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Majors and Careers

Majors and Careers

Some students start college knowing exactly what they'd like to major in. Some don't know which direction they want to choose. Others have career goals, but no idea which majors will get them there. Although there's no need to make a final decision anytime soon, you can help yourself by exploring your options now. Not sure what you want to do? Focus your search for majors and careers by listing your academic and extracurricular interests and strengths. Use your list as a starting point for exploration.

Why your Major Matters and How to Choose One

There's considerable debate as to how important this decision really is. Some say it doesn't matter because the skills you build are universally valued. Others say it does matter because the major you choose can dictate the scope of your opportunities. Which point of view is right depends on your time frame.

In the Long Run

As you progress in your career, you build skills and knowledge that transcend your choice of major. After about three years of work experience, your degree begins to fade into the backdrop of your resume, and after about five years, it is relegated to the fine print. At that point, a degree is more a minimum requirement for employment rather than a testament to your knowledge. So, in some ways, your choice of major is not so important.

In the Near Future

Wait a minute! You still need to begin your career somewhere, gaining the work experience that will be valued more highly than your degree. A series of unrelated jobs won't help launch your career nor will a career in a field in which you have no interest. Think of it as a rocket trajectory—at launch, you need to be pointed in the right direction; otherwise, it will take considerable energy to change your course later on. The major you choose can help to direct your career.

Your Major Matters

Here are some reasons for taking the decision seriously:
  • You're about to invest several years of your life in studying a subject in great detail. You'll be most successful in your major, and subsequent career, if you're truly interested. 
  • College can be a big investment of your time and money, so to maximize your psychological and financial payback make sure the major you choose points you in the right direction. 
  • There are many careers that favor or even require one degree over another. If you're interested in a particular career find out which majors are required or recommended before you choose one.
Despite the importance of choosing a major, the vast majority of students still make the decision haphazardly. Frequently, students find the sheer number of options is overwhelming, which makes it easy to postpone the decision until well into college. Putting off your decision for too long can result in a choice that's convenient but unwise or can delay graduation.

Take Your Time and Do the Research

Choosing a major is not a decision that should be made in two hours, two days, or even two weeks. Research all your options and keep an open mind. Once you've narrowed the list of majors and careers that seem interesting, try each of them on for a while.
For example, take classes in the major and talk to your professors about the possibilities. Pursue internships and jobs where you can get hands-on experience and talk to people working in the field. If you're not excited by the subject matter or can't see yourself in that type of career, then move on to others. After all, if you start early, you have plenty of time.