So What’s Your Major?

Tell me, how do you want to spend your working life? What job do you want? Please figure that out by the end of the term, or if absolutely necessary, by the end of the academic year, so we can put you in the right major.

No wonder picking a major often seems like choosing your fate in life!

Here are some things no one is telling you. First, your major is not your destiny. Most people in the working world do not work in a field directly related to their major. My college roommate was a history major, but he was also a DJ at our college radio station. He is now a radio host at WNCW in North Carolina. Second, you may find yourself someday working in a job that does not even exist today. When I was in college, there were no jobs for website developers, digital content creators or marketers, or social media managers. You could not take courses to prepare for those jobs. They did not yet exist. One thing you could do, though, is develop the broad skills set needed to learn those jobs later in life.

The truth is that most college majors broadly prepare you for the job market later on. There are a few exceptions. Nursing, accounting, and teacher education programs tend to be more narrowly-focused. But even these majors require you develop a broad set of useful skills.

How do you find the major that is right for you? A major should align with your interests and abilities. Look at your website bookmarks. Look at your film and television viewing habits, your Facebook page likes. Do you enjoy history documentaries? Maybe you should gravitate to a history major. Do you enjoy working out living a healthy lifestyle? Maybe you should look into kinesiology as a major (if your college has one) or biology. Environmental sustainability? You are in luck. You can gravitate to environmental studies if you are interested in social change. You can major in engineering if you want do design more sustainable solutions. If you want to understand the science of sustainability, you could major in geology, chemistry, or biology. If you are not sure if a particular major is right for you, make an appointment to talk with a professor (not an advisor) about how well your interests align with a discipline.

If you have a general sense of what you want to major in, like social sciences, but still are not sure, ask your advisor about meta-majoring. Your advisor may not be familiar with the concept—it is new—but more and more colleges are developing them. A meta-major is a set of courses you take across several majors but with a similar theme, like liberal arts or health sciences. It give you room to explore what you like, while ensuring the classes you take will ultimately count towards your major requirements.

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