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  • Your major is the subject area you’ll specialize in while earning your degree.
  • Understanding how to choose a major can be an important part of your college career.
  • If you aren’t sure how to choose a major, your interests and academic strengths could put you on the right path.

By the time you get to college, you’ve already made some pretty big choices—like how far away from home to go, what kind of school to attend, and where to live. But at some point in your college career, you’ll have to consider another important decision: a college major. Here's some helpful advice on how to pick a college major.

What is a college major?

Your major is the area of study you’ll specialize in during college. According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the most popular college majors are:

  • Business-related majors
  • Health professions and related programs
  • Social sciences and history
  • Engineering
  • Biological and biomedical sciences
  • Psychology

Most schools require that you choose (or “declare”) your major by the end of your sophomore year so that you can complete all the requirements and still graduate in four years.

Why choosing a major matters

Once you commit to a major, you’ll be spending a lot of time studying in that department. Before you make that investment, it’s good to spend some time considering why you want to major in a particular field—and what you hope to get out of it. It’s true that some people end up working in fields that aren’t related to what they studied in college. Still, your major can provide knowledge and skills that support your career path in different ways.

How do I choose a major?

If you’re struggling to choose a major, thinking about your passions, strengths, and goals can be a good starting place. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to choose a college major:

  1. Consider your interests: Make a list of your interests, passions, and curiosities—the things that get you fired up. Highlight a few that could translate into a course of study.
  2. List your strengths: Where are you most skilled academically? What things come naturally to you? Where do you feel you have talent that could be developed? Now look over the interests you listed in step one and see if there’s any overlap. For example, if you’re interested in health and wellness and you succeed in science classes, biology might be a good fit.
  3. Consider your career goals: You might not know exactly what your dream job is yet, but you can start with some looser goals. Perhaps there’s a field, like health care or government, that interests you. Similarly, you might feel drawn to working with children or improving the environment. Thinking about these broader aims may help direct your decision.
  4. Research the earning potential of different majors: Comparing majors can help you understand how different career choices could affect your earning power (and student loan debt) down the road. Beyond that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics can clarify how much growth is expected in a particular field.
  5. Seek some guidance: Helping you figure out how to choose a major is a big part of your academic advisor’s job—and this person should have valuable insights about the pros and cons of different programs at your school. Professors can be another great resource. Talking to students or recent graduates in the programs you’re considering may be helpful too. Similarly, if you know any recent graduates with a job that you’d be interested in, ask them about their college major and how it has affected their career path.

Still can’t decide what to major in?

The process of choosing a college major can feel intimidating. After all, you’re making a choice that will impact the rest of your college education—and possibly your career path. But it’s also an exciting opportunity to delve into the topics that excite you the most. Think of it as an opportunity to prepare for whatever lies after college, whether that’s graduate school or the working world.

Keep asking yourself the questions listed above, and don’t be afraid to enlist the help of family, friends, advisors, and professors. If you want to “test drive” a career, volunteering or interning can give you a sense of what working in a particular field would really be like. If you find yourself torn between two majors, you can always double major or choose one as a minor area of concentration.

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