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4 Questions to Ask Yourself when Choosing a Major

With so many degree programs out there to pick from, how do you choose the right one for you? There are the commonly sought-after majors, such as business, mathematics and elementary education, but then you’ve also got ones like multidisciplinary studies and kinesiology. Add the possibility of earning a minor or two to the mix, and you’re probably pretty confused about which path to follow.

Thankfully, there are some helpful questions to ask yourself as you choose your major. Check out our list below of some to consider before committing to a degree program for the long term.

What are you passionate about?

We’re not talking about your favorite classes at school. Many students do have a “favorite” subject, but it’s often because of an inspiring teacher or the mix of friends in a particular class. What do you really like to do in your free time?What can you do for hours at a time and come away from actually feeling energized and motivated? This is a strong indicator of what you’d enjoy doing in the future. What can you do for hours at a time and come away from actually feeling energized and motivated? This is a strong indicator of what you’d enjoy doing in the future. For example, if you’re passionate about playing the piano and enjoy working with children, a degree in music education could be a top choice for you.

Have you set future goals?

The life you picture yourself living after college — whether slow-paced, action-packed or somewhere in between — is important to keep in mind when choosing a major. Also, some career paths, like medicine and law, require you to continue on for additional years of schooling following your undergraduate studies. If you don’t plan to spend more than four years in college, however, these would likely not be good choices for you. And although salary shouldn’t completely rule your decision, it is an important factor. The amount of money you make will affect your level of physical comfort, including the type of home you can purchase as well as if it will be necessary for both you and your spouse to work full-time jobs.Some programs include a period of studying abroad. Others require you to pass standardized exams. Be sure when comparing program requirements that you keep your comfort level about them in mind.

What are the program requirements?

Beyond your classes, each major comes with its own unique to-do list. Education majors, for example, typically must complete a teaching internship, generally unpaid, and work in an actual classroom alongside a professional teacher for a semester or even a year. Some programs include a period of studying abroad. Others require you to pass standardized exams. So be sure when comparing program requirements that you keep your comfort level about them in mind. These requirements often are met toward the end of a program, meaning after you’ve completed most of your classes. You want to be sure when you get to that point that you’ll be willing to finish the race — and finish it well.

Is there a strong job demand?

Is there a need for workers in your desired career field? This will definitely affect your ability to land a job after graduation. Teachers, for example, are in high demand in low-income schools — so much so that many state governments actually offer loan forgiveness programs if you’ll devote a number of years to teaching in a specific school district, meaning any outstanding debt would be significantly reduced or even paid in full. Also, some areas of the country have a greater need than others for certain professions. For example, it may be more likely that you’ll find a position in skin care in Florida than in a northern state like Maine or North Dakota.

Next steps

These questions, though a promising start when choosing a college major, are not the only ones to keep in mind. There are other factors to consider — your intuition being one of them. Don’t be too quick to disregard that nagging and persistent “gut feeling” about your options. You feel the way you do for a reason. Don’t ignore it.

Also remember that you probably won’t have to declare your major right away. You’ll have at least until the end of your sophomore year before you will need to make an official decision. This should give you plenty of time to explore various subjects and areas of interest. However, declaring your major early does give you the advantage of being able to map out your four- or five-year course plan, depending on the degree you choose and how quickly you want to move through your classes.

Finally, if you just aren’t sure what you’d like to do career-wise, there will be many people at your chosen university to help you along the way. You won’t have to decide alone. Be sure to check out your school’s career services office, where you can get help discovering your giftings, securing internships, developing a resume and more.

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