How to Narrow Down Your Major Options

Use this guide to make a smart choice about what your major should be.

By Ashley Henshaw | February 17, 2017

The best way to find out which major is right for you is to spend some time reflecting on your own personal goals and interests.
Photo: Thinkstock

Choosing a major comes easily to some people. But if you’re one of the many students who struggle to determine their academic paths, it can take a bit of effort. Fortunately, you might just love the work that goes into discovering your passions. Make sure you do your research to find the major that is the best fit for you.

If you do have a career path in mind, find out which majors are best suited to your field.

Assessing Your Goals and Interests

The best way to find out which major is right for you is to spend some time reflecting on your own personal goals and interests. Since this decision could impact the rest of your life, it’s important to find out what drives you. “My advice is to go with your heart and passion,” says Dr. Stephanie A. Smith, an English professor at the University of Florida. “Too often we feel pressured to do the pragmatic or practical thing, and for some people, that works, but for many of us, that doesn't capture our imaginations or kindle a spark of passion.”

Looking for some ways to figure out your passions? Try these tips:

* Take advantage of your general education requirements by signing up for classes that cover a wide range of topics. See which ones spark your interest.
  • Talk about your interests with upperclassmen, academic advisors and/or professors. They may be able to point you towards the majors that are a good fit for you.
  • Take some career aptitude quizzes. These can point out the skills and habits that make you a great candidate for certain career paths and their associated majors. Check out this quiz offered by The Princeton Review.

Doing Research on Major Options

Finding your passions is one thing. But matching those up with the right major takes a little research. The more you research each major you’re considering, the more likely you’ll be to find the best match.

Here are some of the best ways to find out more about your major options:

  • Look up course descriptions in your university course catalog. Find out what exactly you’d be studying and what the courses require (reading, tests, research, lab time, etc.). You can also talk to an academic advisor about the requirements for the majors that you’re considering.
  • Learn more about which minors your school offers – this can be a great way to combine interests when you’re having trouble choosing between two majors.
  • Talk to professors about what types of students excel in their classes. Find out more about class requirements and ask about potential career paths. You may even be able to sit in on a class or two.
  • Find out more about specific majors online by using resources like the Major and Career Search at Big Future.

Look up course descriptions in your university course catalog.
Photo: Thinkstock

Thinking About The Future

Your major determines what you’ll study in college, but it can also affect your career prospects. Choosing a major is more than just choosing what you want to learn about; you should also think in the long-term about what type of job it could prepare you for and whether that lines up with your lifestyle preferences.

Use these tips to find out more about careers so that you can choose your major wisely:

  • Use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook to find out more about prospective career options. You can look up profiles for individual career choices to find out everything from expected income to work environment to employment outlook.
  • If you do have a career path in mind, find out which majors are best suited to your field. In addition to undergraduate majors, find out if you may need a master’s degree as well. The BLS website can also help you select your major since its job profiles give details about education requirements. You can also talk to hiring managers in your chosen field to see what they look for in job candidates.
  • Take an internship or volunteer in a field that you’re interested in. Trying out a specific job for yourself and immersing yourself in that work environment will help you determine if it’s a good fit for you.
  • Think about your long-term goals in life and whether a certain career could help you achieve those goals. If you’d love to see the world, for example, consider a career path that would allow for international travel.

Keep in mind that thousands of students start college with no idea of what major they’d like to pursue, but they end up finding their path and earning a degree within just a few years. Take the time to figure out your interests and research all your options and you’ll find that there’s a great major out there for you.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

Is a Double Major Right for You?
5 Smart Double-Major Combos
Liberal Arts vs. Career Majors: What’s Right for You?
How to Decide if You Should Change Your Major

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