What Should I Major In? How to Clear Uncertainty
What should I major in? A tough question for a young person to decide. That’s why we are going to show you how to plan and clear your uncertainty.
It was the year 2000. A new millennium was starting. I was in college going through the motions and taking classes. Then after my 2nd year, it came time to decide on a major. I asked myself: What should I major in? What Degree Should I get? A paralyzing fear came over me and I was doing everything not to make a decision. Then due to lack of research and what everyone else was doing I went to the guidance counselor’s office and declared Business as my major.
I share this story because my inability to make a decision was due to my lack of planning and having an AIM. Yes, things have worked out for me but if I could do it again I think I would select something that had more of a narrow path. God bless my parents, as they were giving their best advice at the time based on what they grew up with.
Information accessible today
The massive amount of information wasn’t that readily available at that time. I remember going to the library and looking through books on college degrees and majors to get ideas. My point is that today, it’s not only imperative to start creating a path and aim early (high school) but there is no excuse for us not having a plan considering we have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips.
Start early!! Even if it changes get in the habit or looking inside yourself to see what paths that may be of interest to you.
What does degree choice have to do with tuition?
Actually quite a bit. When deciding what should I major in, an important factor to think about is degree return on investment (ROI). Degree choice and what you can potentially earned are without a doubt intertwined to each other.
Yes, it’s important to do what you have both an interest and passion for. However, the projected salary you can earn is equally important. This then allows your decision to make sense….financial sense! The last situation anyone what’s to be in is to have an expensive degree with a career that doesn’t pay well. That is unfortunately how students get themselves is not favorable student loan debt situations. More often than not, those students are then going back to the drawing board in hopes to find something that will pay more so they can sustain a certain quality of life.
Knowing this crucial when you are financially mapping out your plan to pay for college. Whether it by via student loans, grants, scholarships, or college savings plans, this is an important to establish.
A Look Inside Yourself
A good place to start when wanting to know what should I major in, is with asking yourself questions. It’s a big choice you are going to be making so it’s helpful if you really open yourself up and take a deep look as to who you are as in individual. Most of us at that age (18-19 years old) really are unsure of this. I know I was unsure in those years. Nevertheless, it’s important to at least try our best.
Questions to ask yourself
Below are some questions you can ask yourself to get the ball rolling:
- Why would I want to do this?
- Is this something that will interest me 5-10 years from now?
- Does this apply to more than one field?
- What is the job outlook like currently?
- What is the job outlook like 5-10 years from now?
- Will I be able to find a job when I graduate?
- What are the best places of employment for what I am going for?
- What is the degree ROI?
- Does this filed fit my personality?
- Will a graduate degree be required?
- Do I know anyone else in this field?
- Does this major fit your desired lifestyle?
This is more of a word of caution and advice based on my experiences. When I was going to college (many moons ago), I noticed many decisions being made off of popularity. Popularity based on the current trend and popularity based on what my peers were going.
I fell for it and I’m not going to lie. My friends were also picking the major I decided to go after and I said to myself “great I’ll in class with my friends.” What’s popular now may not be popular when you are finished with your degree or 10 years past its completion. More importantly, it’s a skewed metric as it doesn’t equate to a quality of life that has been established by you as an individual.
Design your quality of life
Relative poverty is defined as the condition in which people lack the minimum amount of income needed in order to maintain the average standard of living the society in which they live.
I speak of this because I truly feel this is the problem today. Sure those engaging in political debates will say its income inequality or it’s simply not. My take is relative poverty is the real cause and it’s hard to tackle and figure out.
Designing what you want your quality to life to be may be able to combat this hard to tackle issue. If you are wanting to travel and enjoy the “finer” things in life then narrowing down the degrees that pay above average may be what you want to go after. If you are the polar opposite and it doesn’t matter to you as long as you have enjoyment then the potential salary you can earn may not be a deal breaker.
It’s up to you as an individual to paint this picture in your life.
Highest and Lowest Paying Majors
We covered this in length in our: Highest Paying Degrees – A 2019 Guide post so you can head on over there for more details with regards to the highest paying majors.
With that said, let’s just take a quick look to reiterate what the highest and lowest paying majors are:
- Petroleum Engineering // $169,680
- Applied Mathematics // $95,351
- Engineering Mechanics // $90,085
- Geosciences // $89,799
- Actuarial Science // $84,104
- Mining Engineering // $83,754
- Economics // $82,560
- Business Economics // $80,048
- Chemical Engineering // $79,086
- Materials Science // $78,883
- Early Childhood Education // $39,000
- Human Services // $41,000
- Social Work // $42,000
- Elementary Education // $43,000
- Drama and Theater Arts // $45,000
- Family Studies // $41,000
- Studio Arts // $42,000
- Visual and Performing Arts // $42,000
- Special Needs Education // $45,000
- Teacher Education: Multiple Levels // $42,000
Most Satisfying College Majors
Money isn’t everything but it sure does help.
The weird dynamic with money is that we have a relationship with it. Having what we feel is enough to sustain our life makes us feel good and confident. Not I know several people out there than make way more than I do but are miserable. So money doesn’t cure all…but it sure helps.
The list below however represents the most meaningful college majors. It also helps that some of these pay a pretty decent mid-career salary.
- Early Childhood Special Education
- Music Therapy
- Radiation Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- American Sign Language Interpreting
- Medical Laboratory Science
- Physical Assistance Studies
Most in Demand College Majors
I want to give you these quick lists here so you a) start to get ideas and b) see the trends.
The most in demand college majors are:
- Mast of Science, Physician Assistant
- Master of Science in Statistics
- Master of Mathematics
- Master of Science in Nursing
- Associate Degree, Physical Therapist Assistant
- Master of Science, Genetic Counseling
- Master of Computer Science, Cyber-security
- Bachelors of Computer Science, Research Analyst
- Bachelors of Computer Science, App Design
- Master of Science, Health Care Administration
Your Step-by-Step Plan to Determine your College Major
Okay so if we were to devise a plan to help determine what college major should you chose then what would that look like?
What can we do to develop more of an AIM and path towards decision?
Step 1: Identify your interests, strengths, and abilities
Ties back to knowing yourself as we talked about earlier but this is really the starting point. This is where the foundation for your path will be created. Your interests, strengths, and abilities will all need to be factored in.
So how do you then identify these attributes?
Tips to assess your attributes
- Pay attention to what others are saying you are good at
- Know what you love and are passionate about
- Understand your social capabilities
- What do you want your job environment to be like?
- Identify your values
There are more you can dive into but this should at least get you started. The key is to do this without the aid of any internet research.
Step 2: Research the current list of Best College Majors
I think we have hammered this home enough right? There are so many lists available right here as show above and in mentioned posts.
I would suggest to not go by any lists back by an educational institution. Such lists are really going to be skewed towards eventually enrolling into the program. Although it may show data points, I do know how pure the intent is by showing them. That is solely my opinion.
Step 3: Job Outlook and Growth
After you have some options and paths, it’s going to be important to cross reference with the most recent job outlook and growth. This will help ease any worries that the selected field/major is growing slow and adding yourself to the mix of people trying to obtain such degree will just end up being an uphill battle
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will be the place to go to cross reference your research. There is so much information there that you can almost get lost in it. If you were to type in the specific job title or degree, then you can get a lot of great information such as:
- Median Pay
- Entry-Level Education
- Number of jobs currently
- Number of jobs outlook
- Employment change
- What they do
- Work environment
- Similar occupations
Step 4: Career Assessments
Career Assessments are a great way to see if there is a link between the results from the assessments and what you have researched and identified. Their intent is to indicate your preferences and basically come to a conclusion as to what the potential fits may be.
Where do you take these assessments?
There are a lot and I mean a lot of places to take a career assessment test. Here are a few places you can check out:
CareerFitter – Offers a personality test of 60 questions, multiple choice, with no wrong answers.
123Test –These tests are designed to help you find serious answers to what you may be doubting for your career.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – More of a personality test as opposed to a career assessment, the Myers-Briggs questionnaire has been around for a while. I would personally go more towards the actual career assessments however, this is an option as well.
Step 5: Degree ROI of potential choices
This is super important to me and I hope that this is something continues to be something that is talked about more frequently.
Your return on investment is so important to how your future is going to be.
If you take out student loans, your degree ROI will be important because will you be able to make sizeable payments? Will you career enable you to move up a ladder and therefore earn a healthy salary? These are all things you need to ask yourself.
How to calculate your return on investment?
Here is what you would need to determine what your return on investment would be:
- Net price of degree program
- Factor your potential debt
- Time it takes to graduate
- Earning potential
Step 6: Map out the tuition costs and funding options
College planning is more than just choosing the actual college and your degree choice. So this is the nuts and bolts of things financially. It’s imperative to know how you will pay for your degree.
We’ve discussed this before but below are the ways you can pay for your degree.
How to pay for your degree?
Step 7: Your first list
Once you have your first list, do a college search to see what are…
- The top schools for that major.
- The most affordable schools for that major.
- The locations (home + few choices of interest).
Your second list
After you have completed your first list and have answers to the questions above, then create your second and more refined list (preferably 3-4 choices).
Step 8: Pros and Cons
Now comes the time to take your 3-4 choices and list out their pros and cons of each. This is where you will visually be able to see where you are and therefore refine it even more.
Tips for Pros and Cons List
- Divide your paper (or excel spreadsheet) into two columns.
- On the left hand side, put the 5-6 most important factors to you.
- Established a weighted scale (1-10) for those important factors.
- Answer your pros and cons to each of them.
- Make it personal.
- Keep drilling down.
Step 9: Take your time
If you start early then you’ll be able to take your time and not rush (like I did). I took way to long and sat on the issue inside my head and then made a rush decision. Looking back I would of taken more time and really did my research.
Mistakes people make
- Having authority figures influence you too much.
- Overthinking passion vs practicality.
- Following your friends.
- Waiting too long to choose.
- Choosing based on a romanticized image or idea.
Step 10: Seek Assistance at High School
Seek assistance at your high school or through your network of people.
Remember that is what the counselors at high school are there for.
High School Career Counselors
Career counselors can help with:
- Figuring out your career goals.
- How to reach those goals.
- Establish your abilities and interests.
- Help develop those interests.
- Ensure you are taking the appropriate classes in high school.
Step 11: Communicate with Family
I threw this in there as a bonus because it’s important to me. Be communicative with your family. It’s important to express your thoughts to them so they can assist and guide you. Having the support of your family is so important. With their support, you can go into your path with way more confidence and as a young person that is imperative to ensuring your success.
As stated before, this is not an easy decision to make. The more people due their research and the more they take it seriously then the better you will be set up in your future. I cannot stress it enough that those who are in unfavorable predicaments career wise and financially can be due to lack of proper and effective planning. It may sound repetitive and basic but sometimes that is all we need at the end of the day.
I would love to hear your thoughts on everything and comments.
That’s all for now.