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Making the Right Choice When it Comes to Your Major

September 21, 2018

You glance at the sign of your carefully chosen college and smile before heading into your dorm that you will call home for the duration of the semester. You sit down, drop your bags and lay back on the bed, excited to see how your first year of college will turn out.

Now, fast forward to the end of the semester where you've suddenly woken up in a cold sweat because you realized that you've declared the wrong major and you actually don't really want to teach small children in a classroom. But what do you do? You've thought that this is what you've wanted to do your whole life only to realize it’s not really the career for you. But, what else is out there? What other careers would suit you better?

This may have been you at some point or this may even be you right now, but no worries, many others have also struggled with this very same question. And it's an important question too because the major you choose will affect your career for, potentially, the rest of your life.

In 2017, out of 1,550 undergraduate students at the Idaho State University College of Business, 8 percent changed their major within the first semester. That seems crazy but in reality that’s actually pretty normal. But at schools like ISU, there are many resources to help students find the career that best fits them, so there is less struggle when it comes to choosing. For Idaho State students, the Career Center is one of the best resources available for this particular problem. Here, students can take a variety of career and personality assessment quizzes to better understand themselves and the wide array of job opportunities for their personality type and interests.

A lot of careers are based around what types of skills you already have or are interested in learning, they are also based around your personality facets. A popular way of narrowing your personality down is through the Myers-Briggs personality test. If you haven’t heard of it already, this test narrows your personality attributes down to a defined category and summarizes who you are in a nutshell. Sariah Millis, professor at the ISU College of Business, says that in her beginning Professional Development course students will do a value of career sorting exercise to help narrow down what values are most to least important to them. Millis explains that this is a good method for starting at the source to evaluate your ideal career. Students in Millis’s classes even have the chance to take a quiz called “Pathway” which consists of four tests that simultaneously get a look at your personality but also what qualities you’ve got for the workplace. At the end of the test, participants are shown a list of jobs and what qualities would be needed for each one.

Another seemingly obvious thing to note when choosing a career is whether or not you actually like the topic. John Ney, Director of Professional Development at the College of Business notes that sometimes students choose their careers based on the ease of courses, or monetary outcomes, or convenience in completion time for their programs. However, choosing a career for the sole purpose of convenience or higher pay, isn’t always the best choice. Ney advises that students select a career that is both lucrative and stable, but more importantly fulfilling and enjoyable to you. This one may take a little bit of soul searching to figure out what exactly makes you happy, especially when you haven’t dipped into every field out there.

A great way to do this is to test out some elective courses (that may even go toward your major or general studies credits) that give you a taste of the different fields you are interested in. For example, various programs at Idaho State offer introductory courses that give students a tour of the careers and topics in each field. In the College of Business, students are required to take a World of Business courses which gives an introduction to all things business. Many undeclared business students benefit greatly from this course as they have a chance to try out accounting, finance, marketing, management, and more before actually deciding which area of business is right for them. And, if that’s not enough, each business major takes the same introductory business core courses in all the areas of business. So, students can still keep testing out each area of business before choosing a major, but without wasting time because each of these courses is required for any business major.

Some other courses at Idaho State that give students an introduction to other fields include, PSYCH 2201 (Careers in Psychology) POLS 1101 (Intro to US Government), and COUN 1150 (Career and Life Planning), among many others. In Intro to US Government, for example, students learn about the Constitution and talk about what shaped our current government today. If you have an interest in political science, economics, or law this course may be a fascinating start to your studies in these areas. The Careers in Psychology course explores careers within the psychology sphere and Career and Life Planning helps you write a resume, take quizzes to find the best career match for you, analyze jobs outlooks, and more.  

In addition to exploring these courses and actually getting a more in-depth look into these fields, students are encouraged to speak with career counselors like at ISU’s Career Center or the College of Business’s Professional Development program.

Selecting your major is a choice with a ton of pressure attached to it. First of all, you will have to dedicate at least four years (or more) of your life studying and becoming an expert in this area. And, second of all, the major you choose will affect the jobs you have for the rest of your life. Does that make you feel any better? Probably not. But, that’s why colleges and universities have so many resources to help ease the pressure of this huge decision. By taking advantage of programs like the Professional Development program in the College of Business at ISU or the Career Center, you will have a better chance of finding a major and ultimately a career that fits best with you so that you feel good, motivated and inspired each time you go to class and as you study. Taking every opportunity you can to ensure that you have made the right major and career choice will give you piece of mind and it won’t be such a hard decision after all.