Do you need to declare a major before starting college?
If you are hoping to finish college in two years with an associate degree, it is good to have a solid idea on your major before you start. That changes somewhat in a university setting since your freshman year is likely general courses that are easily transferable to count toward different majors. However, even in the university situation, different majors may require a more difficult science or math class, so having a general idea is recommended.
One thing you know for sure is that you will spend less money and start earning a living earlier if you graduate more quickly. One reason for the current trend of increasing student loan debt is that students are changing majors more frequently, resulting in more years in school. It can mean tens of thousands of dollars more in student loan debt for every extra year you spend in college. Not to mention the wages you will lose by delaying your start date.
How your major impacts your career path
There’s no doubt that choosing a major is a big decision, and one that many students agonize over. As a teenager, it’s difficult to choose a career you’ll be happy with the rest of your life. Rest assured. That isn’t really what you need to do.
A college degree opens doors. You learn to process new ideas, incorporate skills you never had and gain exposure to a much broader world. That being said, many skills are transferable from one career to another. Instead of thinking too far ahead and choosing a career for the next 40 years, consider what you think you’d enjoy for the next 10 years. After that, you’ll have many professional contacts and a better sense of what’s important to you in a career. You may choose to return to school for another degree or an employer may be willing to train you on the job if you think you want to change your career path.
There are a number of steps and tools to help you determine a career track. The first step is to consider your high school classes and which of those you enjoy. If you enjoy math, you may consider moving toward a science- or math- based major such as a chemistry or engineering. If you enjoy history and social sciences, consider a major like political science, sociology or education.
North Dakota students have RUReady.nd.gov available to complete career interest surveys that help you select a field of study. As you try to get a general idea of what you’re interested in, insights.nd.gov also can help. It offers insights into the North Dakota Workforce, including what the demand is for a specific occupation and the average salary and field of study you would need to complete for that occupation. You can also start investigating which North Dakota colleges offer each field of study on the site.
Ask the people who know you best if they have suggestions for you. Sometimes other people provide excellent insights into your strengths. They may also have contacts with whom you can visit to learn about different careers.
Your high school may offer some classes on different career tracks such as health careers to help you decide. Job shadowing allows you to watch a professional during the workday and ask questions you have about that career.
QUESTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO ASK THE PROFESSIONAL WHILE YOU JOB SHADOW
- Do you work Monday through Friday? Do you work weekends?
- What hours of the day or night do you work?
- What is the typical starting salary?
- What is the job market like?
- Do you work alone or with a group of people? How much interaction do you have with the people you work with?
- What was your major? Where did you go to school? What school(s) would you recommend? What classes would you recommend taking first?
- What changes do you predict in your profession in the next 10 years?
- What were the greatest challenges you overcame when earning your degree?
- What are the favorite things about your job? What do you dislike?
Job Service North Dakota offers North Dakota WIN (Workforce Intelligence Network) online as a source to tell you about the hottest occupations and their salaries.