By now, we’ve all realized that college degrees do not guarantee jobs. We also know that some degrees lead to higher paying jobs than others. (Does STEM ring a bell?) Once encouraged to “do what you love,” more students than ever before are thinking twice before declaring their majors thanks to extensive media coverage of topics like drastically rising student loan debt and the best paying jobs in America.
While it’s true that changing your major isn’t the end of the world, it could cost you time and money. Making a decision that has the potential to affect the rest of your life shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Here are seven things to ask yourself or consider before signing on the dotted line.
1. Why am I interested in this major? Far too many people make the mistake of attending their parents’ dream college (or alma mater). The same can be said about choosing a major. Do you plan on studying pre-med or pre-law because your dad is a doctor or lawyer who expects you to follow in his footsteps?
2. Do I know enough about this major to honestly succeed? Research has found that engineering majors are offered the highest starting salaries among new college graduates, but if you barely scraped by in your high school math and science classes, engineering might not be the best choice for you.
3. Do I even like this major? Earning good grades in a particular subject area doesn’t necessarily mean that you enjoy it. If you excel in non-academic areas, such as dance or music, you may consider them talents or hobbies rather than potential careers.
3. What career possibilities can this major lead to? Some college majors can open more doors than others. A degree in communications can lead to jobs in public relations, human resources, copywriting, and more. A degree in architecture can lead to jobs in … well, architecture.
4. Is the job outlook for these careers good? Some careers are in higher demand than others, or are expected to grow faster than others over the next several years. Consult our Featured Career Profiles or the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for relevant information.
5. What do these jobs pay? It’s understandable that some careers pay more than others, but spending tens of thousands of dollars on a college degree that leads to a low-paying job is generally not advisable. It’s a good idea to have a basic idea of earning potential before declaring your major.
6. Speak with upperclassmen as well as recent graduates. Make a point to talk with current students as well as recent grads who studied the major(s) that you’re considering. What has their experience been like so far? Is it all they expected? Talking with actual people may give you more insight than reading figures online.
7. Get input from a professor or department head. Sit down and discuss your options with your advisor, a professor, or even a department head. While it’s ultimately your decision, getting an adult’s opinion – an adult other than your parents, that is – can also be helpful.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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