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How does one decide a major?

Deciding what I would like to study and pursue potentially for the rest of my life is a little nerve-raking and important decision. I do not know if the smartest decision is to base my major solely off of my interests.

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Sarah’s Answer

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Hi Elise,

I'm really glad you asked this important question. I've worked for 11+ yrs hiring college students for jobs/internships and as a college career advisor and met many students like you who are not sure about what to major in. You're not alone in feeling that it's a nerve-racking decision!

Below is how the students I've met with known have decided on their majors. I hope sharing how they did it will be helpful to you!


"I Want to Be A..."

I've met students who knew what they wanted to be since before they arrived at college. You've probably met them too! They are the students that say, "I want to be a _____." And what they say they want to be, is also their major. So for example, "I want to be an Accountant" or "I want to be a Nurse". Simple, right? :) Their major is based on their future career—like Accounting or in Nursing--and their major provides them with the education, skills and knowledge they need to start their career and go on to advanced studies if they desire.

"I Want to Work in..."

Other students I've met are interested in working in a certain "Career Area", such as Business or Information Technology. The Career Area they are interested in working in becomes their major. They may not know exactly what they want to do (for instance, as a Business major, they might not know if they want to just work in Business, or specialize in something like Finance or Sales), but they know they want some type of career in the business world. Choosing a Career Area like Business or IT as a major gives students the fundamental knowledge and skills so they can start their careers in their area after college, and be open to possibilities in their area in the future for higher education and advanced career opportunities.

“I'm Really Good at..." or "What I Love Doing is..."

I've also met students who are very gifted in a certain skill or love doing one thing, and want to major in that in college. Some examples of students who had skills or talents that became their majors included majors like Fine Art, Graphic Design, Spanish, Creative Writing, Dance, Animation, Film—just to give a few examples. After graduating, their majors might turn into their careers (such as working as a Graphic Designer, Writer, or an Animator) or their major would lead to another career altogether. For example, a Graphic Design major I knew was hired as a Photographer and a Film major hired as a Web Designer. It's been my experience that students who graduate with a major in a skill (like Film or Graphic Design), are good at developing a wide range of skills from inside and outside their major, helping them to start their careers after graduation and nimbly change careers if needed later in life.

“What Really Interests Me Is..."

Finally, some students major in a subject area they are very interested in. There are no limits to the areas of interest that students could major in, but some of them include majors like Anthropology, Asian Studies, History, Law, Philosophy, Political Science & Government, Urban Studies, or Psychology. The students I've met who choose a subject area of interest as a major have done so to lay a solid educational foundation that will ground them no matter where their future takes them--to begin careers in their major area, to leverage their major for opportunities in a different career field like education, government, social services, etc., or to pursue graduate studies.


Hope this information was helpful!

One last matter what major you decide on, try to spend time and gain experience while in college developing skills in areas like problem solving, critical thinking, and communication--just to name a few. You can develop these skills and get experience through campus activities, clubs, volunteering, part-time jobs, internships, etc. It will be helpful to you regardless of your major choice, future career or employers. Here's a recently published list of the 10 Skills Employers Most Want (but you can also Google "Skills Most Desired By Employers" for more ideas).



CAREER FIELDS (under "Occupational Groups")



Sarah recommends the following next steps:

If you still are having trouble deciding, try asking these questions about each major you're still considering… "After college, would I want to…" 1. Work as (my major)? 2. Work in the career field or industry that hires (my major)? 3. Use skills learned from (my major) to work in other jobs? 4. Can I do other things with (my major) in case I change my mind after graduation?
By now, are able to narrow down your list of majors? Are you able to narrow it down to a couple? Could you double major? Or major in one and minor in another?
If you haven't already, check each major on the Occupational Outlook. (There's a link at bottom of each major page at ) Find information about pay, job outlook, similar occupations, etc.
Look up each major on Review the information for each major, especially "Area" & "Strategies"
Make a list of the majors you are considering