When do I need to pick a major by and how important is choosing the right major for my career?

College Prep

Our counselors answered:

When do I need to pick a major by and how important is choosing the right major for my career?

Nola Lynch
Independent Educational Consultant Northwest College Search

Arts and science majors have careers, too...

Major in what interests you, but make contacts and gain experience through internships and summer jobs. Most jobs (except in professions like accounting, nursing, or engineering, for example) can be handled by people with many different majors, and after you gain experience on your first job, your college major may not matter at all. Who you are and how well you perform on the job usually mean more than what you studied. An articulate, broadly educated person may outperform the narrowly focused. I know people whose majors/job fields are classics/e-marketing, music/publishing, history/health administration, philosophy/medical assisting, art/film production, education/sales, and more.

Patti Demoff
Co-Founder College Circuit

Majors and careers are often unrelated...

Honestly, I find that more people have careers unrelated to their majors than ones who do. My own history major son runs a sports team. I know a rhetoric major who is an architect, an international relations superstar who owns a Pilates studio, an art history major with a PhD in social science, an English professor with an undergraduate major in foreign service, an Asian studies major chef and an unusual number of classics majors who work with the military. And those are just the ones that immediately came to mind!

Ralph Becker
Owner & Director Ivy College Prep LLC

College majors rarely connect precisely to a career...

College majors don’t constrict career possibilities. Don’t be swayed by this myth. I had a friend who majored in English at Tufts. After she graduated, she went to a gynecologist, whom she disliked to such a degree that she decided to become one. She went back to Tufts, took all the science courses she had avoided like the plague as an undergraduate, took the MCAT, went through Tufts Medical School, and now is the head of the gynecology department at Massachusetts General Hospital. Majors, careers, and life rarely line up perfectly. Yours won’t either: don’t fear creating your own path.

Rafael Figueroa
Director, College Guidance Albuquerque Academy

Be open to new possibilities and be ready to change...

Some colleges admit by major, others allow you to be undecided or change later. Most estimates say 80% of college students will change majors at least once. That flexibility is one of the best features about our education system. I had a college friend who was in the hospital for long time. Bored, he read the course catalog from cover to cover. When he got out, he changed his major from computer science to sociology, because those courses sounded most interesting. So having a major in mind is fine, but be open to new possibilities and be ready to change.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

Follow your passions..and then your new passions...

After building a music business in high school, Adam applied to colleges with strong music business programs. He got into some, not all, and chose one with a strong music business program. Then freshman year, he changed his mind, and the school didn’t have many other majors he wanted. Now he is a happy history major at another college. Colleges love kids with passions. But if you’re undecided, then view that as your passion. That is your right. College is the time to explore and give yourself the change your mind, your passions, and major. And then sometimes the college.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Your major will likely have limited impact on your career!...

How can a teenager truly know what career path(s) he will eventually follow? Only one in ten adults ultimately pursue a career that is directly related to what his major was in college. Most schools require that a major be declared by junior year. Try to choose a major that you will enjoy. Keep in mind that Medical schools often prefer English majors to Biology majors, and Law schools are known to favor Philosophy majors, as these disciplines teach effective writing and analytical skills. A solid liberal arts education will provide you with a foundation of critical knowledge and skills. Don?t be surprised if your career path is chosen by luck and happenstance.

Susan Smith
Educational Consultant Bedford Educational Consulting

You're not alone, or at a disadvantage...

Most seventeen-year-olds don’t have a clue about majors, thinking instead about the subject in which they received the best grade. People find jobs by being in the right place at the right time or knowing someone. A student who graduated with a degree in Philosophy and now works at a radio station; another graduated from a highly acclaimed business program and is building houses. Engineering students move into computer science, art students to web design, and Hydrology majors become math teachers. In the end, your education is about giving you the ability to think critically and make intelligent decisions with the resources your undergraduate education has provided.

Leigh Anne Spraetz

Your choice of major should align with your application

If you have toured colleges, you’ve already heard that the most popular major for freshmen is “Undecided.” Colleges understand that most 18-year-olds don’t know what they want to major in or what career they will pursue. However, if you do choose a major, it should align with your application. For instance, for engineering, your transcript should show high grades and strong rigor in math and science classes. Identify potential careers by thinking about your favorite and least favorite classes, and by taking career assessments. Use opportunities to intern or job shadow to help you learn more about your interests.

Lisa Carlton
Owner www.collegematchpoint.com

Exploration leads to a solid college major

Students tend to find their majors in a couple of ways. The most common is that they take a course that really sparks their interest in a subject. I encourage students to get to know the professors in these courses. Ask the professor about the field and the emerging trends within it. It is also a good idea to talk with other students in the major. Another path for finding a major is volunteer work or an internship. Real world experience brings the field alive in a way that course work alone cannot.

Mary Ann Willis

Change is the name of the game

Your parents never dreamed of studying nanotechnology or microcomputers. Your career path might not exist yet. Communicating effectively, thinking logically, and questioning critically are career essentials. While you build those skills, consider your other strengths. What do you like? Working with things, people, information? Inside or outside? With great structure or great freedom? From the moment you step on campus, locate and use the career planning office. Take interest inventories; practice interviewing; craft your resume; check out internships, and schedule interviews. Graduation arrives in a blink. Learning on the job is a lifetime endeavor. Do what you love and you’ll love what you do.