Choosing your college major can be a bit daunting. You have so many possibilities and so many places to go. But the main thing to remember is to give yourself a break. You’re not alone. In fact, almost a third of all college students change their majors at least once during their college careers. And among the highest percentage of those students is math majors. If you major in math, there is a 52 percent chance you’ll change majors before you graduate, even though it’s a foundation for some of the most in-demand majors in the US. The moral of the story? Choose wisely so that you don’t take too many unneeded classes, but give yourself a break if you decide you’re in the wrong field.
What are your interests?
One of the best ways to inventory your interests is to look at current job openings and find one that stands out to you. This may seem like you are going about things backwards, but the truth is, if you can peg your dream career first, you’ll know exactly what to major in. Scour the classifieds and look at some of the openings on Indeed or Monster. Do certain jobs seem much more interesting than others? Another activity is to take out a piece of paper and simply list everything that interests you. If you can match these interests with some of the job openings you’ve found, you might be able to figure out what you want to do. For example, do you like learning about how machinery operates? Maybe an automotive & diesel technology college in NY would be right for you.
Also, take a career-aptitude test. One thing you might notice if you search for these online is that hundreds of these types of tests are available. Make sure you take one from a reliable source, like a college or testing center. If you’re not sure, ask your high school or university counselor. They likely even administer them on campus. Career aptitude tests use a series of in-depth questions to help determine what careers you would be best at. They’ll give you a little insight into your particular skills and interests. However, don’t let that pin you with a career you don’t feel you’d be happy with. You are ultimately in charge of your future.
Money isn’t everything, but it is something worth considering
While it’s not wise to choose a career strictly based on income potential, getting the facts is a good idea. Websites such as Salary.com can help you get the facts. Check out your particular career interests on the site and learn things like which locations pay the most in that field, what the job prospects are in certain locations, and other information relevant to that career. Combine those facts with your interests, and that may lead to the smartest choice for you. For example, if you have a passion for vehicles, it might interest you to know that truck driving jobs probably pay a little better than say, auto-part store jobs. The point is when all else is considered equal in two career choices, the amount of money you make could be the deciding factor.
Where do you want to live?
Location can play a big part in the major you choose as well. If you already know exactly where you’d like to live, that could factor into your decision about a major. But again, your interests and aptitudes should always be considered in conjunction with any other factors. A good example of when location might be an issue is if you would like to live in Kansas, but your interests lie in oceanography. You will likely either have to be flexible about where you live or your major, because there are no oceans near Kansas. On the other hand, if find yourself researching things like facts about breast cancer, you might thoroughly enjoy earning an Associate’s Degree in nursing. And that is a career field in which you can find a job almost anywhere and earn a decent salary.
Your location considerations may also play a big part in where you decide to attend college. After all, you’ll spend a few years there and there’s no need to wait for your life to start until after you graduate. You can choose a college that’s close to the beach, one that’s in the heart of a major city, or even one in a small, friendly community. Just make sure to prioritize your major and your end goals above all the other stuff.
Do you want to have time to travel?
Recreation and vacations are more important to a person’s well-being than you might realize at the moment. Studies show that chronic stress takes a huge toll on your body and mind. That being said, the time and money to travel are much more important to some people than others. If it’s important to you, you should consider a more flexible career path. Perhaps you want one that will allow you to take surf lessons in Waikiki or experience Florida’s Gulf Coast more than once in your life. Some professions where you can travel frequently while still earning are flight attendants, ESL teachers, and disaster-relief coordinators. You can also check into traveling medical professional jobs that send you to a different location every few months.
Other than finding a job that you actually travel for, you may be interested in a profession that just gives you enough free time to travel on your own. Some people even prefer to work for themselves as independent contractors or small business owners. And if flexibility is a priority for your work life, you might also find that you enjoy a flexible learning environment. You can earn an online liberal arts master’s degree from the comfort of your own home or wherever you choose.
What do others say about the profession?
The best insight you can probably gain from any field is by talking to people who actually work in it. Take the time to speak to lots of people in all of your major options. If you’ve decided you might like working on cars and would like to live in Oregon, visit or email the owner of a collision repair shop in Albany, OR. Or if you’re considering entering a Medical Assistant Diploma Program in New Jersey, make connections at the local hospital who work in your desired field.
People you interview will be able to give you some great information you won’t find online. Some of that information might include what the job prospects are for that career in that area, or whether or not they enjoy the work and the people they deal with. These types of connections also sometimes lead to job opportunities after you’ve completed your education.
Never settle for a major or career field where you think you’ll be miserable simply because of earning potential or familial influence. While following your passion has been proven by some researchers to be bad advice, something can be said for doing work you love. The main thing to remember is that no one gets to live your life but you. Also, keep in mind that once you choose your major, you are not necessarily stuck with it forever. In fact, it’s a good idea to take some classes outside your major to gauge your interest and aptitude in them. Begin your college career with something you find interesting, then change it if you must when you find that thing that makes you tick. And let go of regrets. Even a degree in a field you decide not to work will open doors for you that you never imagined.