Aside from deciding which school you’ll attend, choosing your college major is … well … a major decision.
“What major should I choose?” Science. Social justice. Ministry. Nursing. Underwater basket weaving (just kidding). The list of career choices is virtually endless and ever-expanding.
Maybe you’re among the decisive ones who knew as a 5-year-old that you’re destined to be a doctor. That’s amazing and valid. Or maybe you’re 100 percent clueless when it comes to selecting your future field. Don’t worry. You’ll find your path. Promise.
Most likely, you’re somewhere in the middle. You have some rough ideas but are looking for more guidance.
Welcome! You’ve landed on the perfect page. Below you’ll find the ultimate guide for things to consider when choosing a major, including a list of ideas and resources to explore.
Selecting your major isn’t an exact science. There’s really no right or wrong approach. Rather, this guide exists to spark your imagination and get your brainstorming juices flowing like milk and honey.
You have a bright future ahead. You better believe it!
How to pick a college major
First things first. What exactly is a major?
A college major is an academic area of study or subject of specialization. It can also be called a degree program.
Majors can be broad, such as business administration, or more specialized, such as electrical engineering. Some degree programs lead to a specific field—accounting, for example—while others allow for your choice of multiple professions.
Keep in mind that you’ll spend at least half of your college career taking coursework that corresponds with your major, so you’ll want to ensure you’re interested in the subject matter.
Now that you know what a major is, you can create a list of options to explore. Below is a comprehensive list of ideas to help you choose your future program. More than anything, make sure to have some fun with this process.
It’s time to dream about your future.
Browse Your College’s Catalog or Academics Page
Whether you’re still searching for schools or you’ve already made your decision…
- Check out the academics page on your college’s website. (If you’re a distance learner, ensure you’re looking at the page for online degree programs.) Every college and university website includes an academics hub that contains a comprehensive list of majors and programs offered, typically organized alphabetically as well as by discipline or department.
- Click on different majors that pique your interest and scan the content.
- Create an initial list of programs that could be a good fit for you.
You’ll often find student testimonials or videos that give insight from faculty on various majors. Many of them asked, “What major should I choose?” just like you are now.
Additionally, if you’re into the nitty-gritty details, check out your college’s catalog. Updated every academic year, college catalogs contain a list of course descriptions and program requirements. Take note of what courses catch your attention.
Take an Inventory of Your Interests and Skills
You’re uniquely created with your own personality, gifts, experiences, interests, and aptitude for certain skill sets. It’s wise to spend some time reflecting on your abilities and desires.
Here are a few prompts to get you pondering about how to pick a major:
- What comes most naturally for you?
- What do other people ask your advice about most often?
- When do you feel most alive?
- What subjects in school were easiest for you? How about the hardest?
- If you could only accomplish one thing in your life, what would it be?
- What’s one subject you’re always motivated to learn about, even in your spare time?
There’s no shortage of surveys online that can help give you insight on your giftings, strengths, and personality type. You can take a free assessment at 16personalities.com. (Psst: While these types of tests are helpful, don’t let your results limit you or put you in a box.)
Additionally, most colleges have a career development hub with an abundance of resources for assessing interests, exploring careers, and selecting a major. Crown’s Office of Career Services recommends the following tools:
Talk to Those Who Know You Best
After engaging in some healthy self-reflection, loop in the people you know, love, and trust—your parents, grandparents, friends, a guidance counselor, pastor, favorite teacher, etc.
Send them an email. Pick up the phone. Better yet, buy them a coffee. Ask them to pinpoint your giftings, strengths, and abilities. Allow them to speak into your life. Sometimes it takes another person to help you see yourself in a new light.
Instead of asking them, “What major should I choose?” maybe narrow it down to a few a say, “Hey, these are the ones I’m thinking about. What do you think about these?”
Meet with an Academic Advisor
It’s their job! You’ll seriously make their day. Academic advisors are counselors trained to help you plan your coursework and choose your major. They offer a wealth of knowledge on topics such as goal setting, study skills, degree requirements, graduating on time, and much more.
Additionally, it’s common for professors to serve in an advising role in addition to their teaching and research duties. Is there a certain professor you really click with? Make an appointment during his or her office hours and come prepared with a list of questions.
We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.
—Proverbs 16:9 NLT
Consider Your Ideal Work Environment.
It’s valuable to visualize yourself in a variety of work environments. Knowing what settings and physical conditions are best suited to your personality, preferences, and values could help you select a compatible major.
Here are some questions to consider when choosing a major:
- Do you prefer to work solo, or are you more of a social butterfly?
- Could you sit at a desk behind a computer most of the day?
- Do you prefer a typical 8-to-5 shift, or are you open to working nights and weekends?
- Do you want to commute to an office or work from home?
- Do you value creativity and flexibility, or do you enjoy structure and routine?
Think about it: Police officers and fashion designers, for example, experience vastly different schedules and working conditions. Both are excellent careers, but they’re not a perfect match for everybody.
Not sure yet? See the next suggestion below.
Shop Around Through Job Shadowing
Job shadowing, or “trying on” different careers, can help you explore various majors and choose a good fit with greater confidence. There’s nothing more educational than being a fly on the wall or walking in someone’s shoes for a few hours.
Formal job shadowing programs are out there. But don’t hesitate to organize an experience informally on your own by reaching out to a professional contact, professor, family member, or friend. Do you have a dream employer? You might be surprised where a simple phone call could lead!
Research Employment Trends and Salaries
There’s no doubt you’re an expert in operating an internet search engine. So block off some time to explore employment trends and industries in your city or region.
During your search, you’ll likely come across the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. It’s a comprehensive database that will assist you in researching all occupations, including the highest paying and fastest-growing.
While your future salary shouldn’t be the sole factor when it comes to selecting a major, money is of course a crucial component to consider.
What’s more, this government database now offers a Field of Degree feature that allows you to explore employment data based on academic field or major. From agriculture to transportation, you can learn more about median wages, types of majors, and whether you’ll need education beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Define Your End Goal
In other words, how long do you want to attend college? Do you want to start working as soon as possible, or are you open to attending graduate school?
Some majors are more likely to lead to an advanced degree. Careers such as counseling, college-level teaching, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology (to name just a few) all require a master’s or doctoral degree.
If you’re open to earning a graduate degree, check to see whether your college offers any accelerated programs, which offer a fast-track to earning both your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Click on Crown’s accelerated degree options below to learn more.
Give Yourself Permission to Change Course
You may change your mind, and that’s okay! The first major you declare may or may not be the one. Knowing you have permission to change your mind will take some of the pressure off, especially during your first year or two.
As you progress in your studies, you’ll develop deeper self-awareness and a sense for whether your degree program is the right fit. If you want to make a change or need advice, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The faculty and staff at your college or university truly want to see you succeed.
- Ask questions.
- Make an advising appointment.
- Visit your professors during their office hours.
Don’t forget to take advantage of all the resources and benefits that come with college life.
- Join a student organization or two.
- See a counselor to spur on personal growth.
- Schedule informational interviews with professionals in your field(s) of interest.
Throughout the process, invite God into the details of your life, in college and beyond. As you make decisions, have faith that he will direct your every step.
We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.
—Proverbs 16:9 NLT
Choosing your college major is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Applying some or all of these tips will help you have fun with this process and choose the right academic program for you, whether you’re attending college on campus or online.
Your future is bright. You have permission to dream. You can leave your mark on the world.