Picking a major is a big deal as it can shape your future career. It’s not just about choosing a subject to study; it’s about aligning your passions with your career goals. When you love what you do, it can lead to greater job satisfaction, better performance, and a more rewarding career.

But what if you’re a jack of all trades? In that case, it might be smart to choose a major that’s versatile and can lead to a bunch of different jobs. This can be super helpful in today’s fast-paced job market, where being adaptable and having a wide range of skills are key.

So, while it’s important to follow your heart, it’s equally important to think about the practical side of your major. It’s not just about “What do you want to be in 10 years?” but also “What do you want?” and “How are you going to make it happen?”.

A college major is essentially your chosen field of study during your undergraduate years. It’s the academic area where you’ll put in the work and dig deep into the main subjects that align with your career goals. Majors can be anything from biology, psychology, computer science, business administration, and a whole lot more.

When you declare your major, you’re basically saying, “This is my academic forte, and I’m committed to it.” Each major has a bunch of required courses and usually some electives too. These courses together give you a solid understanding of your chosen field.

On top of your major, there are a bunch of general education courses (math, sciences, social sciences, humanities, and others). Think of these as the basic building blocks of knowledge, covering a wide range of subjects to make sure you get a well-rounded education. Mixing these general courses with your major requirements gets you to your bachelor’s degree.

If you’re looking to diversify your studies, you can also explore minors, electives, or concentrations. These are additional areas of focus that complement your major, providing a broader skill set.

Why is a Major in College Important?

A major helps you focus your attention on a specialty area, determine what classes you need to take, and encourages you to set goals for your education. Having a major allows you to become part of a group with similar passions and career interests. Your classmates have the potential to become professional networking connections in the future.

How is a Major Different From a Minor, Elective, or a Degree

A major is your main academic focus, while a minor is a secondary subject that supports your major or allows you to pursue additional hobbies or interests. A degree, however, signifies your level of education in your chosen field of study, that is, your major.

Electives, on the other hand, are courses you get to choose just because you want to. They’re not tied to your major or minor. You pick them based on what grabs your interest or to meet certain credit requirements. 

So, while your major and minor are like the main characters in your college story, electives add the colorful twists and turns that make it uniquely yours. There are instances where electives can be found within your major. These could be part of a specific focus area, or they could be distribution requirements.

Related: How Many Credits Do You Need to Graduate From College?

What is a Specialization?

When you choose a specialization, you’re focusing on a specific area of study within your broader academic major. By doing so, you would take additional courses specifically related to that area. 

If you’re a law major, you get to study a broad range of topics like constitutional law, criminal law, civil law, and corporate law. Now, suppose you’re particularly interested in intellectual property law.

In this case, you can choose it as your specialization. This means you would take additional courses specifically related to intellectual property law, such as copyright law, patent law, trademark law, and trade secrets law, among others.

What is a double major?

A ‘double major’ or ‘dual major’ degree is a type of college degree where you study two subjects at the same level. The subjects can be from different departments. Entry requirements are usually higher, needing approval from both departments. 

For example, you could have a dual major degree in philosophy and psychology.
NOTE: These can also be referred to as ‘joint honors’ at some colleges and universities in the U.S. Though it’s a common term used in the UK.

First, let’s look at the fastest growing occupations, along with the necessary education required to pursue them, ranked by the highest growth rate from 2022 to 2032:

Nurse PractitionersNursingTo become a nurse practitioner, you need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a graduate degree in nursing, and to pass the NP certification exam.45%$121,610 per year
Data ScientistsComputer Science, Business Management & Administration, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Information TechnologyYou’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field like IT, computer science, math, or business to become a data scientist. 35%$103,500 per year
Information Security Analysts (ISA)Computer Science, Computer Administration Management & SecurityTo become an ISA, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. However, entry is possible with a high school diploma and relevant certification.32%$112,000 per year
StatisticiansMathematics, Statistics & Decision ScienceA bachelor’s degree in mathematics or statistics is required. You’ll typically need a master’s degree to work in more advanced roles.32%$98,920 per year
Medical and Health Services ManagersHealthcare AdministrationYou typically need a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration or health information management. However, some employers may hire you with an associate degree and relevant experience.28%$104,830 per year
Physician AssistantsHealth Sciences, General Medical & Health ServicesTo apply for a physician assistant’s role, you typically need a bachelor’s degree, preferably in healthcare, health science, pre-medicine, or biology, and some patient care experience. Also, you need a license to work as one.27%$126,010 per year
Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and TestersComputer Science, Mathematics, Computer Networking & TelecommunicationsYou typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, IT, mathematics, or a related field.26%$127,260 per year
Physical Therapist AssistantsHealth Sciences, Kinesiology, General Medical & Health ServicesBecoming a physical therapy assistant requires a high school diploma and short-term on-the-job training. Licensure or certification is mandatory for all states.26%$62,770 per year
Occupational Therapy AssistantsOccupational Therapy, Psychology, or Another Major plus certificationTo become an occupational therapy assistant, you’ll need an associate’s degree in occupational therapy, psychology, biology, or pediatric health from any community college or technical school. If your degree is not an OT program, you will need to complete further coursework to sit for the exam to become certified to work. Additional certifications in CPR and life support are often necessary.24%$64,250 per year
Operations Research AnalystsBusiness, Computer Science, EngineeringA bachelor’s degree, though some positions may require a master’s in operations research, business, mathematics, engineering, or computer science. Knowledge in computer science is also important as you’ll be using statistical and database software for data analysis and modeling.23%$85,720 per year

Based on your interests and skills, here are some popular fields leading to high-paying careers in 2024 that you might want to consider:

For Those With a Passion For Business & Finance:

Financial ExaminersFinance, Accounting20%$82,210 per year
LogisticiansBusiness Management & Administration18%$77,520 per year
Financial ManagersFinance, Accounting16%$139,790 per year

For Enthusiasts in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths):

Web Developers & Digital DesignersComputer Science16%$80,730 per year
Database Administrators & ArchitectsComputer Science8%$112,120 per year

For Students Drawn to the Legal Sector:

LawyersPre-Law & Legal Studies8%$135,740 per year
Arbitrators, Mediators, and ConciliatorsPre-Law & Legal Studies5%$64,030 per year
Paralegals & Legal AssistantsPre-Law & Legal Studies4%$59,200 per year

For Those Dedicated to Healthcare:

Health Information Technologists & Medical RegistrarsHealth Informatics & Information Management16%$58,250 per year
Physical TherapistsHealth Sciences, Kinesiology15%$97,720 per year

For Those Fascinated by Life & Physical Sciences:

Occupational Health & Safety Specialists & TechniciansBiology, Chemistry, Public Health13%$75,240 per year
Forensic Science TechniciansPsychology, Biology, Chemistry13%$63,740 per year

For Those Committed to Community, Public & Social Services:

Social WorkersSocial Work, Human Services7%$55,350 per year
Health Education SpecialistsSocial Sciences, Social Work, Public Administration, Human Services7%$59,990 per year

Related: How Does Human Services Differ from Social Work?

For Those Looking to Get Skilled in Trades & Services:

Wind Turbine TechniciansAssociate Degree45%$57,320 per year
Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and MillwrightsAssociate Degree13%$59,470 per year
Medical Equipment RepairersAssociate Degree13%$57,860 per year

For Those Inspired by Arts & Humanities:

Film & Video EditorsCommunications, Mass Media, Design,  7%$62,420 per year
Special Effects Artists & AnimatorsComputer Science, Visual Arts, Design8%$98,950 per year
Technical WritersCommunications, Computer Science, Journalism, English, Engineering7%$79,960 per year

Start with self-reflection. Ask yourself about your background, priorities, and goals. This can help you find a major that matches your interests. Although you don’t have to pick a major right away. It’s normal to be unsure. 

In a bachelor’s degree, you usually have two years to explore different courses before declaring your major. Some colleges require you to declare your major right at the time of admission, while others expect it by the end of sophomore year. 

Also, if your interests or career goals shift, you have the option to change majors within the first two years in your bachelor’s program. But before making the switch, it’s good to explore the new major by taking its introductory courses. 

This not only gives you a glimpse into what the major involves but also helps fulfill any prerequisites needed to declare that major. These classes also count towards your general education requirements, ensuring you’re still on track to graduate even if you decide against the switch.

Anytime you need help, admission counselors can provide insights and guide you through choosing a major. Moreover, your major doesn’t necessarily determine your career. Many people work in fields different from their major. The skills and experiences you gain during your studies are what count.

If you’re still undecided, don’t worry. Explore different subjects, take various classes, and talk with professors or professionals in fields you’re interested in. This can help you find what truly interests you.

If a traditional four-year degree doesn’t fit your needs at the moment, consider other options like associate degrees, online degrees, or trade schools. These alternatives might align better with your career goals.

Before You Go: How to Pay for College Without Loans

What is a concentration in college?

A college concentration allows you to specialize within your major, akin to adding a unique sauce to your major’s burger. It deepens your expertise, providing an edge. For example, a business major could concentrate in marketing.

Is a minor a degree?

A minor is a secondary field of study in college, akin to a side hustle. It doesn’t grant a separate degree but broadens your skill set. For instance, a physics major could minor in philosophy, taking a few philosophy courses alongside their physics ones.