Picking the right college is a big decision. So is choosing a college major, which often sets students up for a specific career path. College majors can be broad, such as English, or more specific, like petroleum engineering. While not all students go on to work within their major, following a certain track throughout college can offer students skills to pursue various opportunities.
Below is a list of common college majors. Students should conduct their own research to determine which school best fits their academic needs.
Examples of College Majors
- Animal Science
- Biological Sciences
- Biomedical Engineering
- Business Administration
- Cognitive Science
- Computer Engineering
- Computer Information Science
- Human Biology
- Human Resources
- Human Services
- International Business
- International Relations
- International Studies
- Management Information Systems and Services
- Mechanical Engineering
- Public Health
- Public Policy
- Public Relations
- Real Estate
- Social Work
To help students understand what goes into the college major decision, U.S. News has outlined some key concepts. In this article, you will find the following:
What Is a College Major?
A college major is a structured program of study built around a particular discipline. Its curriculum focuses on exposing students to the knowledge and skills needed to work in that area of study.
College majors range from the conventional, such as business and biology, to less common offerings like adventure education and floriculture. The number of credit hours may slightly vary by major, but students can typically expect to spend more time in their chosen field than in any other discipline.
How to Select a Major in College
Choosing a college major can be daunting, which is why students should be well-researched before making a decision. Experts advise students to explore out-of-school experiences, consider required classes, look for scholarship opportunities within their chosen discipline and take future earnings into account.
Ideally, students should also consider whether they enjoy a certain topic, given that it will likely shape things ranging from their work experiences to their employer.
Pick the Perfect Major
Which Majors Are in High Demand?
Some classic college majors, like business, have held steady over the years. Others have waxed and waned as the economy has evolved, rendering some professions less in demand while opening up opportunities in others. Software developers, for example, are now in high demand, a function of a modern economy thriving on technology.
But hot college majors aren't just in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math – often referred to as the STEM fields. Areas such as health care are also in high demand, with many job opportunities for the taking.
What Are the Highest-Paying College Majors?
Majors that lead to the highest salaries after college tend to be in the STEM fields. Engineering, in particular, dominates the list of highest-paying college majors. At the top of the list is computer engineering, which commands a median starting salary of $80,300, according to the nationally representative online salary survey by Payscale.
On the lower end of the discipline is industrial engineering, which starts at $71,200, per Payscale data. Regardless of the subset, engineers are in demand.
What Are the Lowest-Paying College Majors?
The cost of tuition may be the same at a particular school regardless of major, but that isn't always true for the return on investment. Some majors – such as animal science, anthropology, public health and graphic design – don't typically command high wages, especially right out of college.
A graduate with a degree in animal science, for example, can expect a median starting salary of $40,500, according to PayScale.
Despite significant differences between the lowest- and highest-paid graduates starting out, college tends to pay off in the long run. For example, bachelor's degree-holders earn a median of $2.8 million in their lifetime, 75% more than those with just a high school diploma, according to a 2021 report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.
How to Find the Best College for Your Major
If a student has already decided on a major, he or she may want to look at finding a college that excels in that specific discipline. Students can tap into college search tools and online rankings, but there are many other ways to try to find the right fit.
Teachers and high school counselors may have some insight on this subject, but students may also want to reach out to industry professionals, contact college career centers and look at post-college job placement.
How to Manage a Double Major
Sometimes two majors can be better than one. While a double major may require more work to earn enough credits to have a degree across two disciplines, it can be lucrative.
Experts advise students aiming for a double major to do their research early, map out a plan, take advantage of overlapping classes where possible and understand the commitment required.
Consider a STEM Major
Students looking for a job that is in demand and pays well may want to consider a STEM field. With industry growth predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and increasing starting salaries cited by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, STEM jobs tend to offer a strong return on investment and likelihood of finding a job after college. STEM majors stretch across many disciplines, with further subsets splintering off into various career paths.
While a college major can open doors to a career, undergraduate studies may just be the initial bar for some disciplines. Students should be aware of the education level needed to meet their career goals and plan accordingly. As with undergraduate options, U.S. News also ranks the Best Graduate Schools to help students plan their next step.
Pick the Perfect Major
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