By Joel Delgado ’12, MS ’17
“What’s your major?”
Once you become a college student, it’s one of the most common questions you’ll hear. Chances are you’ll hear the question from just about everybody in your life – from parents and professors to friends or even complete strangers you just met on campus.
Some students step onto campus knowing exactly what they want to do but for many, choosing a major can be like trying to play a game of darts in the dark.
If you’re in the latter category, you are not alone. Here is some good news: with close to 200 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs to choose from at FIU, there is no shortage of opportunities available.
According to Career Services Acting Associate Director Yisell Cirion, it’s okay not to have it all figured out right away. But she also points to several advantages to identifying a major early on – a major that you are passionate and excited about – and sticking with it.
“Having a major early on gives you some comfort in terms knowing where you are headed,” Cirion said. “It makes you more committed and motivated for the challenges ahead and you are more likely to complete your degree and graduate on time.”
So whether you are a freshman trying to figure out what major to choose or a junior looking to switch majors, here are some questions to consider before making your decision:
1. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
The first step to choosing a major is to understand who you are. Conduct a self-evaluation of your skills: Did you excel in writing papers in high school or were more inclined to perform well in sciences and math? If you are great at math and science and the thought of analyzing a literary work makes you cringe, then going with engineering or biology instead of English may be the wiser choice.
2. What are my values and interests?
Maybe you volunteer for environmental causes or enjoy drawing or painting for hours on end. No matter what it is, what you do in your spare time – even the kind of television shows you binge watch on Netflix – can help you get closer to choosing a major that is right for you.
What can you do for hours on end without getting bored? Whatever it is can give you an idea of what you are truly passionate about and could help point you toward a series of majors suitable for you.
3. Have I done my research on different majors?
To find out more about what majors might be right for you, visit the university’s Discover Majors page and explore what majors might be right for you and take the MyMajorMatch test, an Internet-based tool to help you identify your interests, explore your options and plan for career success.
It’s also important to know what kind of coursework your prospective major requires. Know what prerequisites exist for your major and the types of courses you have to register for. If a degree requires a heavy load of upper level math courses and you didn’t do well in math in high school, then maybe engineering might not be the right major for you.
4. Who can I talk to so I can find out more about the majors I’m considering?
It would also help you to talk with people who can give you a better idea of what opportunities exist with a degree in the majors you are considering. Try talking to an advisor in the school offering your potential major. Set up a meeting with a career advisor. Reach out to professionals in the career field you are interested in and ask for their insight. They may be able to give you a better idea of what a career looks like with the degree you are pursuing.
5. Will I need to continue my education after getting my degree?
A bachelor’s degree might not be enough to get into the career or industry you want to be in once you graduate. Make sure you are aware if you need to go to graduate school, law school or medical school after acquiring a degree in the major you end up choosing.
6. What career opportunities are available because of this degree?
Find out what careers are available for graduates with a degree in biology. Explore what industries are looking for graduates with a degree in marketing. Research what cities or regions are attracting graduates with a degree in engineering.
7. What kind of lifestyle do I want after college?
Do you mind traveling a lot or would you rather remain in the city you end up working in? Do you want to stay close to home or are you willing to relocate? Is finding an appropriate work-life balance a huge priority for you or are you willing to work longer hours? These are some things you should consider before declaring your major.
8. Do I have a Plan B (and a Plan C)?
No matter what major you end up choosing, it’s important to have a backup plan. If your decision came down to political science or religious studies and you decided to major in the former, for instance, don’t throw away all the research you did on the latter. Interests sometimes change and you might find out that political science isn’t for you – in which case, a switch to religious studies might be a good option.
On average, students change their major at least once during their time in college, so keeping your options open would be the smart thing to do.
For more help on selecting a major that is right for you, set up an appointment with Career Services, the Academic Advising Center, or the school or college offering the degree you are considering majoring in.