Why Choosing a Major is Not as Big a Deal as You Think


“So what do you want to do?”

The number one question people ask you from your senior year of high school until you graduate from college.

For some reason, everyone expects you to have your entire life figured out by the time you turn 18. No pressure, right?

I’m here to calm your fears: Choosing a major is not as big a deal as people make it out to be. Sort of.

Let me explain.

Yes, it is a good thing to know what you want to do. If you know for sure that you want to be, say, a nurse, your academic efforts will be a lot more focused, and statistics show that committed people are much more successful and likely to finish.

But most people aren’t that certain. In fact, 80% of students change their major at least once while in college (many students change their mind multiple times).

So what’s a body to do?

First, calm down. No matter what your major, you aren’t locked into that career field for the rest of your life.

In fact, a recent article by the Washington Post said that only 27% of college graduates are employed in the field they majored in.

That’s because your degree is just a starting point for getting a job. It gives you some basic knowledge to start in a field, but as you work, your particular aptitudes will begin to show, your priorities will change, and gradually you can move to different areas.

I, for instance, got a degree in communications with the intention of becoming a journalist, but now work in marketing. If I spin it right, I could go into organizational communication and start making my way up in the business world. If I lack skills at some point, I don’t need to go back to school and get another degree—I can take an online course or two, maybe do a certificate program, maybe attend a special training program. Maybe my employer will even pay for it.

The point is, your major doesn’t dictate what you do with your life. Your interests and abilities will evolve as you study and as you work. As long as you work hard and prove yourself, you can do just about anything, regardless of degree.

If you really aren’t sure what you want to do, a good idea is to start at a community college and take general education courses along with one or two classes in a field you are considering. That way you can work toward a degree and get a feel for what you want to do without wasting a lot of money ‘testing’ different areas.

Many community colleges even offer services to help you determine what you want to do. Here at Southwestern Michigan College, we have a Career Planning Center where students can meet with counselors for advice on choosing a major, personality and skill assessments and workshops.

You will need to choose a major at some point, and it is true, the sooner the better. But don’t think you have to become an accountant just because your degree is in accounting. For now, just make an educated guess about a field you might like to go into, realizing that you aren’t sealing your fate. Stay open to trying and learning different things and eventually you’ll fall into the job that’s right for you.