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Choosing a College Major for Your Career Path

6 min read

Adults make many important decisions during their lifetime, and one of the first choices a person makes as an adult often involves attending college and choosing a major. Selecting the right major can be the first significant step towards career success or career dissatisfaction. Since starting a new career and workplace issues are two of the most common factors that cause people stress it is important to carefully consider why it’s important to attend college and how your postsecondary plans will impact your career options. Researching potential careers that you may be interested in is also a good idea, because you should consider how serious your interest is and what specific training is required in order to ensure you have the training needed for your top career choices.

Importance of College

One of the most significant reasons to attend college has to do with income. Having a bachelor’s degree accounts for a significant rise in income over individuals who have not completed postsecondary studies. A person who completes 4 years of college will earn as much as 66% more than individuals who only have a high school diploma.

Although people often think about the factual knowledge that is acquired through the courses taken in college, the learning experience an individual has from the college experience expands far beyond the material covered in lectures. There are several critical skills individuals must develop in order to succeed in postsecondary studies, including time management and good organization skills. These skills are often crucial to a person’s long-term career success. College graduates know how to work independently and efficiently because they had to so in order to stay on top of their studies, and they can apply those skills in the workplace to minimize the need for supervision without jeopardizing production.

Deciding What To Study

There are hundreds of college majors you can choose from, and choosing a course of study can be overwhelming. One way to help with the process is to take a What Should I Major In Quiz or other career-related assessment that helps you identify the types of tasks that interest you. People tend to be more motivated when they are focusing on something they enjoy or find interesting, so it’s important to consider what you want to learn about and do when picking your major. Choosing courses that don’t appeal to you may lead to a lack of motivation, procrastination and poor performance, which will undermine your success in college.

Although earning a college degree is a significant factor in determining potential lifetime income, not all majors are considered equal. An engineering degree results in significantly higher lifetime income levels than earning a fine arts degree. If your sole focus is on making money then you will want to consider graduate studies or focus on careers in science, finance or engineering. Lack of financial security can be a significant cause of stress for adults, so if there are a few different career options that interest you one way to choose between them is to consider the potential lifetime earnings for each career.

Common Career Fields

There are 22 categories that careers are categorized in. Occupations are grouped based on the similarity of the focus of the career and duties involved. When you start thinking about what to study in college it’s important to think about what kind of potential career that your major will equip you for after graduation, because if you do not take the right courses you may not be qualified for the careers that interest you. For example, a nurse needs to take very specific health-related courses, including biology anatomy and physiology, while a logistician typically takes business courses or earns a degree in supply chain management.

By looking at a few popular career categories it’s possible to see just how varied the occupational options are in each field. Identifying your areas of interest can help you select an appropriate career field to focus on. Even if you haven’t chosen one single specific career, choosing a career field can help you make prudent academic choices that will ensure you have the education needed when you graduate.

Legal Careers

When many people think about working in law they think about lawyers, but there are many other legal careers. Mediators meet with opposing parties and try to help them reach a compromise to resolve their disputes. Judges hear cases and make sure that the laws are followed. In some cases, judges decide the verdict. Those who work as lawyers may perform very different tasks. One attorney may specialize in real estate and help clients review and finalize contracts. Another may serve as criminal defense attorneys and defend individuals on trial. People hurt in workplace accidents turn to personal injury attorneys to pursue compensation.

Legal careers typically require strong analytical skills, because the people who work in this field have to consider a lot of information, and they also need good decision-making skills.

Healthcare Careers

Anyone interested in a career in healthcare has a lot of options to choose from. If you’re interested in treating oral health problems but like working with children then you may be interested in becoming a pediatric dentist. While general practitioners assess their patients’ health and treat routine issues, such as sprains or illnesses, eye doctors focus exclusively on evaluating a person’s vision and eye health.

Dieticians are also part of the healthcare field. They may work with with individuals who need help managing their diet to lose weight or to prevent illnesses, such as diabetes. Others healthcare careers include recreational therapists, chiropractors, pharmacists, veterinarians, audiologists and speech-language pathologists.


The field of education isn’t limited to teachers. It includes educational administrators, such as principals, and those who create curriculum plans for schools to follow. Librarians are also part of the education field.

Those who decide they want to teach will need to consider what age groups they want to work with and what subjects they’d like to instruct. Preschool teachers work with children ages 3 to 5, while elementary school teachers concentrate on students in kindergarten through grade 5. While some elementary school teachers may concentrate on teaching some specific subjects, such as math or language arts, most individuals who teach preschool and elementary school children teach several different subjects each day. These options may appeal to those with a wide range of interests. Others may want to exclusively focus on specific subjects and will subsequently choose to teach middle school, high school or postsecondary school classes.


The field of business includes a wide range of career options. Cost estimators prepare budget projections for specific jobs. If a company is bidding to build a hospital, for example, a cost estimator will evaluate how much time different staff need to perform all related tasks and how much the materials will cost. Logisticians help companies figure out the best way to get products from point A to point B. Management analysts are professionals who help determine how a company can be more efficient. Their goal is to come up with ways to help staff complete tasks in less time, or to minimize the costs.

Other business professionals include human resources managers and training specialists.

Architecture and Engineering

If you’re interested in a career that involves building but do not wish to be a carpenter or construction worker, you may want to consider architecture and engineering. The professionals who work in this field are highly skilled designers who produce plans for things like buildings, medical equipment, engines and bridges.

While a biomedical engineer may concentrate on constructing a machine that can gather or process medical information, agricultural engineers help figure out the best way to produce healthy crops. They may also concentrate on how to safely ship food products. Chemical engineers may produce cleaning products or develop protocols to safely manufacture products using specific chemicals. Other careers in this field include mechanical engineers, environmental engineers, marine engineers and naval architects.

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