how to choose a major

How to Choose a Major – Introduction 

Like choosing a college, choosing a major is a big decision. Because college majors can be connected to your potential career path, choosing a major is an important step towards your future. So, as you consider how to choose a major, you should begin by thinking about some of the big picture questions related to what to study in university:

Choosing a major reflection questions:

  1. What interests you?
  2. Which career do you think you’d enjoy?
  3. What subjects were your drawn to in high school?
  4. How might these subjects connect to a certain career path?

Before you decide what to major in, be sure to do your research. There are thousands of things to major in, and you’ll find different options at different schools. Additionally, different majors may come with different college admissions requirements. When choosing a major, you’ll want to consider a variety of factors. To get you thinking let’s look at things to major in that many other students have chosen.

Some of the most popular college majors currently include:

  1. Business
  2. Health professions and related programs
  3. Social sciences and history
  4. Psychology
  5. Biology and biomedical sciences 

However, just because these majors are the most popular college majors does not make them right for you. There are plenty of different subjects to major in, and you should stay open to all possibilities when choosing a major. “What should I major in?” is a big question, and you’re the only one who can answer it for yourself. 

What we’ll cover in this “how to choose a major” guide

As you begin the college application process, you might be wondering how to know what to major in. We will help you answer the question of “what should I major in?” by walking you through the process of how to choose a major. 

We’ll discuss:

  • How to choose a major
  • What a college major is
  • Categories of college majors
  • Subjects to major in
  • The most popular college majors
  • The best college majors
  • Which college majors are in demand
  • The worst college majors
  • Which college majors make the most money
  • And more!

We’ll also look at things to major in at different schools. In particular, we’ll look at  UC San Diego majors, Vanderbilt majors, University of Washington majors, and Cornell majors. We’ll also look at Villanova majors, Pepperdine majors, and Boston University majors. Finally, we’ll examine Fordham majors, University of Florida majors, and Johns Hopkins majors. 

Finally, we will conclude with things to consider when choosing a major, including helpful resources on how to choose a major and how to know what to major in. This will help you decide what to study in university. 

But first, let’s try to answer the “what should I major in” question by looking at things to major in and discussing what a college major really is. 

What to major in: what IS a college major? 

how to choose a major

Before you decide what to major in, you should understand what a college major is. 

A college major is your primary field of study in college. It will dictate much of your college course load, although different college majors will have different requirements. Your college major will also influence your career prospects after graduation. 

By choosing a major, you also choose the courses you’ll take throughout your time in college. 

Your college major will impact:

  • College admissions requirements (in some cases)
  • Career opportunities
  • Internship opportunities
  • What courses you take
  • Post-graduate pathways
  • The size of your classes
  • Your relationships with your professors
  • And more!

Your college major can also impact the type of degree you receive. Some college majors will give students a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) degree upon graduation; other college majors will award students a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) degree. Note that these distinctions are largely technical—your specific degree type will likely have little impact on your career prospects. 

What to study in university: pursuing double majors and more

Choosing a major can seem particularly challenging if you’re trying to narrow down your goals between different fields of study. There are many things to major in, and it can be tough to choose just one. 

As you consider what to major in, you might find that you have multiple interests. In such cases, students may choose to double-major. This means that you pursue two college majors, completing the full course requirements for both. This can make the process of choosing a major look a bit different. 

Keep in mind that double majors look different at different schools. Some schools do not permit students to pursue multiple majors at all; other schools allow students to pursue up to three college majors so long as they complete the course requirements. 

Consider the workload

If you pursue a double major in college, you may also need to complete multiple theses or capstone projects. As you ask the question of “what should I major in?” you should keep your workload in mind. A double major can lead to a very busy senior year, so it’s important to plan ahead. 

You might also pursue a joint major that combines skills and courses across disciplines. Unlike a double major—where your fields of study are often separate—a joint major combines seemingly disparate fields to create an interdisciplinary course. So, if you have two answers to the question of “what should I major in?”, you may be in luck. 

As you begin choosing a major, review the policies around double-majoring at the schools on your college list. That way, you’ll have more information as you decide what to study in college. 

how to choose a major

College minors are also an option

Besides college majors, most schools also offer college minors. Unlike a college major, a college minor is a secondary field of study you might choose to pursue in college. A college minor usually relates more to your additional interests and less to your overall career goals, although this is not always the case. 

As you think about what to study in college, note that this plan might include college minors. In some cases, you can even pursue multiple college minors (so long as you complete all of the requirements). Overall, minors are an excellent way to ensure that you can dedicate yourself to all of your interests in a way that works for you.

College minors are often more flexible than college majors. For instance, at Cornell, you can only double major within your own undergraduate college. However, you can pursue a college minor at any one of Cornell’s colleges. So, if you see a lot of intriguing fields on the list of Cornell majors, you can use minors to your advantage. This can also make the question of “what should I major in?” less daunting. 

Choosing a major is an important decision. While some students might worry about choosing the worst college majors or fixate on the most popular college majors, note that your college major is a personal decision. At the end of the day, what matters is that you choose a college major that suits your needs, passions, interests, and goals. There are many things to major in, and you should think beyond the most popular college majors as you think about your future. The question of what to major in is one that only you can answer—though expert-led college advising can help you refine your thoughts around what to major in. 

College majors and the application process

The first time that many students think about choosing a major comes during the college application process. This can feel overwhelming. After all, college majors are far more specific than the general courses you’ve taken in high school. For instance, on the list of University of Washington majors, you’ll find options like music history, romance linguistics, and urban design. Each of these classes will be vastly different from anything you experienced in high school. 

It can be hard to decide what to study in university when you have never taken a course in that field before. 

However, don’t worry too much about what to major in as you complete your college applications. Most often, your choice of major will not directly influence your admissions odds. Instead, it just shows the admissions team the kind of field you might pursue. It also gives you the chance to explore your own academic interests by researching the college majors at a given school. This can give you an advantage when it comes time to write your supplemental essays. 

Indicating a major on your college applications

Many colleges require you to list a college major on your college application. For instance, if you choose to apply to Johns Hopkins, you should look at the list of Johns Hopkins majors and choose a major to indicate on your application. The same is true for Cornell majors or Pepperdine majors. 

At some schools, particular college majors might be more selective, though this is relatively rare. However, if you plan on applying to an engineering program, you might find that the application process includes additional components. 

Some college majors are also housed in particular “colleges” within a larger university. In some cases, you won’t be able to transfer between colleges once you arrive on campus. Keep this in mind as you think about what to major in. If you’re not sure what to study in university, you might want to apply to schools that give you more flexibility. 

As you ask yourself “what should I major in,” you should consider how your choice relates to the rest of your college application. When choosing a major, keep in mind that your major forms a part of your application narrative. This does not mean that you need to pursue the same fields in college that you enjoyed in high school. However, as you consider what to major in, know that your major is another way that admissions officers learn more about you. Try to find the best college majors for you. 

The “why major” essay

how to choose a major

For many school applications, you’ll write a supplemental essay about your choice of major. As you consider what to study in college, you should think about why particular college majors interest you. There are hundreds of things to major in, so do your research. For instance, if you plan to apply to Villanova, research “Villanova majors” to get a sense of your options. Then, use that list to choose the best college majors for you. 

Let’s look at another example: Cornell. At Cornell, applicants must indicate their choice of major, choosing from around 80 Cornell majors. If you apply to Cornell, you must choose one of the Cornell majors to include on your application. You must then write a supplemental essay about your choice of college major. 

So, when you’re choosing a major from the list of Cornell majors, know that you’ll need to justify it in your essays. This means you should think carefully about what to study in university during the application process. While you won’t be locked into this major once you arrive on campus, you’ll still need to write about why it sparks your interest. This, in turn, might impact your admissions odds. So, when choosing a major to list, make sure it’s one of the best college majors for you. Our college advising professionals can also guide you through this process. 

Undecided majors

If you still haven’t decided what to major in or don’t know how to choose a major yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t successfully complete this prompt. However, as you consider how to choose a major, note that many schools feature this kind of “why major” essay. This means your choice might impact your supplemental essays at many top schools. 

If you are unsure of what to study in university or how to choose a major, you aren’t alone. CollegeAdvisor.com has developed school-specific guides to college majors, which can be a great starting place as you determine what to major in or what to study in college. Check out our articles on the best college majors, worst college majors, and most popular college majors at your top choice schools to help you figure out the answer to the “what should I major in” question. 

How Do You Choose a Major? 

Now that we understand a little more about what a college major is, let’s dive into how to choose a major. 

As you think about what to study in university, you might find the sheer number of choices paralyzing. In high school, you have limited ability to pursue coursework outside of your core classes. This makes the “what should I major in” question even tougher to answer. Once you reach college, a world of possibilities opens up to you – and it can be overwhelming to think about as you decide what to major in. So, use your learning style from high school as a way to think about what kind of college major would help you succeed. 

In this section, we’ll walk you through how to use your interests, values, and goals to find the best college majors for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about choosing a major, that’s okay. We’ll go over some important considerations for you to think about as you determine how to choose a major, including looking at some of the best college majors and worst colleges majors. 

As you decide what to study in college, think about the following questions:

  • Can you see yourself taking any required courses for your major and enjoying them? 
  • Does this major reflect your values and passions? 
  • Are there college admissions requirements or course requirements that are either exciting or concerning to you based on your future goals? 
  • Will you have time in this major to engage with the other activities that matter to you in college? 

College majors and time management

how to choose a major

It’s hard to figure out how to know what to major in. For many students, college workload can make a difference as they think about what to study in university. When you’re choosing a major, you should think about what kind of work that major will require and if you have the time to fulfil those requirements. 

Some students have the misconception that certain majors are “easier” while others are “harder.” However, this largely isn’t the case. Some majors may have more requirements than others, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that majors with fewer class requirements are inherently easier. Just like there’s no one list of the worst college majors, there’s also no list of the easiest college majors. When it comes to what to study in university, you get as much out of your college major as you put into it. 

Of course, some college majors are notorious for their workload. For example, if you choose to major in a pre-med field (such as biochemistry), you might spend more time on coursework than you would in another major. If you want to take on extensive responsibilities outside of your coursework, a double-major across STEM fields may not be the best choice for you. While these are neither the worst college majors nor the best college majors for every student, they may not suit your needs. At the end of the day, choosing a major is a decision that will be different for every individual. 

Consider your learning style

how to choose a major

As you think about how to know what to major in, you should also consider how you learn. Different majors will have different types of classes (and class size), and each of these classes will have its own unique learning environment. When you think about choosing a major, you want to find the best college majors for your needs and learning style. 

You also need to think about how you learn when choosing a major. As you decide what to study in college, think about where you excel. Maybe you’re great at math – in that case, look toward STEM-focused majors to get an idea of what might work for you. Or, maybe you’re an excellent writer and you want to pursue a college major in English, journalism, or creative writing. Either way, your choice of what to study in college will depend on a variety of factors. 

College class size

Class size is one key factor when it comes to choosing a major, especially at larger schools. If you’re looking at the University of Florida majors, for instance, you can expect larger class sizes than you might expect for the Johns Hopkins majors. 

Depending on what you study, your classes might be larger or smaller. For instance, STEM majors—such as biochemistry—tend to have many large lecture courses. These classes are required, so you can expect them to take up a lot of your time. In larger courses, you likely won’t get much face-to-face time with your professors, at least as an underclassman. You’ll also likely have smaller lab sections led by graduate students, who will spend more time with you than your professors. 

what to major in

If you’re someone who likes to learn by doing, these lab sections can be a great chance to refine your skills. So, a STEM major might be one of the best college majors for your needs. However, if you’d prefer a discussion-based learning environment centered around literature or culture, these might be some of the worst college majors for you. There are plenty of things to major in, and each of them have their own distinct characteristics. As you think about how to choose a major, you should always remember your learning style and preferences. 

Class size in the humanities

If you don’t want to pursue a STEM field, you might select a humanities major. A humanities major will often give you the chance to be in smaller classes with more discussion. You’ll still have lectures, but you’ll likely also be enrolled in  discussion-based classes with distinguished professors early on in your academic career. Still, at most top schools, you’ll have the chance to take smaller classes as you progress through your program.

Overall, as you answer the question of “what should I major in?” and explore how to choose a major you should think about the kinds of classes you’ll take. Think beyond the subject matter. Will the learning environment of some majors work better for you than others? Do you want to take more seminars or lecture courses? All of these questions will make a difference as you think about how to know what to major in. 

Don’t worry about avoiding the “worst college majors” or just pursuing the most popular college majors. Instead, foreground your own needs. If you need inspiration, check out the list of UC San Diego majors, Vanderbilt majors, or University of Florida majors. You can also look at the Fordham majors or University of Washington majors. 

Follow your passions 

what to major in

Another step in how to choose a major is to find what you’re excited about. Then, use that to narrow down your list of things to major in and find the best college majors for you. 

In many ways, your choice of what to study in university forms the first step in your pre-professional development. Think about what excites and motivates you, both on an academic and personal level. What inspires you? How do you want to contribute to the world? When choosing a major, follow your passions

For instance, if you care about helping people, you might choose a college major in nursing or social work. These fields will allow you to engage directly with individuals and help solve their problems in a real-world setting. A major in nursing requires more STEM coursework, while a social work major requires more understanding of the social sciences. So, your values can lead you down a wide variety of career paths. This can help with the process of choosing a major. 

Also, the best college majors for you might be the worst college majors for someone else. Choosing a major is a personal decision, and every student will approach it in their own way. Similarly, different students might choose the same major for different reasons. 

Wondering how to choose a major in college based on your values? Start from these values and work backwards. You might pull up the list of Cornell majors or Villanova majors for more inspiration. How can you find things to major in that match your values and goals? What college major will help you spend time doing what you care about? These questions will also help you complete any college admissions requirements related to your chosen major—most notably, your supplemental essays. 

Think about the future

You also want to consider your future as you’re choosing a major. This means that as you decide what to major in, you should think about your career goals as well as any financial needs. 

You likely shouldn’t highlight financial motivations in your “why this major” college essays. However, in reality, financial stability is an important factor for many students. As such, it would be remiss to pretend that finances don’t impact students’ decisions about what to study in university. The cost of living is rising, and the student loan debt crisis continues to impact the lives of millions. As you ask the question of “what should I major in?” you will likely think about your financial needs—and that’s okay. 

If financial stability is deeply important to you, this might impact your strategy around how to choose a major. For instance, you might choose a more immediately “employable” major. Often, the highest paying majors are in STEM fields—specifically engineering. Consulting is also a popular career choice for those concerned with financial needs. Later in this guide, we’ll look at the best college majors in terms of starting and mid-career earnings. 

Your employability, which relates to how to choose a major also depends on the school you attend. Graduates from top 20 schools may have greater flexibility in their post-graduate careers. In some cases, this can lower the stakes on the question of “what should I major in?” if you attend a top university

A pre-professional major at a less “prestigious” school, by contrast, will give you the tools you need to enter your chosen field and be prepared. That’s why it’s important to do your research as you figure out the answer to the “what should I major in?” question. Remember, the best college majors for you might be the worst college majors for another student. 

Once again, research is always key. If you need some ideas, check out the list of UC San Diego majors, University of Florida majors, or Johns Hopkins majors. 

Consider your lifestyle

Finally, think about your lifestyle as you are choosing a major. Different majors will give you different amounts of flexibility in terms of hours, course selection, and more. Plus, college isn’t just about academics—it’s also your chance to find yourself as an adult and engage more deeply with your interests in the classroom and beyond. So, as you consider what to study in university, you should also think about how it fits into the rest of your life. 

As you think about how to choose a major, ask yourself some questions. How much do you want to work? What do you want that work to look like? Do you like independent work or group work? The more you know about yourself and your future goals, the easier it will be to determine the best college majors and worst college majors for you. 

As you are figuring out what to major in, reflect on all the considerations above. Take note of what stands out to you the most, and look at the Boston University majors or Villanova majors for inspiration. Above all, you want to find the best college majors for you. 

Choosing a Major Based on Career Goals 

what to major in

As our college advising team will tell you, your career goals are another important consideration as you determine what to major in. Most often, your college major will connect directly to your career upon graduation. So, as you choose a college major, know that you’re also—in part—choosing a career path. 

Of course, plenty of students pursue careers that have little to do with their college majors. In certain fields, however, the hard skills you learn in college will be prerequisites for any career. Often, STEM courses will teach you how to do things, while humanities courses will teach you how to think. Both of these things are important, you should keep track of what you’ll need to know to pursue your chosen field. 

While many college majors can prepare you for a career in marketing and communications, for instance, fewer majors can prepare you for a career in electrical engineering. So, as you think about what to study in college, you should also think about what skills you want to learn. That way, you can use your college education to the greatest advantage. This is a great way to decide how to choose a major. 

As you consider what to major in, think about the following questions:

  • What career do I want to pursue?
  • What skills will that career require me to have?
  • What should I major in so that I will acquire and refine those skills? 
  • How can I use college minors or electives to fill in any gaps? 

If you want to pursue a career in data analysis, for instance, it might be unwise to choose a college major in French Literature. However, if you want to become fluent in French alongside your analytical work, you might look at a double major, minor, or language citation. 

Overall, the best college majors and the worst college majors for you will depend on your own personal goals. As you think about how to choose a major, think about what you want to pursue upon graduation. This includes any skills you want to learn in college. 

Choosing a major for your career path: Three examples

As discussed, your choice of college major may have a strong influence on your career path after graduation. So, when you think about how to choose a major, you’ll want to consider your post-graduate plans. Then, use your goals to decide what to study in college. 

Let’s take a look at three career examples. Then, we’ll discuss how to choose a major for each of these fields. 

To frame our examples, we’ll take a look at popular subjects to major at different schools, including UC San Diego majors, Vanderbilt majors, University of Washington majors, and Cornell majors. 

We’ll also look at things to major in and what to study in university at some other schools. These include checking out the Villanova majors, Pepperdine majors, Boston University majors, Fordham majors, University of Florida majors, and Johns Hopkins majors. Then, we’ll look at how to choose a major at each of these schools and decide what to study in college. 

As we dig into our case studies, you’ll notice that many of these schools offer similar college majors. So, as you think about how to choose a major or what to study in college, you should keep each school’s own programs and strengths in mind. 

Finally, your choice of what to study in university is bigger than your major. Keep minors and electives in mind—they can enhance your skills and help you learn new things in a wide variety of areas. 

When you decide what to major in at any given school, you should compare programs across different colleges. That way, you can get a sense of what makes each department unique. This can help you decide what to study in college. 

How to Choose a Major- Example #1: The Financial Analyst

what to major in

Now, let’s look at how to choose a major and decide what to study in college for various careers. Our first career path is that of a financial analyst. This career requires a lot of hard skills in data analysis and economics. 

To become a financial analyst, you might choose one of the following things to major in:

While these are some of the best college majors for this career path, this list is not exhaustive. Remember that your college major is only one piece of the puzzle as you begin your career. 

Statistics and finance are both great college majors for this career path. A college major in statistics or finance can be found in the list of University of Washington majors, Cornell majors, Villanova majors, Boston University majors, Fordham majors, and University of Florida majors

Surprisingly, the full lists of UCSD majors, Vanderbilt majors, Pepperdine majors, and Johns Hopkins majors do not include a possible major in statistics or finance. Keep this in mind as you think about what to study in university. 

However, you don’t have to major in statistics or finance to become a financial analyst. It’s reasonable that you could choose to major in any number of STEM/data-oriented fields and still achieve this career goal. Overall, think about what skills you’ll acquire as you decide what to study in university. 

The UC San Diego majors that most closely align with the financial analyst career include data science or probability and statistics. Either of these UC San Diego majors would allow you to acquire the skills you need for a career in finance. 

For Vanderbilt majors and Pepperdine majors, you might consider economics or mathematics. Finally, some Johns Hopkins majors that match include applied mathematics & statistics.

It’s best not to pursue a humanities major if your dream is to become a financial analyst. However, any of the potential majors above will definitely help you reach this career goal. 

How to Choose a Major- Example #2: The Nonprofit leader

what to major in

Next, let’s look at how to choose a major and decide what to study in college if you want to become a nonprofit leader. Once again, as you think about how to choose a major, you’ll need to consider what your future career will look like. Nonprofit management encompasses a lot of different areas ranging from data analysis to the social sciences. 

To become a nonprofit leader, you might choose one of the following things to major in:

These are some of the best college majors for future nonprofit leaders. You could choose to study any of the related majors above from the list of UC San Diego majors, Vanderbilt majors, University of Washington majors, Cornell majors, Villanova majors, Pepperdine majors, Boston University majors, Fordham majors, University of Florida majors, and Johns Hopkins majors. So, you have options when it comes to what to study in university. 

Additionally, you could also pursue a degree in business administration and management – one of the most popular Pepperdine majors. This major is also available within the list of University of Washington majors, Boston University majors, Fordham majors, and University of Florida majors. However, this major is not available within the potential Vanderbilt majors, Cornell majors, or Villanova majors. 

On the list of University of Washington majors, you’ll also find fields like law, society, and justice. The list of University of Washington majors also includes an integrated social sciences major that might be appropriate for this career. So, you’d have plenty of University of Washington majors to choose from. 

You could also pursue a STEM major for a career as a nonprofit leader, but you would likely want to supplement that with a humanities-oriented minor. For example, you could select Biochemistry for your field of study from the list of Vanderbilt majors. However, you would want to supplement that with a minor in sociology if you are hoping to become a nonprofit leader. 

With a field like nonprofit management, you’d also want to think about what type of nonprofit you’d like to coordinate. Different nonprofits have different needs—for instance, nonprofit arts organizations will use a different vocabulary than those in politics or medicine. So, think about this question as you choose what to major in. For instance, you’ll find a global health program on the list of UC San Diego majors, which might suit your needs with some nonprofit work. 

How to Choose a Major- Example #3: The Diplomatic official

what to major in

Next, let’s look at how to choose a major and decide what to study in college if you want to become a diplomatic official. Diplomatic work requires a clear understanding of history, international affairs, and government. 

If you want to become a diplomat, some things to major in might include:

If choosing a major in government specifically excites you, you’ll want to consider the Cornell majors. In fact, the list of Cornell majors is the only list that includes government as a major. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t pursue a similar field at another school as you decide what to study in university. 

For international relations or international business, look at the list of UC San Diego majors, Villanova majors, Pepperdine majors, Boston University majors, Fordham majors, University of Florida majors, and Johns Hopkins majors. You won’t find international relations or international business within Cornell majors or University of Washington majors. 

Foreign language

If you’re wondering how to choose a major or decide what to study in college for a diplomatic career, foreign languages can be a useful tool. Your choice of a foreign language major will depend on the college you apply to. The list of UC San Diego majors, for instance, does not include foreign language majors specifically. Additionally, you should think carefully about whether to choose a foreign language as your major. In some cases, it might be best to choose a different major and supplement it with a minor. Interdisciplinary majors are always an option as you decide what to study in college.

For the largest list of foreign language majors, look to the list of University of Washington majors. University of Washington majors to choose from include Asian Languages and Culture, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, and more. Keep in mind that your choice of what to study in college extends beyond your major. Minors are also a great option, especially when it comes to languages. 

Choosing a major is complicated. There are many things to major in, and each college major is slightly different. However, the clearer you can conceive of your future goals, the easier it will be to answer the question of “what should I major in?” This can give you a sense of the best college majors for you and help you decide what to major in. 

How to Choose a Major: Categories of College Majors 

what to major in

As you think about how to choose a major or find the best college majors, it can be helpful to narrow things down. Let’s examine some categories of college majors to help you get a sense of what’s out there. Then, you can choose the categories that most interest you as you decide what to study in college. 

According to Georgetown University’s research on the economic value of college majors, there are seven major categories of college majors. 

College major categories include: 

STEMArts, Humanities, and Liberal ArtsTeaching and Service
Health Business Pre-professional (Career-focused)Social Sciences

Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive or objective. After all, you can break down potential college majors in a wide variety of ways. As we’ve stated, the question of how to choose a major is much larger than any list can answer. However, this list can be helpful as you decide what to study in university. We’ll also break down the best college majors according to economic value in more detail below. 

STEM majors

how to choose a major

Along with business, STEM majors are considered the most common and highest-paying majors available. If you’re good at math and science, STEM majors might be some of the best college majors for you. Engineering majors are consistently in demand and can provide students with high starting salaries upon graduation. 

Some STEM majors include:

  • Petroleum engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Computer science
  • Chemistry

If you major in a STEM field, you can pursue a career in engineering, neuroscience, or oceanography, among many other fields. STEM majors will also give you the hard skills needed to pursue work in a variety of highly scientific fields. If that sounds interesting to you, consider a STEM major as you decide what to study in university. 

Business majors

how to choose a major

Many students consider business and its related fields to be some of the best college majors. Business is also one of the most popular college majors, equipping students with valuable skills that make them highly employable. Business fields are some of the most popular Pepperdine majors, and you’ll find that business is a top choice for many students at a variety of schools. 

Interested in choosing a major within the business field? Consider these college majors:

  • Business
  • Accounting
  • International business
  • Marketing

Choosing a major in business could lead to career paths in business management, human resources, or e-commerce. 

Note that business is one of the most popular college majors. So, your class size for these courses could be larger than average. This could impact your final decision on what to study in university. 

Teaching and service-related majors

how to choose a major

The teaching and serving category will include majors such as education or social work. These college majors will give you useful skills for working with individuals and solving real-world problems. 

Some college majors within this category include:

  • Education
  • Counseling
  • Social work

Career paths within this category include early childhood educator, art teacher, or social worker. 

Health-related majors

how to choose a major

Health fields are also some of the most popular college majors. If you want to work in the healthcare field, you might find the programs in this field to be some of the best college majors for you. 

If you are interested in a health-related major, you might consider:

  • Pharmacy
  • Health services
  • Communication sciences and disorders
  • Psychology

Choosing a major in health can lead to career paths in nursing, medical administration, or nutrition sciences. 

Arts, Humanities, and Liberal Arts

how to choose a major

There are many humanities-related majors for students to pursue. If you want to think critically about arts, media, and intellectual debate, these might be some of the best college majors for you. 

Some majors within this category include:

Choosing a major within the arts, humanities, and liberal arts category can help you become a historian, philosopher, professor, or art critic. As you think about what to major in, you’ll find a lot of variety in the humanities. Many humanities majors also go on to pursue graduate school and careers in academia. 

Pre-professional (or Career-focused)

how to choose a major

Pre-professional majors are designed to give you the skills to pursue a particular field. These majors tend to be grounded in practice rather than theory. If you attend a school outside of the top 100, these majors can increase your employability.

Some career-focused majors include:

As you think about what to study in college, you’ll notice that pre-professional majors will look vastly different at different schools. For instance, pursuing journalism at NYU will look far different from pursuing journalism at a large state university. 

Social science majors

how to choose a major

For some students, the social sciences are some of the best college majors. These fields combine human experience with the kinds of critical thinking you’ll find in the humanities. 

Social sciences majors include:

Choosing a major within the social sciences category can prepare you to pursue a career path in criminology, anthropology, or archeology, among many other fields. 

You might also see majors categorized in different ways, including a threefold separation between Arts and Humanities, STEM, and Social Sciences. Again, choosing what to study in university will depend on more than just the major categories of majors or which are the best college majors out there. 

As you think about how to choose a major, it’s helpful to know which majors have caught other students’ eyes. Let’s take a look at the most popular college majors. 

According to Forbes, the most popular college majors among prospective students are: 

  1. Business
  2. Pre-med
  3. Psychology
  4. Biology
  5. Nursing 

These are some of the most popular college majors because they have relatively high earning potential and can suit students with a wide variety of interests and strengths. Each of these majors gives students the ability to pursue a career that is meaningful, fulfilling, and interesting. If you decide that one of the most popular college majors is right for you, you could pursue any number of career paths after graduation. 

Keep in mind that the most popular college majors will vary by school. For instance, the most popular Pepperdine majors won’t be the same as the most popular Fordham majors. 

choosing a major

Let’s look at each of the most popular college majors in more detail. This can help you think about how to choose a major.

Most Popular College Majors

Business 

Majoring in business can help you create advertisements, drive marketing trends, or launch your own business. Business majors often pursue careers in finance, government, or consulting. However, you can succeed in these fields even if you don’t major in business. As with every field, choosing what to major in is only part of the puzzle. 

Psychology

Similarly, majoring in psychology can prepare you for any number of careers. This includes becoming a mental health therapist, industrial psychologist, or addictions specialist. Unlike a humanities major, which focuses on how you think, a psychology major teaches you information that you can put into practice within a medical field. So, thinking about your learning style will help you figure out how to know what to major in. 

Biology

A degree in biology can also set you on the path for a variety of careers, including a researcher or geneticist. Biology is also one of the best college majors for pre-med students. If you want to pursue medicine and are trying to choose what to study in college, you might look toward biology or biochemistry. If you want to pursue a medical track, this can help you decide how to know what to major in. 

Pre-med

Pre-med and nursing are majors that will set you up for a professional career after graduation as a doctor, nurse, or physician’s assistant. Keep in mind that if you choose to study nursing, you’ll likely need to pursue further education before entering the workforce. 

One thing is clear about the most popular college majors: they can open countless doors for your future. Consider one or all of the most popular college majors as you decide what to major in. However, the popularity of these majors will certainly impact your class size when you get to college. So, if having a small class size matters to you, you might want to adjust your plans in terms of what to study in college. 

Want to learn more about the most popular college majors out there? Check out our article on the most popular college majors for Gen Z here.

What Are Majors That Are In Demand? 

As you think about how to choose a major, you’ll consider many factors. One way to decide what to major in is to look at what majors are in demand. 

The postgraduate career landscape is changing rapidly. Many careers that graduates today will pursue did not exist a few decades ago. This is particularly true for fields like engineering and medicine. So, as you think about how to know what to major in, you might want to expand your skills in an economically valuable area. 

According to Forbes, the majors that are most rapidly growing in demand are: 

  1. Health professions
  2. Computer science
  3. Engineering
  4. Biomedical sciences
  5. Business

All of these majors give students marketable skills. So, choosing a major in health or business might be a great choice for some students. If you want to gain skills that will help you secure employment, you might consider this list as you think about how to choose a major. 

It’s important to research which college majors are in demand as you think about what to study in college. As you choose what to major in, you shouldn’t be wholly governed by statistics. Once again, choosing a major is an important decision, and no one list should make your choice for you. However, these statistics are still useful as you decide what to study in college. 

Overall, if you’re wondering how to choose a major in college, statistics and lists can be a useful tool. Another way to learn how to choose a major in college, though, is by looking at your own interests rather than broader trends. Choosing a major is a personal choice. At the end of the day, ask yourself “what should I major in”—don’t just ask Forbes. 

Want more inspiration? Look at the list of Pepperdine majors, Boston University majors, or Villanova majors for more concrete ideas about what to major in. 

What Is The Most Useful Major in College? 

No one college major is necessarily the most useful – it all depends on your goals. You can think about college majors in two ways:

  • Majors that teach you career-oriented skills
  • Majors that teach you how to think 

Most humanities majors teach you how to think and view the world. If you choose a humanities major, you’ll spend much of your time analyzing texts and thinking critically about the world. You’ll learn how to write, form arguments, and express your views, but you won’t learn about concrete methodologies that function within a scientific context. This is much different from majoring in a STEM field, such as statistics, where you’ll learn concrete skills that you will use on the job. 

So, as you identify which majors are most useful, it’s important to keep your career goals in mind. If you want to pursue a certain career that requires a base amount of knowledge in a scientific field, college is the perfect place to acquire that knowledge. As you ask the question of “what should I major in?” you should keep this in mind. Think carefully about what you want to get out of your education. Then, use that information as you decide what to major in (or what to study in college beyond your major). 

If you need certain skills for your chosen career (for example, medicine), then majoring in English without fulfilling pre-med requirements would be unwise. When you apply to medical school, universities will expect you to have fulfilled certain course requirements. Without meeting those thresholds, you’ll find yourself in a tough situation. 

However, if you want to pursue a career that does not require the same hard skills, your choice of major might be more flexible. Use the college application process to learn more about different majors. Then, you can highlight why you want to study certain fields within your college applications. As our college advising experts will tell you, this can make a major difference, especially when it comes to your supplemental essays. 

You are the only one who can answer the “what should I major in?” question. Think about what major will be the most useful to you as you research what to study in college. Then, use that to guide your process and help you figure out how to know what to major in. 

What Major Makes The Most Money?

choosing a major

According to Fortune, the majors with the highest projected early career earnings are: 

  1. Computer Engineering: $74,000
  2. Computer Science: $70,000
  3. Aerospace Engineering: $70,000
  4. Chemical Engineering: $70,000
  5. Electrical Engineering: $70,000

Forbes ranks majors slightly differently—based on mid-career earnings. Here’s their list: 

  1. Petroleum engineering ($183,600)
  2. Actuarial mathematics ($158,100)
  3. Building science ($135,000)
  4. System engineering ($131,200)
  5. Chemical engineering ($126,900)

As you think about how to know what to major in, finances may play a substantial role. When you narrow down what to study in college, you will want to take some financial considerations into account. Student loan debt is at an all-time high on the national level. Additionally, tuition rates at colleges and universities across the country are continuing to increase. So, you want to get enough “value for money” as you decide what to major in. 

Overall, earning potential can make a major difference as you decide how to choose a major. Let’s take a closer look at how salary might impact your choice of what to major in. 

Understanding earning potential

As you complete the college application process, it’s important to research future salaries related to the major you choose. So, as you review the list of Pepperdine majors or Fordham majors, you should keep finances in mind. Below, we have some figures from Georgetown’s research on college major value, which you might use in your strategy for choosing a major

how to choose a major- college major value

However, you should also consider your career path in the longer term. How do you want to spend your life? And how might that relate to the question of “what should I major in?” 

In general, STEM-focused majors tend to have higher earning potential. Some of this comes from the value placed upon certain skill sets—particularly engineering. These fields are fast-growing, and new innovations are happening every day. So, early career professionals who are great at what they do will be highly valuable for many employers.

However, this doesn’t mean you should choose a STEM major if it doesn’t feel right for you. While finances will impact the question of “what should I major in?”, they don’t mean everything. Overall, as you consider what to major in, you want to find a field that genuinely interests you. Most college majors will allow you to pursue a variety of career paths. 

Also, to an extent, your earning potential comes down to you. If you work hard and create strong professional relationships, you can be successful regardless of your major. On the same token, if you pursue a STEM major and cannot keep up with your coursework, you might face issues as you seek employment. You should also keep in mind that many STEM fields have larger class sizes that might make it difficult to get individual attention. However, this does vary by school. 

Want to learn more about the best college majors that make the most money?

Take a look at Forbes list of most valuable majors and compare it to the list of 10 college majors with the highest starting salaries from U.S. News. 

Maybe you want to work backwards by reviewing the so-called worst college majors or the majors with the lowest starting salaries as you evaluate things to major in. Keep in mind that the “worst college major” is not necessarily bad—these majors just have lower starting salaries and higher unemployment rates, statistically speaking. So, just because something is referred to as one of the worst college majors does not make it less valuable. 

Keep all of this in mind as you review the list of Boston University majors or University of Florida majors. Different majors will look different at particular schools, so look at each program individually. If you’re particularly interested in earning potential, you might want to set your sights on top schools. This might mean you look closer at the Boston University majors or the Johns Hopkins majors. 

How to Choose a Major: Helpful Resources 

choosing a major

Still want more information about how to know what to major in?

Here are some college advising resources to help students answer the question of “what should I major in?”

If you’re not sure where to start or how to know what to major in, take this college major quiz. Use this quiz to find things to major in that might be right for you. This can be a good starting point as you begin the college application process. Then, look at the lists of Pepperdine majors or Boston University majors for more guidance. 

When you are ready to start your college application journey, you might wonder what college major to list on your college application. Check out our guide here for helpful tips on how to choose a major for your college application. 

You can also narrow down things to major in by watching our webinars on college majors like international relations, pre-law, political science and public policy, racial, ethnic, and cultural studies, rhetoric, public health, or music programs. We even have a webinar on undecided majors

You could also start your search on things to major in by reviewing the best schools for a given major. This can help you jump-start your college list and think about your college applications. Take a look at our articles on the best schools for architecture, best universities for business, top engineering colleges, and best liberal arts colleges

Every major is different, and the same major can look different at different schools. For example, Boston University majors might look much different than Johns Hopkins majors or University of Florida majors, even when they technically have many of the same programs. 

We encourage you to do your research as you begin the college application process and think about what to major in. This includes seeking out college advising resources and reviewing college admissions requirements for your chosen major. College advising can make a major difference as you begin the college application process. Personalized support can teach you how to know what to major in and help you in the college application process. 

Things To Consider When Choosing A Major

In this section, we will highlight some final considerations as you review things to major in and decide what to study in college. 

To help us focus on how to choose a major, we will look at examples from Vanderbilt and Cornell. Vanderbilt and Cornell offer students a lot of options when it comes to what to study in college. However, these schools are very different in many ways, from setting to class size. So, as you begin the college application process, remember that choosing a major is only one consideration.  

First, let’s look at Vanderbilt majors. There are over 70 Vanderbilt majors to choose from. Students can declare or change a major at any time during their third semester by filling out the declaration of major form. So, the Vanderbilt majors give you some flexibility. 

Students at Vanderbilt can double major—that is, declare multiple Vanderbilt majors—without special permissions. In total, students can declare up to three Vanderbilt majors (although you must submit a petition to do so). Students can also create an individually designed interdisciplinary major, which means you can custom design what to study in university. So, the opportunities for Vanderbilt majors are truly endless. This can be helpful as you choose what to major in.  

In comparison, there are over 80 Cornell majors available—similar to the number of Vanderbilt majors. Cornell offers dual-degree programs and interdisciplinary majors, and most students at Cornell will declare a major during their sophomore year. 

In order to add a second or third major, students at Cornell must first consult their faculty advisor and advising dean. If you choose to add another major, it must be within Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences. 

Keep in mind that most majors do not create additional college admissions requirements. However, this is not always the case. So, make sure you double-check the college admissions requirements at the schools on your list. 

Figuring out how to know what to major in isn’t easy. Choosing a major is complicated, and there are many things to major in. You’ll think about a lot of factors as you consider what to major in. Above all, you should focus on finding a major that you could see yourself enjoying and, eventually, turning into a career—however that might look. 

What to Major In – Final Thoughts 

We hope this guide has helped you learn how to choose a major and how to know what to major in. As you finalize what to study in college, be sure to reference the best college majors and so-called worst college majors out there. However, keep in mind these lists aren’t everything—and, as stated, the worst college majors aren’t really the worst. The question of “what should I major in?” is one that only you can answer. 

So, as you think about how to know what to major in, do your preparation well in advance. It’s important to do your research on things to major in, as your college major can impact many factors in your high school and college experience. These include college class size, college advising needs, college admissions requirements, or your college application process. 

Remember, only you know the answer to the “what should I major in?” question. Focus on what feels right to you. The worst college majors to you could be the best college majors to someone else. You want your journey of how to choose a major and how to know what to major in to feel exciting and effortless, not overwhelming or stressful. 

Do you need more help finding the answer to the question, “what should I major in?” or more tips on how to choose a major? If you’re wondering how to choose a college that’s right for you, college advising can make a huge difference. CollegeAdvisor.com can provide you with one-on-one college advising as you begin your college application, review college admissions requirements, and decide what to study in college. Click here to schedule a free consultation.

how to choose a major

This article on how to choose a major was written by Abbie Sage. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.