Majors & Careers
When it’s time to start making solid decisions about applying to college, many students have questions about how to choose a major and how a major may lead to a career.
- What is a Major?
- Explore Careers
- Explore STEM
What is a Major?
A major is the specific subject you choose to study. It often relates to the career you plan to pursue.
Depending on the college, you might be able to major in two fields, have a major and a minor, or even create your own major.
Some majors train you for a specific job, but most prepare you for a range of careers. A college major is not the same as choosing your job.
How to Choose a Major?
Explore your interests and various fields to discover what excites you. Ask questions.
Major in something that interests you. You'll do better in class and stay motivated throughout college and your career.
Assess your skills and strengths. What skills do you have? In which classes do you perform best? What are your strengths?
Think about your values. Do you like to work alone or with others? Do you like high pressure or little pressure? Do you want to help others? Is making a difference in society important to you?
Explore careers based on what you have discovered about yourself. There are many free online career search websites to check out. Visit New York's Career Zone and the United States Department of Labor to learn more about the daily tasks, estimated salaries, the skills and level of higher education needed for those careers.
Most colleges have a career development office where you can get FREE advice and resources to help you explore and decide on a career and major.
When to Choose a Major?
If you don't know what you want to major in, you have time. Take different classes, and see what excites you.
Some programs require you to declare a major when you apply, but many four-year colleges don't ask you to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year. If you are attending a 2-year college, you may want to declare your major right away.
If you have decided to go in the direction of a program such as premed or prelaw, you will still need to decide on a major.
Can I Change my Major?If you aren't sure what you want to do, don't worry. Many freshmen haven't chosen a major or career. And many students change their major at least once during their college years. College gives you the chance to learn more about many fields and find something you love to do.
The only way to know if a career is right for you is to learn as much about it as possible.
Do some research and find out:
- What type of degree do you need?
- What majors will prepare you for this career?
- Are there any high school classes you can take now that relate to this career?
- Will you need ongoing training or education?
- What's the average salary of this career?
- What's the outlook for this career?
- What are the daily responsibilities of the job?
- What are the working conditions of the job? Will you be working alone or as part of a team?
You can even give your career ideas a test drive. How?
- Enroll in a class of interest
- Search for internships
- Look for a part-time job that will build your skills
- Join clubs that relate to the field
- Talk to others in the field
Check out these websites to explore careers:
What is STEM?STEM encompasses a number of careers in the fields of
These are careers that create, discover or apply new ways to make life better for everyone in your community, your state, your nation and the world.
People attracted to STEM are
Investigative - Interested in finding out, analyzing and exploring
Realistic - Interested in solving problems
Organized - Interested in processing and record-keeping
Creative - Interested in creating new things and “thinking out of the box”
Why should I consider a STEM career?
STEM careers are in high demand
Earn good pay
Learn new things
Create new technologies
Become a valuable asset to your community
Surprising occupations involving STEM
Forensic technician in a police department (help solve crimes)
Food chemist (create new types of foods)
Ethical hacker (detect flaws in computer systems)
UX (user experience) designer (make websites easier to use)
Construction site manager (build things better and more efficiently)
Urban park forester (manage public and private forested lands and parks for economic, recreational, and conservation purposes)
Sonographer (help doctors diagnose diseases and injuries using ultrasound technology)
Veterinary technician (help keep pets healthy at a clinic or help scientists do research in a lab)
Biomedical engineer (develop cutting-edge technologies for health care products including artificial organs, instruments, prosthetics and care delivery systems)
STEM careers pay!
|Occupation Annual Median Wages*|
|Architectural and Civil Drafters||$52,020|
|Biochemists and Biophysicists||$78,030|
|Civil Engineering Technicians||$56,450|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$83,740|
|Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health||$63,880|
|Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists||73,890|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||$79,790|
|Software Developers, Systems Software||$95,700|
*Half the workers were paid above and half were paid below this value
Source: New York State Department of Labor
Get Started in STEM
Take classes in science, technology, engineering, and math
Join math and science clubs and participate in activities that build your knowledge of STEM
Participate in STEM-based summer camps in your local community
Take advantage of internship opportunities in high school and college
- Explore careers that interest you at