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What to Consider When Choosing a Major

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Posted on November 25, 2014 by Delaware Valley College.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed when choosing a college major. It’s a big decision that will impact your time in an undergraduate program and maybe even a graduate program. The goal is to choose a major in a field you’ll be happy with for years to come. 

A liberal arts degree is the current popular degree given the difficult economy. This degree can provide assurance that students will be able to find a job, even if it’s not in their chosen field. But in many cases, advanced degrees pay more than a general one. 

So should you pick your college major based on possible future studies and plan to attend graduate school? Or should you base your decision on potential salary or on your desired career alone? 

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, salaries for liberal arts graduates are on the rise. The following salaries are the top salaries for Class of 2014 liberal arts majors:

 

·         Foreign languages and literature: $46,900

·         English language and literature letters: $42,200

·         Liberal arts and sciences/general studies: $41,600

·         Political science/government: $41,600

Although these salaries are impressive, having a job that you enjoy going to every day is a reward in itself. It’s important to be involved in a field that will make you happy, so take this into consideration along with salary.

After you’ve chosen a field and a career path, you’ll have to decide where you intend to live. But what if jobs in your chosen field aren’t available where you want to live? If a major is supposed to translate into a job, how do you choose one? 

To help address this issue, President Barack Obama and the US government built a website for government jobs. The USA Jobs Resource Center lists federal government occupations and the correlating college majors. For example, if you study astronomy in college, you could get a US government job in geophysics, astronomy, or space science. 

If you’re having trouble deciding on a major, you may want to speak with a guidance counselor. The counselor may help you realize what you’re truly interested in. He or she may ask questions such as the following:

 

·         What are your interests? What are you passionate about? What problems do you want to solve? What issues do you want to address?

 

·         Do you have any hobbies that you would like to pursue as a career?

 

·         What did you learn about what you like and dislike from your past work and course work experience?

Remember that many schools allow double and triple majors, and you can also minor in a subject along with a major. For example, Dr. Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development websites, is also a published author and professor who has taught college for more than 15 years. Hansen was a dual major in marketing and magazine journalism at Syracuse University. He went on to become a college professor and the owner of his own business. According to Hansen, “Your major in college is important for your first job after graduation, but studies show that most people will change careers—yes, careers—about four or five times over the course of their lives.”

Don’t panic. A lot of people get a degree in one field and end up working in a completely different field. Just pick a subject that resonates with you and follow that path for now. College is a time of exploration, and declaring a major for your studies is part of that experience.