Picking a major is a… major decision! Need some help? Our advice is to start with the end in mind. We don’t mean what you want to do in college. Instead, think about what you want to do after college.
That can seem like a difficult place to start, especially since careers paths aren’t straight lines with final destinations. However, it’s important to gain a general idea of what you’d like to do before figuring out what type of education you’ll need.
This will require a bit of research and soul-searching, so grab some paper and get ready to answer some questions!
First, let’s consider the skills and competencies you already have.
1. Who are you?
Knowing your gifts, talents, likes, dislikes, goals and aspirations is the first step. That’ll make it easier to match your capabilities with the opportunities and needs of society. The point isn’t to decide your future. It’s to start gaining momentum in a direction you’re confident in.
Write down your answers to the following questions:
- What activities and subjects are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?
Examples: baseball, volunteering with children, organizing the spice cabinet. Identifying your strengths will help guide you toward a career that you’ll look forward to every day.
- What activities and subjects are you bad at? What do you not enjoy?
Examples: talking on the phone, Algebra, being indoors. Identifying your weaknesses is just as helpful as identifying strengths. This will help you understand what kind of jobs aren’t for you.
- What projects have you completed that make you proud?
Examples: I built a model airplane, created a social media campaign, canvassed for an environmental cause. This will help you identify what kind of jobs you find fulfilling.
- How do you like to spend your free time?
Examples: playing video games, traveling, exploring the outdoors. This will help you determine your job preferences and desired lifestyle.
2. What are your skills and preferences?
Now, let’s look at all the answers you’ve provided so far. Try to identify the underlying skills, preferences and personality traits that connect your answers. Really stretch here—look for commonalities. This will help you identify employable skills and your work style.
Example: Someone who listed “blogging” under their likes and “Physics” under their dislikes, might find the following commonalities:
My skills: Writing, communication, storytelling
My preferences: Creative projects, things that don’t require math or science
Now it’s your turn! Create two columns labeled skills and preferences and write down yours.
3. What do you want?
Now that you understand a little more about yourself, your skills and your preferences, let’s think about what you’d like in return. We don’t mean just a paycheck. Job benefits extend beyond compensation. Some of the more important job benefits are found in the work itself or even in what that job allows you to do outside of work.
Think about the kind of life you want to lead and let that guide you toward a career that will support those unique aims—either directly or indirectly.
Answer the following questions:
- What are some of your personal goals?
Do you want to climb Mount Everest? Direct a movie? Climb the corporate ladder? Change lives through social work? Write it down!
- Is there anything you want to improve in the world?
Working isn’t just about earning a living. It’s about giving back and being a positive influence on society. What positive influences do you feel the world needs?
- What is your ideal lifestyle and salary?
Do you want to live on the beach in California? Do you want to work from home, retire early? What does “the good life” mean to you?
4. What are your top 5 careers?
Now it’s time to combine the “skills and preferences” lists you made with your notes on goals and lifestyle to find some actual professions that are perfect for you.
Warning: This will take a little research! Here’s how to get started:
- Check out job listings.
The internet is your friend here. Check out some job listing websites and search for the skills you listed earlier. If you’re having a tough time coming up with ideas, don’t feel dumb Googling things like “active professions” or “jobs that work with kids.”
- Research different jobs in the same field.
If you know you’re interested in journalism, that doesn’t mean you have to become the next Lois Lane. Lots of people (with lots of different skill sets) work in journalism—writers, reporters, editors, freelancers, marketers, etc. Keep your mind open and see what’s really out there!
- Check out career salaries.
Every career advances. As you gain more experience, your compensation will rise too. So, when comparing careers to your “ideal salary,” don’t just look at the starting salaries. Think about the future of that career too.
Now, based on your research, make a list of your top 5 dream careers!
- Video Production
- Video and Graphics Editor
- Graphic Designer
- Multimedia Specialist
- Content Strategist
5. Which college majors apply to your career choices?
Now that you understand where you want to head after college, choosing a major is as simple as researching the career choices you picked and doing a bit more digging to find out their educational requirements.
For each of the five careers you listed, answer the following questions:
- Does this career field require a degree or other credential? If so, what kind?
- Is an associate degree enough to get started? Will you need a bachelor’s? A master’s? Or can you get started just by earning a certification?
- Does this career require a specific major? What majors do industry professionals recommend?
- Which of these majors most excites you, fits with your interests or aligns with your personal goals?
- Can you find an internship or mentor to make sure you really like this field?
Congratulations—You did it!
You’ve successfully narrowed your college options from “I don’t know—anything, I guess” to just a few highly-specific target majors that are guaranteed to get you started in the right direction.
Now, do college your way.
Ready to find out more about your final major picks and craft the perfect college experience for that major? We can help!
At Accelerated Pathways, we empower you get the degree you want, from the school you want, at the speed you want… all without going into debt. Our students are free from the limitations of traditional college—no classrooms, set schedules or overpriced textbooks!
No matter what career or major you’re interested in, you can do it faster—and cheaper—by knocking out college credit with Accelerated Pathways.