Choosing a Major - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

Choosing a Major

Feeling pressured to declare a major? Finding it hard to know what classes you should take if you don't have a major yet? Wondering if the rest of your life will involve decisions that are as hard as choosing your career for the next 30+ years?

Relax. Although many college students do feel a lot of stress over choosing a major, it doesn't have to be a dreaded experience.

Choosing a major is not the same as signing a contract to do one type of job for the rest of your life. While employers do look at your college major, they also consider other, sometimes more important, traits like your:

  • Experience.
  • Ability to reason.
  • Communication skills.
  • Adaptability.
  • Commitment.
  • Reliability.
  • Worldly knowledge.

So, philosophy majors can become politicians, history majors might become writers and journalism majors may go on to law school.

Going through the following steps can give you a clear idea of the type of major that makes sense for you.

Step 1: Assess Yourself. Ask yourself what your interests, skills and values are. What makes you happy? What have you done before that you really enjoyed? What accomplishments make you most proud? ACT Profile has several surveys and assessments that can point you to a major or career.

Step 2: Make the connection. Once you have a good idea of your interests, skills and values, find out which majors, and careers, will help you pursue them.

Step 3: Narrow your list. Choose a few of the most likely possibilities and talk to people who know about those majors. Talk to professors, older students and graduates. Find a list of required courses for each major and check off the ones you think you would enjoy or do well in. Find out what projects, internships and research are required.

Step 4: Do more research. Find someone who works every day in that field. Ask them questions and get information about the profession. Find out what their life is like, and ask for advice on how you could be successful. They might also be able to help you find jobs or internships so you can decide whether you might like that job.

Step 5: Try it out. Take some classes in the topic area. Maybe there's an intro class that will cover the scope of the major. Try a summer or part-time job to give you a taste for the career, or follow a professional around for a while.


If your college or university doesn't offer the program you're interested in, visit College Navigator to find colleges that offer specific degree programs

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