Choosing Your Major: 5 Tips to Help You Make the Right Decision


Deciding what to major in can feel like you’re deciding your life course in a short period of time - here’s how to tackle this decision

5 tips to choose your major

Choosing your major can feel like you are deciding your life course in a short period of time. One of the most common questions students are asked is, “What are you studying?” or “What is your major?”.

How to Declare a Major

While declaring a major is a simple process - most times it only requires you to submit a form to the university or college and inform them of your choice - choosing your major is not easy. Picking your course of study is more than choosing what your degree will be. During the 4 to 5 years you will attend university, your major narrows the topics of classes you can choose. If you have many interests, this can feel discouraging.

Declaring a major when you’re already a college student

If you are already in university, you should meet with an academic advisor before choosing your degree path. Most often your path will be either arts or science (Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science), and you would meet with the academic advisor for your respective program. An academic advisor can help not only choose a major but also help plan your courses each year and give you insight into the fields you may be able to work in after graduation.

Things to Consider When Choosing Your Major

Choose a field where you can pursue your passion. If you are interested in hard sciences and research you may feel drawn to fields such as chemistry, engineering, anthropology, or research psychology. If you are interested in helping people or worldly topics you may be interested in majors such as community psychology, economics, or sociology.

But what if you are interested in more than one area? Elective credits are a great way to explore other fields while staying on the career path you are most interested in. If you are highly interested in more than one field you can complete a degree with a major and minor, or a double major, where you would graduate with two fields of concertation, such as a Bachelor of Science with a major in chemistry and minor in biology. At many universities, there are fields which are commonly paired together, such as psychology and human resources, forensics and anthropology, or engineering and computer science, because the fields complement each other in the workforce.

Choose a major which aligns with your core values. If you believe in social equality, policy review, and advocacy work, fields such as social work, or human services, or criminology may be of interest to you. If you are passionate about working with data, finding answers to important questions about the universe, and feel science moves us forward, fields such as mathematics and statistics, physics, or chemistry may be your calling. Keep in mind your interests may change over time and one of the positive aspects of getting a four-year degree is you have time to explore other fields of interest.

Consider employability of your major. When you graduate with your degree you want to be sure that you can work in your field or a closely related field. Majors such as accounting, business, and commerce are highly employable with an undergraduate degree. On the other hand, majors such as psychology, economics, and English typically require a graduate degree (master’s or Ph.D., which is at least another 2 years of training) to be competitive in the workforce, or even be eligible for professional licensing.

Consider your potential income. The cost of a degree is not only the cost of tuition; it is estimated that the average undergraduate degree costs nearly $100,000 when you consider the cost of tuition, books, housing, and factor in the potential income you lost when you were studying. This is part of the academic journey and a crucial part of choosing your major; being able to work after graduation and make a living income is an important consideration. Let’s be honest - even though we say that money doesn’t matter, it does. When you consider your major it is important to weigh the costs and benefits of completing a less applicable degree compared to a degree with high earning potential, but you might be less than passionate about.

Consider your desired school. Universities are known for certain degrees and draw competitive students and the best professors, which generally means you will be taught by leading researchers in the field. When you are looking for a school while deciding your major be sure to look at online resources; there are countless forums where current and past students share their experience of attending the school for a program or taking a class by a specific professor.

The Bottom Line

Your major doesn’t define who you are or what you become. In fact, many university graduates do not work in the field of their major. What they do use are the skills they developed while they were in school: learning how to learn, trying new things, problem-solving, communication, and working in groups. University prepares you for the basics of your field, but the real learning happens when you start working. Keep an open mind when you are choosing classes, deciding a major, and planning your academic future.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Major

  1. What am I passionate about?

  2. Where would I like to work in 10 years?

  3. Where would I like to attend university?

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Rory Boutilier, RPC

Rory is a Registered Professional Counsellor and registered with the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association.

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