Your Guide to Choosing a College Major

Your Guide to Choosing a College Major

Your Guide to Choosing a College Major banner

“What’s your major?” It’s often the first question students ask one another when they meet on campus. Choosing a major in college is one of the most important decisions a student will make during their education journey. Some students know early on what they’d like to major in, and ultimately, launch their career. However, most students are unsure when they enter college just what type of career is best suited for them. If that’s you, don’t feel bad; you’re not alone.

What Is a Major?

A college major is a student’s main area of study. Depending on the university, there might be hundreds of different majors to choose from. Generally, between one-third or one-half of a student’s classes will be related to their major. Some students choose to have more than one major, such as engineering and business or political science and a foreign language, to further specialize their studies. Depending on how divergent the two majors are, the student with two majors may need to go to school for more than four years, or take some courses during the summer semesters to graduate on time.

Most majors prepare you for a specific career — choosing to major in accounting will likely lead you to pursue an accounting career, whereas a major in sociology or psychology will open the door to many career paths. Depending on the university, you might be asked to choose both a major and a minor course of study. Still, other schools may allow you to customize your major within certain parameters.

When Do I Declare a Major?

The earlier you declare your major, the sooner you can start learning about your chosen career. However, at most four-year universities, there is a little leeway since undergraduate students take mostly general education classes during the first two years. At such universities, you’ll need to decide on a major by the end of your sophomore year.

A Simple Guide to Choosing College Majors

If you’re like the average college student, you probably don’t know exactly what career path you want to follow. That’s understandable. Most students haven’t been exposed to many professions outside of their parents’ work. If you’re struggling with choosing a major, below are some suggestions to get you thinking about what type of work you might enjoy.

What Are You Interested In?

It’s important that your major in college reflects your interests. After all, you don’t want to invest time and money learning about a profession that you won’t enjoy. Keep in mind that your professional career will last for decades. You don’t want to be stuck in a career that you’re not passionate about.

Sit down and make a list of the things you enjoy most. Then, explore the career path related to your interest. Do you enjoy cooking? If so, perhaps a culinary career is right for you. Then, you may consider choosing to major in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management or Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship. Do you enjoy planning parties? There are many exciting options for you to pursue a career in events and event planning. To do so, you may consider majoring in Sports, Entertainment, Event — Management.

What Are You Good At?

While compiling your list of interests, you must also balance them with how you think you’ll perform in this area. Trying to excel at something you have no aptitude for will be frustrating now and in the future — however, there are opportunities for you to grow your skills, too. For example, if you’re passionate about political science, but you have a fear of public speaking, you may want to consider an alternate major. However, you could also develop your public speaking skills through training and practice to overcome your fear. Take the time to reflect — it will pay off in the long run.

Match your list of interests with a list of your top skills. Ideally, your career choice will be something that interests you and that you are good at. Keep searching until you find that perfect combination.

What Are Your Career Goals?

You can also select your major in college by first identifying the career you’d like to pursue. Then, you can align the majors that will provide you with the knowledge you need to prepare for that career. Unless you have a close relationship with someone in that profession, you may consider setting up an informational interview with a professional in your selected career path. During this informational interview, you should ask the following questions:

  • Which major did you pursue in college?
  • How did you decide on this major?
  • How did you enter this profession? Once you graduated with your undergraduate degree, how did you identify which career and job title to pursue?
  • How did you decide the industry and the organization to work for with this degree?

Most people will be happy to make time to mentor a college student interested in their field. You’ll learn about their real-world experience and their college journey. Plus, it’s a great networking opportunity to help you land your first job after graduation.

Talk to Advisors and Relevant Professionals

As we mentioned above, your academic advisor, school counselors, and industry professionals in your prospective field can be invaluable to help you determine your major and career goals. At Johnson & Wales University College of Professional Studies, our Experiential Education & Career Services office provides a range of resources at your disposal. We offer internship programs, interview preparation, resume assistance, networking opportunities, and career guidance from enrollment to graduation.

Which Fields Are in High Demand?

Another factor to consider is whether there is a high demand for the type of career you’re considering. You certainly don’t want to train for a career that’s decreasing in demand. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can give you a good idea of the number of new jobs in a particular field they expect to be created over the next decade. The BLS also indicates whether jobs in a field are growing faster or slower than the US average.

What Are Your Future Salary Expectations?

Sure, you want your career to be rewarding and enjoyable, but you also need to earn a living. You’re not likely to be happy with your career choice in the long run if you wake up in the middle of the night constantly worrying about how you are going to pay your bills. To prevent this, make a provisional, post-graduation budget. You may need help from someone who has already graduated and is living in a situation similar to yours to understand your experience after graduation. Make sure to include ‘unglamorous’ items in your budget, such as car insurance, retirement savings, transportation expenses (public transportation, gas, etc.), additional savings for unexpected expenses, and food. Total your monthly budget and multiply by 12 months. That’s the minimum you’re going to need to make in today’s dollars.

You can get an estimate on what different jobs pay from the BLS. They have an extensive database of salary information as well as the long-term demand for different jobs.

Can You Change Your Mind?

Selecting a particular major doesn’t mean that you can’t change it later if you change your mind about what you want to do with your career path. However, changing majors may require you to go to school longer, if the classes you took for your previous major do not apply to your new major. Additionally, your college major does not necessarily limit your career path. Many professionals choose an undergraduate major and through their career, they end up in a different profession or industry. You may gain experience in other areas throughout your career, which can lead to a different career from your original major.

Talk to JWU About Choosing a Major

Lastly, it’s wise to chat with an academic advisor at Johnson & Wales University, or the academic advisors at your chosen university. These school counselors have real-world experience and can help you determine whether the careers (and majors) that you are considering will lead to a satisfying future for you overall.

Johnson & Wales University is committed to helping its students find rewarding careers. The university has an excellent track record in helping students connect with employers in their fields of study after graduation. Our programs prepare students with the skills and experience employers are looking for, and that is why 95.4% of them have a successful career outcome within six months of graduating. Our Career Outcomes rate is historically higher than the national average. For an explanation of the career outcomes rate and other information, visit JWU Student Consumer Information.

Benefits of Choosing Your Major Early

While you can choose your major at any time up until the end of your second year in college without any penalty, there are distinct advantages to choosing your major early in your college career or even before you apply to college. Among these are…

1. Choosing the best school for your major. Some schools have more intensive programs in some majors than others. If you know your major ahead of time, you can apply to schools that are well-regarded in your proposed major.

2. Your college path will be well defined. When you enter college knowing your major, you won’t risk having to go back and take entry-level classes for a new major in your junior and senior years.

3. You’ll graduate on time within your program time frame. Some classes, especially higher-level classes, are only offered once a year or even once every two years. If you switch your major late in your college career, you may have to exceed your time and financial investment in college to be able to pick up those rarer classes.


Johnson & Wales University offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in more than 50 fields of study. Founded in 1914, Johnson & Wales has a current enrollment of around 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. The university is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Financial aid is available for qualified students.

For more information about completing your degree online or on-campus, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

Step 1Step 1 of 2
*Required Field Step 1 of 2
Step 2

By clicking Get Started below, I consent to receive recurring marketing/promotional e-mails, phone calls, and SMS/text messages from Johnson & Wales University (JWU) about any educational/programmatic purpose (which relates to my inquiry of JWU) at the e-mail/phone numbers (landline/mobile) provided, including calls or texts made using an automatic telephone dialing system and/or artificial/prerecorded voice messages. My consent applies regardless of my inclusion on any state, federal, or other do-not-call lists. Consent is not a condition for receipt of any good or service. Carrier charges may apply. Terms and conditions apply.

« Previous Step 2 of 2
Request info