What Should I Major In?
August 08, 2023
With the first day of college just around the corner, the inevitable “what’s your
major?” question will soon rise during icebreakers and introductions. Although some
college students may be sure of their chosen subject, others are still figuring out
which area of study is right for them. If that’s you, here’s a guide to narrowing down what your major
Think about your interests or any past experiences you’ve enjoyed. Maybe you’ve felt a deep sense of purpose while volunteering around kids - a degree in education could be right for you. Do you feel a connection with Mother Earth and her well-being? Consider majoring in biology. Maybe you want to help people tell stories. There are countless ways to story tell, whether it be through journalism, visual communications, video production, or strategic communication. Identify a subject that lights your soul on fire. When you have an overarching passion for your work, it’s easier to find purpose and enjoyment in your daily tasks.
If you’re not sure where to start or don’t feel connected to any particular subject - look at majors listed in an undergraduate catalog. Consider taking a course in a subject that sounds interesting, or something you don’t know much about, such as game design or criminology. Many college degree plans require a set number of electives or credit hours that are separate from your major’s curriculum, giving you wiggle room to take a few fun classes.
“At Webster, all our majors allow room for electives,” says Craig Skinner, senior academic advisor in the Academic Advising Center. “But majors with more required hours have fewer electives, and majors with fewer requirements have more electives, so there is a range. If you are undecided (about your major) engaging regularly in academic advising is the most important thing to do in order to not prolong your graduation date.” Talk to your college adviser about how you can use elective space to explore various subjects!
Another way to learn more about a field of study is to conduct an informational interview. Informational interviews provide firsthand insight into everyday life on the job. You can use LinkedIn or Handshake to reach out to professionals in many different fields. Even if it’s a complete stranger, don’t be scared - most people will be flattered that you want to learn more about their role. Prepare a few questions about their work, as you’ll be leading the way in this interview. Pro tip: bring them a coffee and meet where it’s convenient for them. They’re doing you a favor by taking the time to talk with you.
Think about your personal and professional career goals. You don’t have to have your whole life planned out, but it’s important that your career choice aligns with what you foresee for yourself. How much schooling are you willing to commit to? Does the profession that you want to pursue highly encourage a master’s degree, or even a doctorate degree? If you are adamant about finishing your schooling in four years, professions which require graduate school may not be up your alley.
If you are dreaming of a certain career, but not looking forward to the amount of time you will have to spend in school, consider pre-professional or combined degree opportunities. At Webster, select programs and partnerships give students the ability to get a “head start” on their next step while working on their undergraduate degree, saving them both time and money.
Don’t forget to consider your vision for work-life balance. Some careers, like nursing, require longer daily shifts with a tradeoff of more frequent days off – while other jobs have regular 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. hours with a routine Saturday – Sunday weekend.
Think about your personality, too. For example, if you identify as an extrovert, you may want to choose a career path that will provide you with plenty of opportunities for social interaction to fulfill your spirit. On the flipside, if you’re an introvert, you may want to avoid roles that require high energy so you don’t burn out!
Finally, don’t forget to consider practical factors, like employment rates or salary expectations within your chosen field. Are there opportunities for this line of work in the area you wish to reside? If not, are you willing to relocate? Research the baseline salary for positions within your field. If the estimated salary is lower than you hoped for, but you are passionate about the subject, will you still find it to be worth pursuing? Take some time to consider these factors before making a final decision.
No matter what subject you choose, remember that it is always possible to change directions. You may want to change your major as you progress through college, and that’s okay. College is a time to learn about yourself and your interests. Make the most of that experience by exploring the opportunities available to you - and before you know it, you’ll find your passion.
For more resources and career exploration tools, visit Webster’s Career Planning and Development Center.