One of the biggest decisions you can make in your college career is actually one of the first major decisions in your entire career—which major you choose to specialize in.
This “major” decision will affect your next four (plus) years—from which classes you’ll be taking, which students will be your classmates to which teachers you’ll be lectured by—for your entire college career.
However, not only does it play a significant role during your time in college, but it also can help direct or even dictate your potential job search, market, and landing position in life, long after you leave your college days behind.
Although a lot of people will tell you that your major has little effect on your career—there are some circumstances where it definitely does have an impact on your future.
First and foremost, picking your major, your specialized area of study, can simply be a prerequisite for a professional degree (like an MD) or grad school. Interestingly enough, however, some future doctors major in non-science related fields—which has nothing to do with their career.
Although your major cannot guarantee a successful, future career, it can help you decide what you want to specialize in as your career later on.
Here are a few reasons how your major can help impact your career:
1. Choosing a major can help you prepare for a specific career path—or even further study.
The coursework involved in that particular major, when highly-related to your career choice, can not only be extremely helpful in the long run but also quite enjoyable.
2. What you major in can have a direct correlation with your incoming salary, post-graduation.
Although this is not always the case, most students who major in engineering, actuarial mathematics, sciences, statistics, economics, etc., are more likely to earn the salary they need to pay back all those loans.
3. It can help you find your career!
Are you not sure what you want to do? Pick something that interests you—and learning more and more about it can help you focus that interests into a particular career path. If you like what you’re studying, you’ll be more open to engaging in various experiences, which can help you find your path.
However, even though your choice of major can help set you up on the right path, it’s not a one-hundred percent make-or-break deal. As we mentioned earlier, it doesn’t guarantee you a successful future.
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Don’t stress about it
Whether you’ve already picked your major and are now uncertain about your future or you’re worried about all the pressure that’s laying on this choice, here are a few things to consider that can help take a load of stress off:
What you major in doesn’t have as much weight as simply having a degree.
Nowadays, having that Bachelor’s degree is the main prerequisite for those competing for a job. Unless you are going for a highly-specific fielded job, most employers don’t care what your major is in—as long as you’ve majored in something!
After graduating from college, you’ll come to realize that experience also matters as much as your major.
The internships, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, and where you invest your time actually count much more than you think.
It’s really about who you know.
Although you can try to deny it—your connecting network is what will get you through the door—your major can help you land the job. Your network of contacts, developed through your years of college (through internships, professors, colleagues, etc.) can be the missing piece you need to help you land that interview. Your degree and intelligence can get you through the rest.
However, although these are a few facts that can help get you off the hook in choosing a major, it’s still proven that happiness and being engaged in something you like to do can have a major impact on your success and how well you perform.
Choosing a major that interests you can help you get on a clear path and hone in on your purpose. This focus can translate into powerful, positive energy that converts well in the workplace.
So, how to choose this very—possibly not so important—major?
Here are a few tips that can help:
1. Go for your interests.
There are so many self-assessment resources that you can take advantage of. Taking a step back and looking at what you love to do—which jobs you’ve already had and loved, what subjects interest you the most, and where you see yourself in ten years can help you choose a major that suits you. If you’re interested in it (and already naturally strong at it), you’ll have an easier time when the going (and studying) gets tough.
2. Pick your career and scale back from there.
Perhaps you have a career in mind that you’d be interested in. Knowing where you want to go can help you choose the path to get you there. Some careers have pretty spacey maps that allow you to choose from a few different routes. If you have the end destination in mind, having the freedom to choose your own way can help you feel more passionate about your major and career choice.
3. Test them out.
Taking high school courses or prereqs that are tailored to the major can help you see if that degree is the right fit. Introductory courses can really help open up your eyes and give you firsthand experience in what you like and don’t like.
4. See your adviser.
They’re literally there to help you choose your academic path. Talk to teachers that have taught you in the past and know you well. Consult with students who are studying a major that’s on your radar and get their opinion. Although you have the final word, these opinions can help.
5. Look at degree requirements and plan out your next few years.
Want to be a doctor but don’t have the means to put in all those years at school? Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you make that final decision.
Depending on which direction you choose to go, some employers don’t put too much weight on what you majored in, as long as you have that degree. On the other hand, some jobs and career paths are very specific in what you should have specialized in.
Your major can have a very lasting impact on your future career—and the immediate next few years—so, regardless if you believe that it will affect your job choice after you graduate, just know that this decision is not one to be taken lightly!
Anne Baron is a highly experienced educator, writer, and copywriter specializing in academic research. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with almost 25 years of experience in teaching and academic writing. She spent a dozen years managing a large college peer-tutoring program and another dozen years in the classroom teaching college students. She has since retired from teaching and devotes her time and efforts to freelance writing for institutions, businesses, and colleges like Patrick Henry College.