How to Choose a College Major

Deciding what to study? It doesn't have to be rocket science.

Pursue the path that calls you.

As you gear up for college, one of the first things you'll think about is your major. In addition to general education courses, your major will be a significant part of your academic experience. do you pick the right one?

In This Guide:

1. Reflect through self-assessment

Choosing a college major is an important decision, and just like any decision it's worth taking time to reflect inwardly. As you review different majors, you'll want to assess your interests, strengths, and goals.

Remember: time is on your side

For most majors and at most universities, you are able to change your major during your first or second year and still graduate within four years. Some universities, such as Cal Lutheran, allow you to begin as an Undeclared Major so that you do not feel forced to decide until you are ready. But don't procrastinate too long — take steps toward learning about yourself and exploring options early in college.

2. Look at learning outcomes

When you decide to attend college, you're making an investment in your future self. As with any investment, it's important to consider what you'll get out of it. By reading student reviews, talking to current or former students, and experiencing the facilities on a campus tour, you'll want to consider the outcomes of your college major.

What makes a good major?

Exciting Course Options

Relevant Concentration Areas

Attainable Pre-Reqs

Helpful Professors

Modern Facilities

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Internships for Credit

Career Skills & Preparation

Access to Alumni


Program Learning Outcomes can help you decide

Of the many ways to evaluate the outcomes of a college major, "Program Learning Outcomes" are one of the most practical tools. These include the skills and knowledge that you are expected to acquire by the time you graduate with a college major. When choosing a major, you should explore the Program Learning Outcomes to make sure that what you will learn is aligned with your interests and goals — a "cheat sheet" for your road ahead. Does it seem like the learning outcomes give you relevant qualifications, when you compare them to descriptions for your dream job after college?

3. Review statistics...within reason

Although it's most important to consider the unique aspects of a major at each individual college, it may also be helpful to review major-related statistics, like average salary or job placement rates. However, many statistics can give an exaggerated impression (either good or bad) of a major, so be sure to think critically during your review. 

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. What is the source?
    Make sure the statistic was generated by a reliable and unbiased organization, such as the National Center for Education Statistics or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  2. How wide is the scope?
    Does the statistic pertain to all types of colleges or only certain types? Are all students accounted for or only select demographics? Is location used to narrow down results? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but these types of factors determine how statistics are generated and therefore impact how applicable they are to your individual situation.
  3. When was the data collected?
    The job market and the salary potential for different majors can change over time, so it is important to use statistics that are up-to-date.

Key statistics

Not all numbers are created equal, so you'll want to focus on specific statistics when researching college majors:

  • Starting salary: This is the average salary that graduates of a particular major earn in their first year of work.
  • Mid-career salary: This is the average salary that graduates earn after several years in their field, and it does not always correlate with starting salary.
  • Job prospects and growth: This is the outlook and projected growth in the number of related jobs for a particular major over the next decade.
  • Unemployment rate: This is the percentage of graduates of a particular major who are not currently working.
  • Satisfaction: This is the percentage of graduates of a particular major who are satisfied with their choice.

Ultimately, the most important factors to consider are your own interests, strengths, and goals. What do you want to do after college? What are you passionate about? No matter how strong the statistics are about a major, it is vital that you choose one that feels like a good fit for you.

4. Get input from people you trust

Just like an investigative reporter, it is critical that you uncover multiple perspectives of the "story" about each major. Once you have done your initial research by reviewing the information you can readily find online, the best way to move forward is to start asking questions!

Who should you ask about college majors?

 Alumni and Professionals

These are the people who have been in your shoes at one point in time. They have studied your major (or a similar subject) at your college (or a similar institution), and they can now tell the tale about what it is like out in the "real world".

 Advisors (Academic and Career)

These are the advocates on your high school or college campus who have specialized training and knowledge. Be sure to meet with them early and often to pick their brain on anything you are curious about regarding major options.

 Friends and Family

These are your closest connections. They care about you deeply, so they likely want to help. They may come in with strong opinions about what they think is best for your future, so you can use the tips on this page to help the conversation.


How can you talk about college majors with alumni and professionals?

Looking for more tips on informational interviews?
See what our Career Services office has shared about this useful method of exploring majors and careers.

5. Focus on gaining experience

There is strong research to suggest that your choice of major has less impact on your future success than your choice of field/industry and extracurricular preparation. Take some time to consider the many ways to gain meaningful experience in college, no matter your major.


Student Clubs and Organizations

Research Opportunities

Volunteer/Service Work

College Athletics

On-campus Jobs

Student Government

Study Abroad

Conferences and Professional Organizations


Cindy Lewis

Internships lead to jobs in a number of ways. You gain relevant experience, skills, and contacts who eventually become your references. According to NACE, over 50% of employers hire their interns, so an internship is like an extended interview. If you attend college near a major city (e.g., Cal Lutheran is within reach of Los Angeles County, Ventura County, and Santa Barbara County), you will have the luxury of location with internship and employment options in many industries.

Cindy Lewis
Executive Director of Career Services at Cal Lutheran

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