Declaring a major
If you hope to finish college in two years with an associate degree or in four years with a bachelor’s degree, it is good to have a solid idea for your major before you start. You have a bit more flexibility with this at a college or university if you are taking or have only completed general courses since they 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.
Some colleges offer accelerated programs that allow you to earn a degree in a shorter period of time. Before enrolling in an accelerated program, visit with the admissions office to learn about the program requirements and expectations to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Choosing a major
There’s no doubt that choosing a major is a big decision, and one that many students agonize over. As a nontraditional student, you likely bring some life experience and have a better idea of what you’d like to do when compared to a recent high school graduate.
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 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 the types of classes you enjoyed in high school or the things you like most in your current job. North Dakota residents may use RUReady.nd.gov to complete career interest surveys that help you select a course of study.
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.
You may want to go for lunch with someone who is in a career field that appeals to you. Another option is to volunteer for an organization or business of interest. By entering into that career field’s day-to-day experience, you might get a better sense of the type of work you enjoy.
There are many options to consider for a career and there are likely people who are willing to give you advice, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Questions you may want to ask another professional
- 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 you like about your job? What do you dislike?
Job Service North Dakota offers Labor Market Information as a source to tell you about the hottest occupations and their salaries.