Questions to Ask When Researching Majors

Researching Majors

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While a large contingent of new students enter college each year certain of their major, many of them will change their minds repeatedly throughout the course of their studies. Selecting a major plays a significant role in shaping life after college, including the likelihood of getting into graduate or professional school, career prospects, and income level. Researching potential college majors before you commit to one should help set you on the right path for your adult life.

Go Beyond Academia

While professors often are very bright, capable people, they have a limited scope of experience. Even if you think you want to be an academician yourself, talk to people outside the university setting about what types of jobs you may expect to find in your field. Ask questions about how this person found a job, what his or her first job was, and any advice or special course that you may want to take. The academic view often is that all learning teaches critical thinking and analytical skills. While that may be true, getting a job with a vague skill set can be difficult.

Look at Salary Information

Salary scales aren’t particularly helpful for 18-year-olds who don’t pay all of their own bills yet. Still, you need to know what type of salary is typical in the various fields you are considering. Start by looking at some “hot” careers, such as software developer or nurse practitioner. See where pay starts in those fields and then make a comparison to the job titles you are considering. Don’t choose your major based on hot career fields, but at least give yourself some reference points to other jobs.

Become familiar with the Occupational Outlook Handbook

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics compiles one of the most comprehensive documents about careers. The OOH (Occupational Outlook Handbook), which is available for free on the BLS website, gives information about the work environment, career growth, pay scale, and competitiveness of hundreds of jobs. Make use of this resource to help you compare careers, such as accounting and auditing, that are similar to help you narrow down your focus. Also, peruse the handbook if you’re still considering several majors to see what jobs may be a good fit.

Decide Where to Live

Though you do not need to know exactly where you will live, choosing a desired general location and then making life plans around it isn’t a bad idea, especially if you are limited in where you would be willing to live. People going into agricultural research, for instance, will find a large number of jobs in the Midwest where agribusiness often is located. The other benefit to knowing roughly where you want to settle down is that you can look at the cost of living in the area to help determine whether you will be able to live a comfortable life there.

Read the Good and Bad

Blogs aplenty exist in almost all career fields. Reading through those blogs as well as books on the industries associated with majors you are considering will help you to get a sense of the good and bad of every job. People in the field often will be positive with others considering the job out of politeness. Knowing that social work can be rewarding is useful, but you also need to spend some time considering the downsides of that field as well to help you make an informed decision.

About the Author:

Heather Green is a freelance writer for several regional magazines in North Carolina as well as a resident blogger for Her writing experience includes fashion, business, health, agriculture, and a wide range of other topics. Heather has just completed research on nurse types and online CNS programs.

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