Do You Need to Pick a Major Before Starting Community College?

Updated October 10, 2016 |
Do You Need to Pick a Major Before Starting Community College?
Picking a major is a big decision. You shouldn't rush, but there are benefits to making your choice early. Keep reading to receive tips for choosing a major.

When you set foot on a college campus for the first time and start to meet other students, the question you are most likely to be asked first is, “What’s your major?” For some, this question rears its ugly head even earlier, during high school before you even decide where (or if) you are going to college. Choosing a major is a big decision and one that will have a serious impact on the rest of your life. This being the case, it is not something you should take lightly.

But just how important is it to pick a major before you start college? Or can you wait until you have a few classes under your belt to see what you really like? If you are still undecided, it isn’t the end of the world – you can still graduate with the major of your choice and enter the “real world” in your chosen field. Keep reading to learn more about which majors offer the best chances for success and to receive tips for choosing a major that suits your interests.

What Exactly is a Major?

A college major is simply a specialized area of study. When you choose a major, you are choosing the direction of your academic career. In addition to taking any general education requirements your school might have, you will also be taking classes that are relevant to your major. Most community colleges and traditional universities offer a wide variety of different majors, though many schools specialize in a particular area of study. Some schools even offer students the ability to design and customize a major of their choice. While you do not necessarily need to pick a major before you start school, having some idea of what you would like to study will help you with picking a college.

Choosing a major will not give you any guarantees in terms of your future, but if you know what kind of job or career you want, selecting a relevant major will greatly increase your chances of success in entering that field. Just because you choose a major, however, it doesn’t mean that you are stuck. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the average young adult in their 20s switches jobs every three years and the average person switches career fields two to three times throughout their life. You will have to declare a major at some point, but it is worth taking the time to think about what you really want to do with your life before you choose one.

Tips for Choosing a Major in Community College

When it comes to choosing your major, there are no right or wrong answers – it is all dependent on what you enjoy and what you want to do with your life. As you think about your options, there are several different factors you should consider which may influence your decision. Here are the top three factors to consider:

  • What is Your Dream Job? – When you were a child and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you say? Perhaps you already know what you want to do with your life or, at the very least, you know what kind of work interests you. If you have a dream job in mind, or a general idea of your preferred career field, choose a major that will help you work toward that goal.
     
  • How Much Money Do You Want to Earn? – While money is definitely not the most important thing in the world, it is certainly a driving factor for many people when it comes to choosing a major. You also have to consider the fact that tuition costs are rising each year – your choice of major (and your future job) could determine whether or not you are able to pay off your student loans in a timely manner. The majors that tend to have the highest payouts in terms of salary are: computer science, physics, engineering, government, statistics, and economics.
     
  • What Do You Have a Passion For? – In the end, all that really matters is whether or not you are happy. If you choose a major based on future salary alone, you could end up in a high-paying job you hate. It is important to be practical about the future but it is still important to do something that you love, or at least have an interest in. The more you enjoy your major, the more engaged you will be in your classes and the better you will perform.

If you do not have a specific answer for any of these questions, it certainly doesn’t mean that you are doomed. It may simply mean that you need to take some more time to think about it. If your college doesn’t require you to declare a major during your first year, you may have another semester or two to try out different things. Just be sure that once you do select a major that you arrange your class schedules to meet the course requirements in order to graduate on time.

Which Majors Offer the Best Job Opportunities?

Though it is important to consider your interests when selecting a college major, you also need to think practically about the future. Thinking about what kind of subjects you enjoy can help to direct your decision, but you should also consider whether or not your chosen major will lead to a job after graduation. Below you will find an overview of some of the majors which offer the most job opportunities to help influence your decision:

  • Science Technology – Majors that teach scientific principles as well as technical skills can lead to a job in scientific research or development. Some examples of a science technology jobs include: nuclear power technician, biology technician, chemical equipment operator, and environmental science technician.
     
  • Education – While an education major is most likely to lead to a job as a teacher, the skills you learn during college can also apply to other jobs such as translation, interpretation, and administration.
     
  • Communications/Journalism – This type of degree was identified as a sought-after major by 10% of employers according to CareerBuilder. With this type of degree you can get a job in journalism, advertising, public relations, radio, television, or digital communications.
     
  • Engineering– Not only is engineering one of the highest paying majors, but it also leads to a wide variety of jobs. There are also various specialized fields of engineering such as engineering technology, chemical engineering, and electrical engineering.
     
  • Health and Clinical Services – This is the type of major you will need if you want to work in the health industry as a professional or as an assistant. Some of the fields you might choose to enter include dentistry, pharmacology, nursing, veterinary science, and others.
     
  • Math/Statistics – This major was identified as a sought-after major by 14% of employers on CareerBuilder. With this major you can specialize in various fields ranging from finance to politics.

Choosing a major is a big step – it will have a serious impact on the course of your future. Of course, just because you choose a major before you enter community college (or shortly thereafter), it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are stuck with it. If you find that you do not enjoy your classes as much as you anticipated, it is better to make an adjustment sooner rather than later so you can graduate with a major you love that will help you get the job of your dreams.


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