in college taking those classes and living that career path – not them.

So keeping your 4 passions (or majors) in mind, ask yourself this question and determine whether these are majors you’ve selected based on your interests or what people have suggested for you.

2. Can I imagine myself working in this field for the next 20 years?

If you can’t see yourself doing a particular job for the next 10-20 years, then this isn’t the right major for you.

So go ahead and cross that one off your list.

When deciding on a major, you have to be able to envision yourself waking up every morning (Monday through Friday) knowing you are going to work on your passion, not a job.

Can you imagine spending 4 years of your life going to college just to get a job you “thought” would be a great fit for you?

So if you haven’t done it yet, ask yourself: “Can I really see myself working in this type of career every day – Monday through Friday – and actually enjoying it?”

3. Am I chasing money or my passion?

Deciding if a specific major is going to bring home the bacon is on every student’s mind.

And you have every right to wonder about the yearly salary of a career – whether it’s because of the rising tuition costs, uncertain economy, or having to provide for your family.

However, choosing a major should not be heavily dependent on how much money you are going to make.

Can you imagine waking up every day and going to a job from 9am-5:30pm (that you don’t even like) just to get a paycheck?

That would be completely miserable.

You also don’t want to choose a major that you are passionate about but that doesn’t pay you much… especially if you plan to take out student loans and intend to pay them back after graduating.

So think about the things you are passionate about, but also ask yourself: 

“Is it worth spending 4 years of my life preparing for a job that’s only going to pay me $40,000 a year?”

Always take into consideration how much you’ll earn after investing 4 or more years of your life in college.

Remember: a college degree is an investment, and an investment does not mean spending 10-12 years after college paying off student debt.

Tough, I know.

But this is the reality of the world, and these are common things college graduates experience – where they regret having chosen a certain field because it doesn’t pay them enough to cover the bills, rent, or they don’t even have time to travel.

4. What are the career opportunities for this major?

Does the major you are choosing open up doors for different types of job opportunities? 

For example, a degree in psychology opens the door for many opportunities such as:

  • Working in law enforcement 
  • Social worker
  • Psychiatric Technician
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • ABA Behavior Technician
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Academic Counselor
  • Industrial Organization Psychologist

If you are like me, I can’t be working for one company for longer than a year.

That is why I chose psychology as a major in college because of the unlimited job opportunities I could pursue if I wasn’t happy with my current one.

5. What Is My End Goal With This Major?

What are you hoping to accomplish with this major?

Is this major going to bring you a step closer to another goal that you have?

When choosing a college major, it’s always good to start with the end-goal in mind and then work your way backwards.

In other words, write down your life goals and what you want to accomplish in life.

Then start adding things you need to do that will lead to accomplishing that goal.

6. How Long Can I See Myself Going To College For?

You have got to be real with yourself on this one. How long can you actually see yourself going to college for?

Often college students will pick a major and not understand how many years of education are actually required to get that specific college degree.

I’ve had students who wanted to major in psychology because they were passionate to learn about the mind and how we function as humans.

However, to get a high-paying job in psychology, a bachelor’s degree is not enough. 

A master’s degree or even a PhD are usually required, which could mean another 2-4 years of school after undergrad.

So when deciding on a major, make sure you understand how many years of education are required to obtain that college degree and if you are willing to put in more years of late nights studying.

What to Do Once You Choose a College Major?

Okay, so maybe you’ve narrowed it down to a specific major by now – or maybe you haven’t yet. 

But once you do finally pick a major, here are some actions you can take.

If you really want to work in a certain field and want to be 100% sure about it, you have to start doing what’s called job shadowing.

Job shadowing is an opportunity where you spend a day or two observing a professional in the career you are interested in.

Job Shadowing is important for the following reasons:

  • It’s an amazing opportunity to ask questions about the career, observe their day-to-day schedule, and weigh the pros and cons.

  • Job shadowing provides you with hands-on training where you are able to determine if you can see yourself working in a specific profession every day.

So how do I get job shadowing opportunities?

Let’s say, for example, that you are interested in becoming a nurse.

You should go on Google and type in “hospitals near me” or “clinics near me” – since these are places where you would normally find nurses.

Pick a location of your choice and find their contact information.

Whether it’s a phone number or email you find, do the following: 

  • Tell them who you are (stating your name, the name of your college or university, and the major you plan to study).

     

  • Explain why you are contacting them (politely ask for an opportunity to shadow a nurse and explain how appreciative you would be if given the opportunity).

That was easy, right?

Trust me, these professionals were once college students too – so they understand your concern.

I know they would be willing to help or at least point you in the right direction.

Speak to and interview professors in this field of study

If you are interested in business, for example, take the time to go to office hours and speak with a college professor in business and ask what their experience has been like.

Interested in psychology? Go speak with a professor who teaches psychology. 

Whatever major you’re interested in – make time to speak to a professional in that field to learn more about it and see if it’s a good fit for you.

Here are some things you should ask:

  • What does your daily schedule look like?
  • What are the pros and cons of this major?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • How does your job affect your lifestyle? 
  • If you could do college all over again, would you still choose the same major? Why or why not? (this one is a powerful question)
  • What are the common career paths I can choose based on this major?
  • What are your tips and advice for students who are considering this major?

Related: Why Avoiding Office Hours is the #1 Mistake College Students Make

Get an internship, volunteer or work part-time in that field

It’s never too early to start applying for internships, volunteering, or working a part-time job related to your college major.

Making this a priority in your college journey will give you more time to experiment with different types of jobs that you might end up liking.

For example, a significant amount of college students go from being interested in a specific major and find an internship, volunteer, or work a part-time job in a different field that they really like and then switch to that major instead. 

That’s why it’s important to start this process early in your college career and not wait until your last year of college. Save yourself time and money.

So be sure to apply to different positions that interest you as soon as you are done reading this guide because you could possibly change your mind about a major you thought you liked.

Related: Internships For College Students: Easy Website Applications (Get One Today)

Which leads us to the final segment of this guide.

Can I Change My Mind About My Major?

Yes. Of course you can.

In fact, more than 50% of college students change their major at least once, and a big fraction of them change it multiple times.

So yeah it is quite common to change your major, and that’s okay.

But like I said before, start exploring early on and make this a priority in your first and second year of college.

You should also keep in mind that changing your major does have its repercussions:

  • You could end up taking longer to complete college
  • The actual process of changing your major may take a while, depending on your college or university’s policies
  • Dealing with people’s opinions or criticism
  • More tuition costs (classes, textbooks, etc.)

If you decide you definitely want to change your major, I suggest that you first speak to a career advisor from your college or university to learn more about the process.

Sometimes college students that want to switch their major end up not switching majors because they assume they have to restart college again, but that is not true.

It all really depends on whether you have been taking general education classes or taking the introductory/main courses for a certain major.

Conclusion

I hope all the research and reports we presented in this guide about college graduates gives you some insight on the important things to consider, how to validate your passion for a career, and seeing if a specific major is worth your investment.

Start by taking your general education classes during your first year and join classes you might be interested in.

Spend time interviewing professors and job shadowing professionals in your desired career right away. 

Find internships, volunteer, or get a part-time job that will help you get hands-on experience in the field of your choice so you can get a glimpse of what your future in that career might be like.

I know it may seem tough and even scary, but as long as you follow this guide, you will have a better understanding of what you want to do and ultimately lead you to choosing a college major that’s right for you.

Pick a field of study that you will truly love working in every day and one that is going to make you the money you desire.

So how are you feeling now about choosing a college major? Are you still unsure or do you at least have a better idea of what to consider?

Did any of the research presented in this guide surprise you at all? Did it give you a better understanding on how to choose a college major?

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below – I’ll be more than happy to answer them!

Yours Truly,

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Yo! We are Marcos & Mayra

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