9 ways to learn about college majors before selecting one

Students earning  Associate in Arts or Associate in Science degrees from CPCC know they want to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution. But many are unsure of which academic major they want to study. There are many ways to explore academic majors before selecting one.

Read the description of the major: It’s amazing how many students don’t take the time to actually read a college or university’s description of the academic majors offered. The major description often talks about the focus of the program, courses offered and types of careers people pursue after graduation.

Read the descriptions of the courses you’ll be taking: You decide which movie to rent by reading the movie description. The same approach works for college courses. Read about what you’ll study in the class. Does it sound interesting? If many of the classes from one major sound appealing, it’s a positive sign that the major might be a good fit for you.

Take a class: If possible, take a class from the major you’re considering. Keep in mind that introductory courses often provide an overview of a particular subject whereas upper level courses are more focused and intensive. However, an intro course can give a brief insight into topics that will be covered in more detail in the upper level courses.

Remember that you won’t like every course: Don’t dismiss a major because of one or two courses that make you cringe. Every academic major has courses that won’t be your favorites. Consider the bigger picture. Could you survive that course for one semester knowing that the other classes sound very interesting?

Talk to faculty and upper-level classmates: If possible, try connecting with students already enrolled in the major. Find out what they like about the major, why they chose it and what their career plans are. Email a professor from the department asking if you could schedule an appointment during office hours to talk about the program. Come prepared with questions to ask.

Check out related student organizations: Many programs have organizations that give students the opportunity to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to real-world applications. Clubs could be a great avenue for finding peers to talk to. You can usually find student club information through a college’s student activities office or through the corresponding academic department.

Meet with a career counselor: Career counselors can help you identify your skills and interests and brainstorm particular academic majors that compliment both. While a career counselor can’t tell you which major to pursue, the information you learn can help clarify which path might be the best fit.

Research possible career paths: Visit career exploration websites such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, O*Net and others to learn about different careers. These resources provide extensive information about the expected duties and skills for different jobs as well as the education path required to pursue them.

Know that your major may not determine your career path: If you talk to people employed in a profession of interest, there’s a good chance they have different academic backgrounds. The truth is, most career paths have different starting points. The likelihood that you’ll find yourself pursuing a different career than the one you originally intended is quite high. Additionally, your career interests may likely change over time. The chances of your academic major selection determining what career you’ll retire from are quite low.