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Five Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Major

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Planning to pursue a college degree? Online or on-campus, it’s pretty common for prospective students to run into difficulties when choosing a major. Plenty of people have probably assured you that many college graduates wind up in work outside their major.

However, it’s still important to choose a degree program that fits with your talents and goals. Here are five guiding questions to ask when deciding which field to enroll in.

Does This Excite Me?

The first rule of choosing a college major is: don’t do it because it’s popular. The second rule is: don’t do it because your parents or spouse think it’s a good idea. Make sure you choose a major in a field that genuinely interests you—one where you can see yourself happily carving out a career path over the next several years.

If the degree program is in an area that you read about, think about, and talk about outside of your normal daily duties, it’s probably a good option for you.

Is This Realistic?

Of course, enthusiasm isn’t everything. In much the same way that a woman who’s 5’11” isn’t destined for gymnastics glory, you probably won’t get far as a finance major if you hate math. Choose a major that aligns with your skills.

Look at the subjects you were consistently strongest at in high school as a first point of reference. Majors that play to those strengths should be on your list. Also consider workplace tasks you excel at, and how they can relate to the field and coursework you’re considering.

Still, if you’re absolutely determined to choose a major and have a glaring deficit in an area required for it, try to take a remedial course before enrolling.

What Are Prospects In This Field Like?

The economy is very dynamic. Once-prosperous industry sectors can shrink, and vice-versa. While narrowing down your choice of majors, do your research. Find out which occupations linked to the majors you’re interested in are likely to have a healthy number of open jobs for you to apply to after you graduate.

The best place to look is probably the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This resource, entirely online, contains detailed descriptions of many occupational fields, including projected job opening growth for the next ten years (at the national level—your local job market may vary). You can also learn a little more about duties, necessary skills, and working environments for the career paths that interest you.

Do I Know Someone Who’s Been There, Done That?

Always talk to someone who’s studying in or who’s graduated from the majors you’re considering. They may be able to flag up deal-breakers, either in the classes or the profession associated with the field, which will save you stress later on by eliminating that major from your list.

Ask them about the progression of courses—did the statistics courses suddenly go from challenging to impossible after the first year? Do they feel like they’re getting a well-rounded education in the field? What would they recommend you take as electives?

Also ask about life after graduation: are they using what they learned in class at work?

Does This Leave Me With Options?

Finally, assume that at some point after graduation, you are going to have to take a job that’s unrelated to your major. Look carefully at the majors you’re considering and work out which ones leave you with a versatile set of transferable skills.

This article is presented by American InterContinental University, a provider of career-focused degree programs. Students can also study on our Virtual Campus at AIU Online. Find out more at http://www.aiuniv.edu.

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