1. Are You Going to Be Happy in the Long-Run?  

  • Do you know what you like doing?  
  • Do you know what you hate doing?  

A lucrative career is great but if you end up hating your job, you’ll be miserable. While a major doesn’t necessarily equal a specific job, it’s important to consider what type of career you’ll be happy with in the long run.  Some people value their time and work/life balance, others money, and many consider personal learning and growth a key ingredient for future happiness. No major or career is perfect – it is work after all – but the first step in picking a major definitely starts with what you enjoy doing, what you hate doing, and what your life might look like doing something for 40+ years. 

2. What are You Good At?  

Here’s a hard truth, just because we like something doesn’t mean we’re talented or good at it. Millions of people love movies and art but not all of us are talented enough to be professional artists. You might love the idea of becoming an engineer but if you struggle profoundly with math it just might not be the path for you. In addition to thinking about what we enjoy it’s equally important to think about what we’re good at. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses and be brutally honest. We all can improve in things with effort and dedication but sometimes things are just not a good fit. Think about what you are talented at and enjoy when considering your major and future.  

3. Does Your Major Require More School? 

There are a lot of majors out there where the associates or bachelor’s level isn’t enough. For anyone looking to become a doctor, lawyer, therapist, professor, etc. you’ll likely need to consider going to graduate school. So, before you sign up to be a Psychology major, consider this – do you want to go to graduate school? Grad school requires additional time and money. It can be 100% worth it if that’s the field you want to pursue, but before picking a major look at your timeline. Will you only be successful if you get a graduate-level degree? And if so, are you ready to make that commitment?  

4. Does Your Major Secure You a Job After Graduation?  

Unless you’re fabulously, independently wealthy a job after you graduate is sort of the point of it all. While it’s important to like (or at least tolerate) your job, it’s equally critical that your career be able to support your lifestyle. A few key things to ask yourself:

  • What kind of jobs can you get with this major?
  • What is the average starting salary for this major/career?
  • Will you be able to pay back your student loans? Or does it offer loan forgiveness?
  • What is the salary growth opportunity with this type of career/field?
  • Does this career require you to relocate and are you ok with that?
  • What does the career field look like in 10 years? In 20? Will it be growing or shrinking? 

One way to get answers to some of these questions is by getting into contact with professionals who graduated with your major and analyze where they are now. You can even try reaching out and seeing what they wish they knew beforehand and what they might have done differently. Do a bit of analysis and find alumni from your university (especially recent graduates) and find out how their major relates to their current career. 

5. Do You Know What Job You Want? 

Here’s the truth: Major ≠ Career 

It seems odd, after all a major should help you pick a career, right? Sometimes but in truth your major doesn’t always create a straight path to a career. Many, many majors are more general than that; teaching and preparing you to have conveyable skills that can be used in many different career paths. Don’t assume that decision on your choice of major automatically means you’re set for the type of job you want. The best way to plan? Think about the type of field you’d like to end up in and look for a major and more importantly skill area that would be valuable to have. Employers more than anything want to know what skills students have acquired while getting their degree. A lot of the rest is taught and learned while doing the job. This doesn’t mean you can suddenly become a physical therapist when you have a History degree but keep in mind that choosing the “wrong” major isn’t the end of the world. Focus on the career field you want and try to pick a major that teaches you the skills that are most valuable to that type of work.