Learn How to Choose a College Major

Students
What are their majors?. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Martin Barraud / Taxi / Getty Images

To say college is expensive is a huge understatement. Yet for many, in order to have the type of career we want, it is absolutely necessary to earn a degree. Some students enter college with the occupation they want to pursue in mind, something they hopefully determined by following all the right steps. They typically also know, or at least mostly know, what to study. Other individuals have a major in mind but are less sure about what career it will lead to.

Whichever group you are in, here are some questions you should ask yourself before you choose your major.

1. Are You Interested in This Area of Study?

This may seem like an obvious question: Why would you choose a major if not because you are interested in it? There could be other reasons. For example, you may be considering a particular course of study because it is listed among the educational requirements for the occupation you want to pursue. Even if you've determined that the career is suitable for you, you may not actually enjoy preparing for it. If you find yourself in this situation, see if there are any other majors that will help you fulfill those requirements.

2. Can You Succeed in This Major?

The area of study you are thinking about may seem extremely interesting to you but is earning a degree in it feasible? Will you be able to get good grades or even pass your classes? How about the classes that aren't in your major but are also required for your degree?

Let's say you want to earn a business degree with a major in marketing. You will also have to take accounting, economics and statistics classes. Can you do well in them?

3. Will It Prepare You for the Career You're Interested in Pursuing?

Let's say you have determined that not only do you have a great interest in a major, but you have a great aptitude—or natural talent—for it.

You've also decided on a career you want to pursue. Not all occupations have specific educational requirements but merely require a college degree. It sounds very general, almost like you can pick anything you want. The question is, should you? You should try to choose something that will increase your chances of finding employment once you graduate from school. Do some research to find out what degrees people who work in your desired field have.

4. Will This Major Prepare You for a Variety of Careers?

Individuals sometimes choose majors just because they are interested in what they will be studying. There's nothing wrong with that and it is in keeping with the spirit of what education should be about. That doesn't mean, however, that you should just pick something and leave your future up to chance. Find out what people who have graduated after studying the same subject have gone on to do. Then make sure at least one of those options, if not more, are suitable careers for you.

5. Do the Careers You Will Be Able to Pursue Have a Good Employment Outlook?

Studying interesting subject matter is important but if at the end of it all you aren't prepared for a career that has a good future, it won't be money that was well spent.

You should find out what the job outlook is for the career, or careers, you are considering.

6. Will Majoring in This Area of Study Give You Soft Skills You Can Use?

In spite of having carefully picked an occupation to pursue, you may want to, in the future, change your career, either before you graduate or after you've worked on it for a while. You should think about whether your major will lock you into this career or if you will also be prepared for some alternative options. In addition to getting hard skills, also known as technical skills, from your studies, you should also amass some soft skills or personal qualities that will be useful regardless of what career you ultimately pursue. That doesn't mean you won't have to go back to school, but you will at least be off to a good start.

7. Will You Be Required to Go to Graduate School?

Finally, ask yourself if you can get a good job with your undergraduate degree.

There are some majors that have very limited opportunities for those who have only a bachelor's degree. Psychology is one of them. If you don't plan to pursue at least a master's degree, you will not have many career choices in this field, although there are alternative options you may find interesting. There are many majors like this, so make sure you are willing and able to go on to graduate school and get all the education you need to have a successful career.