What Is A Major In College?

Beakers, a chart, and paintbrush with text: What is a Major in College?One of the biggest questions high schoolers face is: what are you going to major in during college? It’s a big choice, and a big difference from what you study in high school. So what is a major in college, and why is your choice of major so important?

Let’s break down the basics.

What is a Major in College?

A major refers to a specific subject area that you choose to study during your undergraduate term.

What is important to know is that most majors don’t refer to one specific ‘subject’. It refers to a ‘subject area’ or a set of courses that are all relevant to a specific field. For example, Business or Accounting.

Sometimes, a major will have a “focus” or “specialization” which is a narrower, more specific field of interest within that major. For example, an English major might have a focus in Creative Writing.

To receive a degree, all students are required to complete certain ‘core courses’ in their chosen major. In addition, every student also has to complete a set of ‘elective courses’ from the options offered by their college. About one-third to one-half of the courses you complete in college will be in your major, or related to it. Liberal Arts students will also have to take ‘general education’ courses.

When Do You Choose a Major?

At most 4-year colleges, you won’t technically have to choose your major until the end of your sophomore year. This gives you sufficient time to take different classes and explore various subject areas. As you go through the classes, you will be in a better position to identify subject areas that interest you.

There are two exceptions, where you have to choose your major early on.

The first is if you’re planning on studying certain career-oriented fields such as design or engineering. In this case you will have to choose this as your major right at the start. This is because it takes time to complete all the required courses to receive a design or engineering degree.

Another exception is if you are planning on enrolling in a two-year degree program. The shorter program requires you to make this decision at the time of enrollment.

How to Choose

Some students decide on their major even before they enter high school. However, many others struggle to make this decision. It’s not surprising. There’s a lot riding on this decision. Your choice of major can play in determining your future career path.

The best way to make this choice is by taking courses that interest you and that play to your strengths. Most majors prepare you for a wide range of professions and job opportunities. The exception is if you specialize in very specific fields such as nursing, engineering or accounting.

Some colleges allow students to double major, or to choose a major and a minor. A few colleges even allow students to create their own major.

Don’t worry if you cannot make up your mind right away, or if you find your interests have changed. You can switch your major during the college semester. Many students change majors while they’re in college and it’s okay to do that too. (Though it can delay your graduation.)

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