Choosing a Major? 9 Things to Consider

 June 10, 2020
How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

Student Loan Hero is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). Student Loan Hero does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero is an advertising-supported comparison service. The site features products from our partners as well as institutions which are not advertising partners. While we make an effort to include the best deals available to the general public, we make no warranty that such information represents all available products.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

choosing a major

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

Choosing a major in college requires introspection, research and planning. You’ll want to consider your interests, abilities, future employment options and earning potential, among other factors. While some students enter freshman year with a major in mind, it’s OK to take more time to make a decision. You typically have until the end of sophomore year of college to choose a major, according to the College Board (but depending on your school, the deadline may be different).

If you’re still on the fence about what to study in college, here’s our guide for how to decide on a major, including:

How to choose a major: 9 questions to help you decide
Types of majors
FAQs on college majors

How to choose a major: 9 questions to help you decide

Here are nine basic questions to get an idea of what you might want to study:

1. What are you interested in?
2. What are you good at?
3. What’s your dream job?
4. Will you need additional schooling?
5. How easy will it be to find a job after graduation?
6. How much can you expect to earn after graduation?
7. How much student loan debt should you expect?
8. What majors are available at your college?
9. Have you started any major-specific coursework?

1. What are you interested in?

Your major is the field of study you’ll be focusing on throughout your college experience, so choose one that interests you. Keep in mind that your interests can change over time — just because your childhood dream was to become a teacher, for instance, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re still interested in studying education.

If you’re struggling to figure out your interests — or if you can’t narrow it down — try using the process of elimination by looking at a list of majors and crossing out ones that don’t interest you. Or, take a personality test to get a sense of which majors may be best-suited for you — more on that below. However, it’s also important to remember that not all passions lend themselves to careers.

2. What are you good at?

Find a major that overlaps with your interests and abilities. If your plan is to go to medical school but you can’t pass organic chemistry, for example, it’s going to be difficult to earn your bachelor’s degree in pre-med, let alone excel in medical school. It’s OK — and good — to challenge yourself within reason, but choosing a major that fits with your talents and skills will help you set yourself up for success.

3. What’s your dream job?

The purpose of college is ultimately to prepare for a career, so choose a major that complements your professional goals. For instance, if you want to be a museum curator, consider majoring in art history, studio arts or anthropology. If you want to be a dietitian, consider majoring in food science, nutrition or public health.

Use the College Board’s major and career search tool to browse career options and find related majors. Once you have an idea of a career you’re interested in, get some real-world experience through job shadowing or an internship. This could give you a better sense of what your future job could entail — and if it ends up being something you’re no longer interested in, move on to a different major and career plan.

4. Will you need additional schooling?

About 30% of college graduates go on to earn a graduate degree, but some majors are more likely to lead to a graduate degree than others, according to a 2015 report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. For example, life and physical sciences, psychology and education majors are among the most likely students to earn graduate degrees, while communications, journalism, business and arts majors are among the least likely, according to the report.

Before choosing a major and career path that likely requires an advanced degree, make sure you’re prepared for that extra time and financial commitment. Use the The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook to see the education requirements for various jobs.

5. How easy will it be to find a job after graduation?

After investing tens of thousands of dollars into your college degree, you want to make sure you’re going to be able to find employment in your chosen field. The BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook also shows you the projected number of jobs and the projected growth rate for each occupation within 10 years — use that data in order to inform your decision.

6. How much can you expect to earn after graduation?

Earning a bachelor’s degree increases your lifetime earnings by an average of $1 million compared to people who only earn a high school diploma, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. But your major plays a huge role in determining your actual earning potential — the difference in lifetime earnings between the highest-paying bachelor’s degree major (petroleum engineering) and the lowest-paying major (early childhood education) is $3.4 million.

You don’t necessarily need to choose the highest-paying major, but you should have a sense of the projected income for the major you do pick. If you choose a lower-paying major, aim to limit your student debt so that you’ll be able to afford your future monthly payments.

7. How much student loan debt should you expect?

Many students have to take on college debt, but some majors tend to borrow more than others. Use the Department of Education’s College Scorecard to look up the median total debt for different degree programs at your school.

Ideally, you want a major with a high earnings-to-debt ratio, or one that allows you to earn a lot more than you owe in student loans. According to a 2019 Student Loan Hero study about student debt across college majors, STEM-related majors (science, technology, engineering and math) have the highest earnings-to-debt ratios. Majors with the lowest earnings-to-debt ratios include law, pharmacy and education — particularly because they require advanced degrees.

8. What majors are available at your college?

Not every college offers every possible major. Check your school’s website for a list of major offerings, and discuss the options with your academic advisor. Also pay attention to the cost of different majors — some schools have differential tuition, where the price of a degree varies by program of study.

If you decide you want to pursue a major that your school doesn’t offer and you’d like to explore transferring, discuss it with your academic advisor first. But in some cases, transferring might not be necessary. For instance, if you decide you want to pursue journalism but your school doesn’t offer it as a major, consider majoring in English or communications and applying for journalism internships or freelance gigs in order to gain experience.

9. Have you started any major-specific coursework?

Even if you’ve declared a major and started major-specific coursework, it’s still possible to change your major. Thirty-three percent of students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs changed majors at least once, and 9% have even changed majors two or more times, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Education in December 2017.

If you’ve already completed a lot of major-specific coursework, it could be more challenging to change majors and still graduate on time, depending on how different your new major is from your original one. For instance, switching from mathematics to statistics is likely easier than switching from math to English.

Types of majors

Colleges offer dozens — or even hundreds — of majors. According to the 2015 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, there are 15 main types of majors for undergraduates:

  • Agriculture and natural resources: Includes majors such as general agriculture, animal sciences, forestry and food science.
  • Architecture and engineering: Includes majors such as electrical, mechanical and civil engineering, as well as architecture and architectural engineering.
  • Arts: Includes majors such as fine arts, commercial art and graphic design and music, as well as visual and performing arts.
  • Biology and life sciences: Includes majors such as biology, environmental science, microbiology, ecology, zoology and neuroscience.
  • Business: Includes majors such as business management and administration, accounting, finance and hospitality management.
  • Communications and journalism: Includes journalism, communications and mass media and advertising and public relations.
  • Computers, statistics and mathematics: Includes majors such as computer science, mathematics and statistics and decision science.
  • Education: Includes majors such as elementary education, early childhood education and special needs education.
  • Health: Includes majors such as nursing, pharmaceutical sciences, treatment therapy professions and nutrition sciences.
  • Humanities and liberal arts: Includes majors such as English language and literature, history, foreign language studies and philosophy and religious studies.
  • Industrial arts, consumer services and recreation: Includes majors such as family and consumer sciences and transportation science and technologies.
  • Law and public policy: Includes criminal justice and fire protection, pre-law and legal studies, public administration, and public policy.
  • Physical sciences: Includes majors such as chemistry, physics, geology and earth science, and atmospheric sciences and meteorology.
  • Psychology and social work: Includes majors such as psychology and social work, as well as human services and community organization.
  • Social sciences: Includes majors such as economics, sociology, geography, political science and government and anthropology and archeology.

FAQs on college majors

Here are some additional questions focused more on the process of picking a major:

What are the most popular college majors?

Business management and administration, general business and accounting are the three most popular college majors for bachelor’s degree holders, according to the report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Am I able to switch college majors once I choose?

Yes. If you’ve already chosen a college major but want to change your mind, talk to your academic advisor. However, keep in mind that changing your major can make it more difficult to graduate on time, which could increase the cost of your degree.

How many college majors can you have?

Colleges often allow you to double or even triple major, and you can typically add a minor or two. However, different colleges have slightly different policies on this — check with your academic advisor to be sure.

What’s the difference between a major and minor?

A major is your primary field of study in college — many of your courses will be related to it. A minor is an area of study that you pursue in addition to your major. Typically, you only need to take a handful of courses in order to earn a minor.

Kat Tretina contributed to this report.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
2.49% – 13.85%1Undergraduate

Visit College Ave

2.70% – 11.79%2Undergraduate

Visit Earnest

3.37% – 13.72%3Undergraduate

Visit SallieMae

0.00% – 23.00%4Undergraduate

Visit Edly

3.25% – 9.69%6Undergraduate



Visit FundingU

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
  2. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
  3. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 9/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.47% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.95% APR to 12.04% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

3 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

4 Important Disclosures for Edly.

Edly Disclosures

1. Loan Example:

  • Loans from $5,000 – $20,000
  • Example: $10,000 IBR Loan with a 7% gross income payment percentage for a Senior student making $65,000 annually throughout the life of the loan.
    • Payments deferred for the first 12 months during final year of education.
    • After which, $270 Monthly payment for 12 months.
    • Then $379 Monthly payment for 44 months.
    • Followed by one final payment of $137 for a total of $20,610 paid over the life of the loan.

About this example

The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.

2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  • Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of September 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 2.23%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
  • Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
  • Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.


    Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-10.35% (3.25% – 9.69% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.24% – 10.59% (4.24% – 9.93% APR). 

    Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.90% (3.75% – 9.68% APR). Fixed interest rates range from  5.22% – 10.14% (5.22% – 9.91% APR). 

    Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.35% (3.75% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.20% – 9.59% (5.20% – 9.39% APR).

    Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.02% (3.75% -8.98% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.18% – 9.26% (5.18% – 9.22% APR). 

    Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-9.21% (3.25% – 9.21% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.96%-9.50% (3.96%-9.50% APR).

    Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.58%-11.72% (6.58% – 11.62% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.82% APR). 

    Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 5.67%-9.17% (5.67% – 8.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.08% APR).

6 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.