The Dirt on Picking your Major
Sep 26, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
Picking your major is not an easy task - especially for international students with many interests and talents. Attend this hangout to get helpful information and tips when it comes to picking the right major for you.
Thank you for attending our kickin’ it oldschool classroom series, Bryanna Davis here with International Student. Today we’re going to dive into the nitty-gritty of choosing a major, so what your degree path will be. Whether you’ve just started classes in the semester that just began or if you’re still in the beginning stages of plotting your attempt to study abroad- you’re going to have that nagging question in the back of your mind, and from your advisor: “What is your major?” So you need to either make a decision so you can answer that question, or know how to make the decision so you can answer it when the time comes.
Before we start- like always, send in any questions you have throughout the hangout and we will get those answered for you in the end. If you would like to sign up for our newsletter and other great pieces of information send us your email address through the chat feature- just keep in mind everyone on here can see it so if you don’t want that to happen just send us a private message on G+ after the hangout.
There are many factors that should be considered, here are the key areas that you must look at when making your decision.
1. Job possibilities
Of course the main reason you get an education is to find a job and to one day have a steady source of income. Because of this, it’s important to know what job options you will have upon graduation. Sure philosophy sounds like a cool major, but do you actually know what jobs are available for someone who holds a philosophy degree? Do your research and see what jobs you would be qualified for with the degree you choose and make sure they are what you would want them to do.
There are a few different aspects of salary that you should look at. You need to look at the plain and simple what will your average salary be but you need to also look at the borrow to pay ratio: so how much will you get paid compared to what you have to borrow to fund your education? For example, if you choose to study aviation to become a pilot- keep in mind you’ll have additional costs than someone who for example studying education doesn’t have. You’ll have to pay for flight time since you need to log so many hours actually flying- and that’s not cheap. So look at the total cost of how much you will need to borrow in order to fund your education- then compare that to the average salary of the job you’re after.
If you have no idea what you’ll be making once you graduate, you need to do a bit of research. To get you started, here are a few 2014 salary averages of general areas. These stats are from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
3. Hiring Rate
So it’s important to pick a major that pays well, and to find the fine balance between what you’ll borrow and what you’ll earn, but you must also consider that if the industry that your chosen career is in isn’t hiring- you’ll be stuck in a rut.
Ask yourself: “What industries are hiring and what type of degree do I need to get hired in that industry?”
Just to get you started, here are a few top-hiring industries in 2014. According to NACE graduates were actually found jobs within these industries more than any other industry.
Next, once you have narrowed down the industries that are hiring, look at where they are hiring. If they’re hiring in California and you’re not able to or willing to live anywhere other than North Dakota- you might want to re-think your degree pursuit. So the second question you should ask yourself is:
Ask yourself: “Would I need to move somewhere to find a job with this degree- and am I OK with that?”
4. Keep change in mind
Throughout time jobs will change. For example, the world of journalism. About 15 years ago if you got a degree in journalism you expected to graduate and get a job at a print newspaper or magazine. Now, the market has changed- graduating with a degree in journalism might still mean getting a job at a newspaper, but instead of print news- online news. Try to think of the direction in which your area of pursuit might change and consider if you’re comfortable with those changes. Along with changes, make sure you’re not choosing a degree that is facing the challenge of being obsolete by the time you graduate or soon after. Keep in mind that if you choose an industry that can open the door to a number of opportunities, so a very flexible degree, it will be less difficult to make a career change later on in life if needed or desired.
It’s last on the list, but it’s not the least important by any means. Sometimes we try to be too practical and push this one to the side. You can do all of the research in the world on salary, what industry is hiring, how the market of the industry will change but if you don’t enjoy what you do- you’ll end up back in school for a career change.
If you choose a major and you’re really struggling to keep up in school or you’re not enjoying learning about it- that’s a pretty good sign that it’s not the right industry for you. If you try to tell yourself you only have 4 years of it and it will be ok once you graduate- it will be just the same if not worse once you graduate. So pick a degree that you enjoy and that comes easy to you. If it’s easy for you then it means you’re good at it and should stick with it.
It’s a big decision to pick your major, so don’t declare a major simply because you think you have to. Take time to decide the rest of your life. If you want to learn more about what different degree paths and what they entail I would recommend visiting our study guide by subject (point on board to address). You can view more information on different degree options like business, dance, fine arts, public administration, nursing- the list goes on. You can also see what schools are great for those degrees, what to expect with the program and different career options.