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What is a Major in College? and How to Choose One

In college, the first rule is to be intentional. It would be best if you were very careful when picking a major for college. In college, many students launch their college careers with an undeclared major. 

They start by taking general education courses and gravitate toward certain fields based on their interests, strengths, and career goals. In considering these factors, you would get to pick a major that would do you proud in the future. 

This article will discuss all you need to know about getting a major in college. In addition, frequently asked questions have been provided to answer questions or any confusions you might have after.

What is a Major in College?

To get a major in college, you have to know what a major in college is. A major is simply a specific subject students can specialize in while aspiring to a college degree. When specializing, between a third and half of the courses you take in college are in your major or related to it. 

In picking a major, you should have shown that you have sustained high-level work in the subject you plan to pick. In some majors, you prepare for a specific career. Depending on the college or university, you might major in two subjects, have a major and a minor, or even create your own major.

A major is a specific subject area that students specialize in. Typically, between one-third and one-half of the courses you’ll take in college will be in your major or related to it.

Depending on the college you attend, you can major in two fields, have a major and a minor (a specialization that requires fewer courses than a major), or even create your own major. The popular disciplines for college majors include business, health, engineering, and biology.

The importance of your major depends on the industry you want to work in. A major is the focus area for a two- or four-year degree. Undergraduates choose a major to specialize in their degree in a particular field. 

Whether they’re a business major or a biology major, undergrads take coursework related to their major to graduate. However, a major does not determine every class you take in college.

A bachelor’s degree typically requires around 120 credits. Most majors require 30-36 credits of coursework. The other credits are dedicated to minor coursework and electives. Some students also choose to double major or earn majors in two different departments.

Large universities often offer 100 or more different majors. Even many small liberal arts colleges offer a few dozen options.

What are the Major Disciplines?

In college, there are several major disciplines. Of course, you would choose yours based on your preferences and what you want to do in the future. However, nearly 60% of bachelor’s degrees fall into one of six disciplines. These disciplines are:

  • Business
  • Health Professions and related programs
  • Social Sciences and history
  • Engineering
  • Biology and biomedical sciences
  • Psychology

Insides these disciplines, you as an undergraduate can specialize in particular majors. For instance, within the business, you can choose between an accounting or finance major. In engineering, majors may be dedicated to mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering.

Even beyond disciplines, most colleges organize majors according to their broad fields. For example, universities often have a College of Arts and Sciences, which offers liberal arts majors in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Colleges and universities also operate schools devoted to business, education, and engineering.

Importance of a Major in College

Several reasons easily come to mind when you talk about the importance of a major in college. The importance of a major in college are listed below-

Majors are also called concentrations

  • An academic major or concentration is a college or university student’s main field of specialization during his or her associates or undergraduate studies which would be in addition to and may incorporate portions of, a core curriculum. The core curriculum covers a range of subjects giving the student or learner a good basis of knowledge and exposure. This means that a major gets you to concentrate on when you graduate.
  • In a world of specialization, industries like transportation, communications, the internet, and health care can be divided and broken down into thousands of areas of specialization. An academic discipline, or field of study, is a branch of knowledge that is taught and researched at the college or university level. This ensures that there is someone for every field and branch of knowledge because once there is a major, there is always someone willing to study it.

Majors help show how you learn to focus and apply yourself

  • A major does not actually prepare you for a specific job or position in the real world. In a hypothetical setting, colleges and universities use majors to segment instruction across a range of academic departments. And, the major departments, through concentrations, can then assess comprehension and learning outcomes.

Majors are not static 

  • They will change and grow. Things constantly change as knowledge, practices, technologies, industries, etc. continue to develop and humanity continues to push the envelope. So, understanding that selecting a college major is not about picking one area of concentration for the rest of your life. It is more about picking an area of study – demonstrating your aptitude, perseverance, focus, and ability to master subjects.

How to Choose a Major in College

At many colleges, incoming students do not declare a major. Instead, they take classes as an undeclared student. In addition, departments typically set prerequisite courses that students must pass before declaring a major. 

For example, prospective psychology majors take introductory-level courses in psychology. These prerequisites give undergrads a chance to learn more about a field and ensure it’s a good fit. The steps you should take in choosing a major in college are:

  • Take courses in areas that appeal to you early in your academic path
  • Try to focus on a subject that motivates you.
  • Take classes in which you’re going to be confident, but, take some risks.
  • Make sure that you have a genuine interest
  • Think of something that would grow beyond college and into a job
  • Read more about choosing a college major and utilize
  • Resist the urge to go for a particular major simply because its “popular”
  • Depending on your college, you can attempt to design your own major.

Completing a Major

After declaring a major, undergrads must meet departmental requirements to earn their degree. Every department sets its own requirements. For instance, many history departments expect majors to take some ancient history courses and some non-Western history courses.

Departments also set a minimum number of upper-division courses in the major. That might include a senior seminar or capstone course. Students look back at their major coursework during these classes and complete a paper, research project, or culminating assignment.

Does your Major Matter?

The first step towards choosing your major is to decide if your major matters, and if yes, to whom.

A major can affect your career or job and even your future. However, it has been shown that they care more about work experience and internships than college majors.

Therefore, the importance of your major depends on your target industry. For example, the Atlantic reported that the healthcare industry cared more about people’s majors than other fields.

Alternatively, STEM jobs ranked lower in caring about majors, likely because job skills matter more than a specific major in those positions.

This simply shows that in your major, sometimes what you choose matters a lot, and other times, not quite. If you’re planning to enrol in a graduate program, you should probably major in the same field or one that’s closely related. 

Also, if you have clear professional goals, consider a major that can lead to that career.

Most students should choose a major that blends their interests and strengths. Whether you study archaeology or accounting, focus on developing transferable soft skills, like critical thinking, analysis, and communication.

When do I Choose a Major in College?

Knowing when to choose and declare your major is something most people do not tell you.

At most two-year colleges, you can declare a major depending upon whether you are enrolled for a career-oriented major or preparing for transfer. For example, you can enrol in general studies or target specific transfer arrangements.

At most four-year colleges, you would not be required to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year. However, if you’re in a two-year degree program, you would probably select a major earlier because your studies course is much shorter. 

At most four-year colleges, and with many majors, you won’t have to pick a major until the end of your sophomore year. This gives you plenty of time to check out various subjects and see which one’s interest you.

If you’re earning a two-year degree, you’ll probably select a major at the start because the program is much shorter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to go to grad school?

If you think law school, medical school, or grad school is in your future, you should know that some colleges offer pre-professional advising programs (such as Premed or Prelaw).

These programs are not the same as majors, and you will still need to choose a major in another subject. As long as you fulfil a grad school’s course requirements, it really doesn’t matter what you major in.

Will my major dictate my profession?

If you specialize in something like nursing, accounting, or engineering, you’re learning a specific vocation and will likely continue with that.

Most majors, however, prepare you for a range of job opportunities and professions – giving you the basis for more specialized training once you graduate.

Can I change my mind after picking a major?

If you’re not sure about your college major while you’re in high school, don’t worry. Most students switch their majors during college. Even students who think they are sure about what they want to major in often change their minds.

Is bachelor the same as major?

No. Bachelor is an academic degree offered by colleges and universities. A major is the specific field of study.

What are the easy majors that pay well?

Psychology, criminal justice, English major, and education major.

Conclusion

While some students know what they want to major in even before they get into college, some others are unsure and would most likely decide along the way. In fact, most students switch majors during college at least once.

As you think about which major is right for you, remember that uncertainty is normal and that they should take the pressure to choose a major into context. Choosing a major, and discovering something that you are passionate about, can be exciting.

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