How to Choose a Major

Advice to help you decide what you should major in.

Choosing a college major is a pivotal moment in your college journey. From Astronomy to Zoology, there is a vast range to choose from when selecting a major. Deciding on a direction can be difficult, especially if there are multiple fields you are interested in. 

If you’ve already decided on what path to pursue, congratulations! That is a huge achievement. If this isn’t you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many first-year college students have no idea what they want to do with their lives, let alone what they want to major in. In this article, we'll explore the world of college majors and help you navigate the path to finding the perfect fit for your interests and career goals. Plus, we'll offer guidance for those who are struggling to decide on a major. 

What Are Majors?

Your college major is your academic specialty tailored to your interests and career goals. It's the field of study you choose to focus on in college and forms the foundation of your coursework. Typically, to earn a bachelor's degree a student must complete 120 credit hours. Your college major will make up between one-third and one-half of your courses or 30-60 credit hours. 

Key Considerations for Choosing a Major

When choosing a major, it's essential to consider your passions, strengths, and long-term career goals. Choosing a major is a significant step in the college process and should be considered carefully. 

Below are key considerations to keep in mind when choosing a major.

What Are You Interested In? 

Passion is the fuel that drives everything. Selecting a field of study that you are genuinely interested in can enhance your motivation, make learning enjoyable, and ultimately lead to your overall job satisfaction. 

So, how can you pinpoint your interests? Start by taking a deep dive into your likes and dislikes. Reflect on the classes that have grabbed your attention and made you eager to learn more. Here are some ways you can start to clarify your interests:

  1. Kickstart Your Exploration - Check out the ACT Inventories. These inventories focus your interests, values, and preferences in areas such as science, art, business, and much more. By understanding your interests, you can narrow down your choices and get a clearer picture of which majors might be a good fit for you. 
  2. Participate in Internships - Real-world experiences can help clarify your interests. Participating in internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs related to fields you're interested in can help you get a better understanding of whether your chosen path aligns with your interests and strengths.
  3. Consider Job Shadowing - Job shadowing can provide valuable insights into the career path you’re interested in pursuing. Shadowing someone on the job can allow you to ask questions and learn new skills.  

What Subject Areas Do You Excel In?

While pursuing your passion is crucial, it's essential not to disregard your strengths. Focusing on your strengths can enhance your academic performance and increase your chances of success in your chosen field. For example, if you excel in mathematics, you might want to consider fields or careers that have strong analytical or quantitative components.  

It's important however not to limit your options solely to areas where you excel. View your weaknesses as opportunities where you can improve. College is a place for growth and exploration, and you may discover new interests and talents along the way. For example, if you are looking to improve your writing skills, go ahead and take a journalism course. You might love it! 

What Are Your Career Goals?

Setting career goals is an essential step in deciding on a major. It gives you a clear direction in your academic journey, helping you choose a major that aligns with your aspirations. If you have not yet decided on a career goal, start by exploring your interests, passions, and hobbies. Consider what subjects or extracurricular activities you excel in or thoroughly enjoy. Reseach different career paths online to determine which field is the best fit for you. 

Knowing the job outlook for a career you're interested in can help inform you of several important factors, including if that career will continue to grow over the next several years and whether it will provide the pay range you're looking for.

Keep in mind different career paths can require different levels of education and qualifications. Knowing what college degrees are available can help you determine what you need to complete in order to reach your college and career goals. Learn more the about the different types of college degrees you can obtain.  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can be a great resource to get a glimpse of the job outlook in the career you’re interested in. Research wage data for certain areas, projected number of new jobs, and growth rate. 

What Do Your Advisors and Professionals Say? 

Tapping into the wisdom of those who have walked the path before you can be extremely helpful in deciding on a career path. Speaking with career counselors or professionals in your chosen field can provide invaluable insights into what it’s like to work in your desired career.  

Consider speaking to: 

  • Counselors: High school counselors are equipped with resources and assessments that can help you discover your strengths and interests. Schedule a meeting to discuss your aspirations and explore potential college majors.
  • Academic Advisors: Once you're in college, your academic advisor becomes a trusted guide. They can help you navigate the course catalog, suggest suitable majors, and provide guidance on extracurriculars. 
  • Professionals in the Field: Connect with professionals who work in your areas of interest. Ask about their career paths, what they love about their jobs, and the educational background required for their roles. Their firsthand experiences can guide you in making a well-rounded decision.

Building a strong professional network can help you jumpstart your career. Among its many benefits, networking can help you develop connections that lead to job opportunities. Learn more about the power of networking.  

What If You Can’t Decide What To Major In?

Choosing the right major is a significant step in your college journey; it’s only natural to have doubts and questions. Remember not to rush into the decision. Give yourself the freedom to explore and decide at your own pace.  

If you have not yet decided on a major, you can choose to enter college as “undecided” or “undeclared.” Starting college as an undecided major allows you to take the entry-level courses required of all students and explore different subject areas that interest you to get a better idea of what your desired field of study will be. 

Choosing a Minor 

One effective way you can explore different disciplines is by choosing a minor. A minor is a secondary field of study that complements your major. While choosing a minor is not required, it can be a great way for you to explore different interests and acquire a diverse skillset.  

While many students choose a minor that is related to their major, this is not required. Some students may view their minor as a creative outlet, allowing them to explore a passion or hobby. Additionally, employers look for job candidates that have well-rounded knowledge and skillsets. If you're majoring in engineering but have a minor in business administration, you may have more of the knowledge needed to manage and lead a team effectively. These unique skillsets can open doors to a wide range of career opportunities. 

Ultimately, the decision is yours. Don't hesitate to speak to your counselor or academic adviser to evaluate your options and explore the different possibilities.  

Explore Majors by Interest Area

To help you navigate your options, we've compiled a list of majors you can explore. Browse the trays below to see a list of college majors for four-year and two-year programs. 

Four-Year Degrees

Agricultural Business & Management
Agribusiness Operations
Agricultural Economics

Two-Year Degrees

Agriculture, General
Agricultural Education

Four-Year Degrees

Music Education
Art, General
Design & Visual Communcations, General
Interior Design
Theatre Arts/Drama
Cinema/Film/Video Studies
Fine & Studio Arts

Two-Year Degrees

Graphic Design
Fine & Studio Arts

Four-Year Degrees

Business Administration/Mgmt, General
Business/Managerial Economics
Travel/Tourism Services Management
International Business Management
Management Quantitative Methods
Marketing Management & Research
Fashion Merchandising

Two-Year Degrees

Business Administration/Mgmt, General
Accounting Technician
Management Quantitative Methods

Four-Year Degrees

Agricultural Public Services
Communications, General
Mass Communications
Journalism, Print
Journalism, Broadcast
Radio & Television Communications
Public Relations & Organizational Comm

Two-Year Degrees

Communications, General
Journalism, Print

Four-Year Degrees

Family & Consumer Sciences, General
Food & Nutrition
Child Development
Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies
Health & Physical Education/Fitness
Sport & Fitness Admin/Management
Exercise Sci/Physiology/Kinesiology
Criminal Justice
Human Services, General
Social Work
Public Health

Two-Year Degrees

Criminal Justice

Four-Year Degrees

Computer & Information Sci, General
Information Science
Mathematics, General
Management Information Systems

Two-Year Degrees

Computer & Information Sci, General
Computer Science
Mathematics, General

Four-Year Degrees

Landscape Architecture
Engineering, General
Aerospace/Astronautical Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Computer Engineering
Electrical, Electronics & Comm Eng
Mechanical Engineering
Industrial Engineering
Quality Control & Safety Technologies
Mechanical Eng Related Technology
Construction/Building Technology
Aviation & Airway Science

Two-Year Degrees

Engineering, General
Engineering Technology, General
Automotive Engineering Technology
Construction/Building Technology
Architectural Drafting/CAD Technology

Four-Year Degrees

Teacher Education, General
Special Education
Elementary Education
Early Childhood Education
Secondary Education
English/Language Arts Educ
Mathematics Education
Physical Education & Coaching
Social Studies/Sciences Educaton

Two-Year Degrees

Teacher Education, General
Elementary Education
Secondary Education
Physical Education & Coaching

Four-Year Degrees

Nutrition Sciences
Communication Disorders Services
Dental Hygiene
Medical Radiologic Technology
Medicine (Pre-medicine)
Nursing, Registered (BSN)
Pharmacy (Pre-pharmacy)
Physical Therapy (Pre-phys therapy)
Veterinary Medicine (Pre-veterinarian)

Two-Year Degrees

Dental Hygiene
Physical Therapy Assisting
Veterinarian Technology/Assisting
Medical Radiologic Technology
Respiratory Therapy Technology
Medical Laboratory Technology
Nursing, Registered (ASN or ADN/RN) 

Four-Year Degrees

Area Studies, Other
Foreign Languages/Literatures, General
Spanish Language & Literature
English Language & Literature, General
Liberal Arts & General Studies

Two-Year Degrees

Liberal Arts & General Studies

Four-Year Degrees

Animal Sciences
Agronomy & Crop Science
Environmental Science/Studies
Science Education
Biology, General
Biochemistry & Biophysics
Microbiology & Immunology
Physiology, Pathology & Related Sci
Atmospheric Sciences & Meteorology
Geological & Earth Science

Two-Year Degrees

Biology, General
Physical Sciences, General

Four-Year Degrees

Fire Protection & Safety Technology
Construction Management

Two-Year Degrees

Fire Protection & Safety Technology
Heating/Air Cond/Refrig Install/Repair
Autobody/Collision Repair/Technology
Diesel Mechanics/Technology

Four-Year Degrees

International & Global Studies
Psychology, General
Social Sciences, General
Geography & Cartography
Political Science & Government

Two-Year Degrees

Psychology, General
Social Sciences, General

Explore STEM Majors

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. A STEM major refers to any field of study that falls within one of these four categories.  

Whether you're passionate about solving complex problems, conducting groundbreaking research, or creating new technology, there's likely a STEM major that's the perfect fit for you.  

Browse the trays below to see a list of STEM majors.  

For further advice on understanding and choosing a STEM path, check out “STEM’s Many Branches” — a free resource from our expert partners at Collegewise. 

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Animal Sciences
  • Astronomy
  • Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology
  • Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Biology, General
  • Cell/Cellular Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science
  • Food Sciences and Technology
  • Forestry
  • Genetics
  • Geological and Earth Sciences
  • Horticulture Science
  • Marine/Aquatic Biology
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Natural Resources Conservation, General
  • Natural Resources Management
  • Physical Sciences, General
  • Physics
  • Science Education
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Management
  • Zoology
  • Actuarial Science
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Business/Management Quantitative Methods, General
  • Computer and Information Sciences, General
  • Computer Network/Telecommunications
  • Computer Science and Programming
  • Computer Software and Media Application
  • Computer System Administration
  • Data Management Technology
  • Information Science
  • Management Information Systems
  • Mathematics Education
  • Mathematics, General
  • Statistics
  • Webpage Design
  • Athletic Training
  • Chiropractic (Pre-Chiropractic)
  • Dentistry (Pre-Dentistry)
  • Emergency Medical Technology
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health/Medical Technology, General
  • Medical Laboratory Technology
  • Medical Radiologic Technology
  • Medicine (Pre-Medicine)
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology
  • Nursing, Practical/Vocational (LPN)
  • Nursing, Registered (RN)
  • Optometry (Pre-Optometry)
  • Osteopathic Medicine
  • Pharmacy (Pre-Pharmacy)
  • Physical Therapy (Pre-Physical Therapy)
  • Physician Assisting
  • Respiratory Therapy Technology
  • Surgical Technology
  • Veterinarian Assisting/Technology
  • Veterinary Medicine (Pre-Vet)
  • Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineering Technology
  • Aerospace/Aeronautical Engineering
  • Agricultural/Bioengineering
  • Architectural Drafting/CAD Technology
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Architectural Engineering Technology
  • Architecture, General
  • Automotive Engineering Technology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Civil Engineering Technology
  • Computer Engineering
  • Computer Engineering Technology
  • Construction Engineering/Management
  • Construction/Building Technology
  • Drafting/CAD Technology, General
  • Electrical, Electronic, and Communication Engineering
  • Electrical/Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Electromechanical/Biomedical Engineering Technology
  • Engineering (Pre-Engineering), General
  • Engineering Technology, General
  • Environmental Control Technologies
  • Environmental Health Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Industrial Production Technologies
  • Mechanical Drafting/CAD Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering Technology
  • Military Technologies
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Quality Control and Safety Technologies
  • Surveying Technology

Additional Questions About Choosing a Major

Choosing a college major is a pivotal step in your college journey. It's completely normal to feel overwhelmed, but remember, you're not alone in this adventure. We’re here to help!  

To help provide some clarity around the decision, we’ve listed some commonly asked questions below: 

When Do You Have To Pick a Major? 

High school is a great time to start exploring potential college majors. Reflecting on this early will allow you to start homing in on your interests and strengths. Once you've started college, you'll typically have until the end of your sophomore year to officially declare a major. Keep in mind, requirements can vary between institutions so it’s important for you to know the key deadlines for choosing a major.

Remember, deciding on a college major is a personal journey, and unique to every individual. Start exploring your interests early, seek guidance, and don't be afraid to change direction if you discover new passions. It’s important to choose a major that you can feel excited about! 

What Is a Double Major?

A double major is one degree with two majors included. Double majoring can be a great option for students looking to build a diverse skillset in multiple fields. Typically, students choose fields that complement each other in some way, but this is not required. 

Some examples of popular double majors include: 

  • Engineering and math 
  • Political science and economics 
  • Marketing and communications 
  • Psychology and criminal science 
  • Accounting and finance  

Keep in mind, double majoring can require additional credit hours depending on the university’s requirements and your declared majors. If you have chosen fields that overlap, it’s possible some of your classes can count toward both majors. For example, a student majoring in marketing and communications could take a course like creative writing and count it toward both majors.  

Different from a double major, students can also earn a dual degree. A dual degree involves pursuing two entirely different degrees, like a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Both options carry unique advantages. Learn more about earning a dual degree or double major.

Can You Change Your Major?

The fear of choosing the wrong major is a common concern for many students. If you find that your initial choice isn't the right fit for you, not to worry — changing your major is usually very common. The process may vary from one institution to another, but generally, you'll need to meet with an academic advisor and complete the necessary steps and requirements.  

What if I'm Undecided?

It's perfectly fine not to have it all figured out on day one. Many students start college as "undecided,", which simply means they have not declared a specific major. Entering college undecided gives you time to explore various subjects and discover your passions, strengths, and interests. Keep in mind, it is advised you declare and major by the end of sophomore year. This doesn't mean you can't change your mind later on, but having a declared major helps streamline your academic path and ensures you're on the right track to graduate.  

Explore College Majors and More on MyACT

Creating a MyACT account is a simple process that unlocks an array of resources to help you in your college journey. 

MyACT allows you to:  

  • Explore interests with the ACT Interest Inventories
  • Explore different career paths  
  • Research college majors
  • Search from over 7,400 colleges and universities 

More Articles for Choosing a College

Explore additional resources and tools to guide you through the college planning process and help you make the best choice for your future.