How to Choose the Perfect College Major

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ll be attending university within the next year and you’re trying to choose a major. Therefore I’ll also assume other people have already told you what to major in.

In reality, there is no perfect college major. If you take nothing else from this article, it’s this: you should know what you’re getting into–both the good and the bad. Secondly, figure out the job you want and pick a major based on that, not the other way around.

Before you read any further, know that you probably shouldn’t take my advice. I graduated from college in 2015 and got a job as a software engineer at Google, but my experience will be different than yours.

What Some People Say

Some people say, “Major in something you’re interested in.” I think that’s a fine starting point, but there’s more to it than that. I enjoy reading about history and programming computers, but I’d rather be an engineer than a history teacher.

Other people say, “Major in something with good job prospects.” A high salary is great, but it would suck to do something you hate for 40 hours a week. In addition, I’ve seen friends enter the (formerly) high-demand field of petroleum engineering. When the price of oil dropped, all the petroleum engineering jobs evaporated. So a hot “high-paying field” can’t be the only criteria.

UT Tower

In reality, there is no perfect college major.

A third group says, “Major in something broad, like English.” I think that’s silly, because I’ve seen students so excited to major in seemingly “broad” subjects like English, and then after they graduate, they can’t find a job. Or rather, they end up in a secretary-like role (a “boring office job” to them). I have to wonder, if they didn’t want to be an English teacher, what were they expecting?

I’ve also seen friends major in something niche like music composition and get their dream job right out of college. Sometimes, but not always, it works out.

Thinking in Reverse

If you don’t choose a career, circumstance will choose one for you.

I would figure out what kind of job you want and then pick a major based on that, rather the other way around. Think, “If want to be a speech therapist, what do I need to major in?” rather than, “If I major in Germanic Studies, what kind of jobs can I get?”

Also, examine both the positive and negative aspects of your prospective college major. Talk to people who graduated with the major you’re thinking about. They can show you the side of their job that you don’t see in the brochure.

Finally, your major might not matter much a few years after you graduate. Your work experience will be more significant than your degree.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your life. Know both the good and the bad.

Make good decisions.

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