Tools for Choosing the Right College Major

Finding a great job these days can be difficult, particularly if you don’t have a college degree. Since most worthwhile jobs require at least some sort of post-high school education, it is a distinct advantage to have achieved at least a two year degree, if not a four year undergraduate degree. For some jobs, it does not seem to particularly matter in what discipline the degree was earned. Simply the fact that you have completed a college education is good enough for these employers.

On the surface, this does not seem to make sense. Shouldn’t all employers be looking for candidates who have completed a very specific course of education? In some cases, they are. You could not be hired as an architect, for example, unless you had obtained the necessary formal education. Other areas of employment are less black and white, however. If you were seeking work as a paralegal, you might have earned a four year degree with a major in English, business, or communications. What makes the difference? Why do some employers seem to require concentration in a certain major, while others only seem to care that you have been to college?

The answer is that for some jobs, employers are more interested in what a college degree represents, rather than the specifics of what the student learned. To employers, people who hold a college degree have demonstrated the drive and discipline necessary to complete a rigorous course of study. In pursuit of their achievement, they should have developed a certain amount of mental sophistication, that is, the ability to think critically, to make sound decisions, and to work effectively as part of a team. Additionally, they should be able to demonstrate heightened abilities to communicate both orally and in writing, something that is indispensable in almost every industry today. In short, graduates have achieved a quantifiable, relatively long term goal, and the potential employer hopes this will translate to a willingness to stick with a job and see it through successfully.

So now that we understand that some industries will expect your degree to be related to a particular industry, while others will not, how do you go about selecting a college major? It’s not something that should be done lightly, or without a great deal of careful consideration. A fortunate few seem to know exactly what career they would like to have after college, while others tend to drift from one interest to the next without one seeming to rise above the rest.

If you are undecided, the best advice you can take is to not panic. Lots of people begin their college career being unclear as to what their ultimate goal is, beyond earning a degree, that is. The wonderful thing is that in a four year college, you often do not have to declare your major until you’ve completed a year or two of school. This gives you time to try out a variety of subjects, gauging your interest in each as you go. Maybe you will find that your imagination is fired by psychology, or maybe you really get surge out of reading 19th century English literature. Either way, your interest in such subjects should clue you in to a possible choice. Ask yourself several questions as you work toward a decision.

  • To what kind of career can this course of study lead?
  • Are there plenty of job opportunities in this field?
  • Will a four year degree be sufficient, or will I need a post-graduate degree as well?
  • Is my interest in the subject matter strong enough to be sustained through years of education and a career?
  • Where will job opportunities be available for this career? Are they places in which I am willing to live?

Chances are good that many of these questions will be difficult to answer, and that is all right. Such a decision constitutes a huge responsibility. Also, try not to lose heart if you think your first choice is turning into a mistake. Lots of college students shift their focus during their education – having the freedom to choose is one of the reasons you decided to attend college in the first place.

Choosing your college major is a big decision, but it does not necessarily have to determine your career. If you focus on a specific trade, like accounting or engineering, your course will be relatively set. However, there are a number of flexible college majors that can prepare you for a wide variety of employment opportunities. The main goal is to make a decision to study something you love. The rest tends to take care of itself.