At this point in the academic year, college freshmen are largely settling into their routines. The initial flurry of activity that comes with living independently for the first time, establishing study routines and, let’s be honest, partying, begins to slow down, and students start to think more seriously about what they want to get out of their next four years. And the question at the top of many students’ minds is, “What should I major in?”
Often, the best way to answer that question is with another question — or rather, a series of questions. If you’re struggling to decide what you should study, ask yourself the following:
1. What majors do different jobs require?
College typically lasts only about four years — but your career will last you a lifetime. So when considering a particular field of study, it’s important to think about what kind of job opportunities it opens up after graduation.
One Glassdoor study took a look at the most common jobs for college students, and the different majors associated with each. Here were the top five:
- Top Majors: Business, English, Political Science
- Top Majors: Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
- Top Majors: Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
- Top Majors: Psychology, Finance, Economics
- Top Majors: Business, Psychology, Communications
You can also search keywords like “entry-level” or “college graduate” on Glassdoor to reveal tens of thousands of jobs, many of which list desired or required majors right in the description. For example, the listing for this Management Development Program position at Geico states that the company is looking for a “Bachelor’s degree, preferably in Business or a related field.” You’ll likely find that certain majors like Computer Science will lead directly to specialized titles (such as Software Engineer, App Developer, Data Scientist, etc.) while more general majors like English or Psychology have less of a direct career path, and can lead to a variety of job opportunities (such as Sales Representative, Marketing Coordinator and Customer Service Manager).
2. What pay do different majors offer?
I’m a firm believer that salary shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when deciding on a college major, but it’s certainly worth thinking about. After all, you need to be able to earn enough to cover your basic costs (and ideally, a little bit more).
Hopefully, the exercise in the first section of this article helped you identify a few different job titles that correspond with the majors you’re interested in. If so, you can search salaries for those jobs on Glassdoor. For example, a salary search for Public Relations Coordinator — a great career option for those studying Communications — reveals that the average base pay is $60,474.
Glassdoor also conducted research into what different majors tend to pay — here were the five most lucrative we identified:
1. Computer Science
- Median Base Salary: $70,000
2. Electrical Engineering
- Median Base Salary: $68,438
3. Mechanical Engineering
- Median Base Salary: $68,000
4. Chemical Engineering
- Median Base Salary: $65,000
5. Industrial Engineering
- Median Base Salary: $64,381
As you can see, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors dominated the list, but other majors such as Nursing, Economics, Architecture and Business also made the cut.
3. What am I passionate about?
Call it sappy, but as somebody who majored in more creative fields (English and Spanish for the win!), I really believe that people should study what they’re interested in. If you find yourself particularly drawn to a certain field — be it photography, data science, anthropology or anything else — there’s no better time than college to explore it. Even if you decide not to major in it, you can always pursue your passion as a minor, or just take a few classes in it. Otherwise, you might regret not learning more about what interests you while you had the chance. You don’t necessarily stop learning once you enter the working world, but you usually don’t have easy access to formal classes and expert professors on nearly every topic imaginable, like you do in college.
Not quite sure what you’re passionate about? Don’t worry — there’s nothing wrong with that! Taking a wide variety of classes that satisfy your general education requirements can help you figure out what you like and what you don’t. You can also meet with your academic advisor to brainstorm a few ideas.
Choosing a major is a big decision — probably one of the biggest ones you’ll make in your first couple of years in college. But even though making big decisions can be stressful, you shouldn’t worry too much. As long as you ask yourself the right questions and do your research, you’ll be able to find the college major that’s right for you. Remember: there’s no one single path to success!