Choosing a Major
When To Choose A Major?
Students must select and declare a major by the time they have 60 earned BYU credit hours (excluding language exam credits). Once a student has 75 earned BYU credit hours (excluding language exam credits), they will not be allowed to change their major, unless special permission is granted. It is a good idea to have a concrete idea by your sophomore year. Selecting a major by your sophomore year should not delay your graduation or compromise your ability to enter and progress in the major of your choice (including most limited enrollment programs). Making a thorough, well-informed choice is more important than when you make the decision, however, please consider this general timeline:
- Learn about your interests values, and skills. Explore various major and career options. Work on general education requirements.
- Choose a major and work hard to do well in major prerequisites and major courses. Look for information on choosing careers and increasing employability.
- Continue to do well in major courses and investigate internships and begin related work experience, graduate school preparation if you are looking ahead to graduate study.
- Begin preparing to enter the job market. Learn how to market yourself to prospective employers or graduate programs. Construct a resume, network, and interview for information. Look for employers and interview for jobs.
How do I choose a major?
It is important to remember that choosing a major is a process and not a single event. You have most likely been involved in this process since elementary school or even before. Through the years you have become increasingly aware of things that you are good at, activities that seem to hold your interest more than others, as well as ideas or characteristics that you value. You may have recently tried to match your skills, interests, personality, and values with a university major or even a specific career path. If you have been doing any of the things mentioned here, you have probably caught a glimpse of just how seemingly difficult, confusing, and perhaps overwhelming the major/career decision making process is.
The process of choosing a major can be enhanced by increasing both self-awareness (interests, values, skills), awareness of BYU majors (what types of classes will I take, what can I do with this major after college), and occupational awareness (what does an accountant do, how much do they make, do I need a graduate degree). The advisors at the University Advisement Center are here to assist students negotiate this complex process and make a well informed decision. Please feel free to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our academic and career advisors. Early contact with an advisor can increase the likelihood of a timely graduation.
The following is a list of strategies that students can employ to help them with the major/career decision making process:
-Look at a complete list of majors offered at BYU and "mark out" those majors you know you are not interested in. Then take a look at the remaining majors and investigate them further by reviewing the Major Academic Plans (MAPS). Once you have your list narrowed down to 3 to 5 choices you may now benefit by visiting with an advisor in the College Advisement Centers where the major is located.
-Take advantage of the University Core/General Education requirements and select classes that correspond to your interests and majors you would like to investigate.
-You may wish to take a career interest inventory and review the results with an Advisor from the University Advisement Center.
-Things to Consider When Choosing a Major handout.
-Sometimes students find it easier to begin a minor. Perhaps you could begin working on two. At some point one of the minors could be turned into your major.
A major is an area of in-depth specialization that gives you competence in a specific discipline. Majors at BYU range from about 40 to 100+ credit hours. Some majors require what can be a lengthy application process while others do not. The following information will help you see the options available to you and provide a way for you to research the requirements of the majors you find interesting.
THE MAJOR MYTH:
Most college students think a corresponding academic major exists for each specific career field, and it's impossible to enter most career fields unless they choose that matching major for undergraduate study. This is not true!
The relationship of college majors to career fields varies. Obviously, some career choices dictate that you choose a specific undergraduate major. If you want to be a nurse, you must major in nursing. Engineers major in engineering. Architects major in architecture. There is no other way to be certified as a nurse, engineer, or architect. However, most career fields don't require a specific major, and people with specific majors don't have to use them in ways most commonly expected.
Most college majors don't offer specific preparation for a single type of work. Instead, they educate you and help (along with your activities, work, etc.) make up the personal package that can enable you to become anything you want to be. Majors don't limit you to one type of work. For example, if you major in nursing, history, engineering, English, or many other majors, you might nevertheless choose to become a bank manager, sales representative, career counselor, production manager, or pursue a number of other career fields. Your awareness of the relationship between career fields and college majors can play a vital part in your choice of academic major, minor, and elective courses.
Choice of a major is only one factor in determining your future job prospects and career path. Your grades, the electives you choose, and the skills you acquire through your course work often tell employers more about what you have to offer them than does your major. Furthermore, other factors such as your personal traits, your goals, your experiences (jobs, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, internships, EXTERNships), and your knowledge of a demonstrated interest in a career field play a large part in determining an employer's response to you.
GOING BEYOND YOUR MAJOR
Liberal arts majors, in particular, need to offer employers more than their orientation as a generalist and their broadly based transferrable skills. They need to develop entry-level marketability and to demonstrate career field interest. Before they can become bank presidents, they must first get some job experience within the bank. In most cases a college major alone is not sufficient for getting a job. The increased number of college graduates has produced more competition in the job market.
Most college majors don't offer specific preparation for a single type of work. Instead, they educate you and help (along with your activities, work, etc.) make up the personal package that can enable you to become anything you want to be. Majors don't limit you to one type of work. For example, if you major in nursing, history, engineering, English, or many other majors, you might nevertheless choose to become a bank manager, sales representative, career counselor, or production manager or to pursue a number of other career fields. Your awareness of the relationship between career fields and college majors can play a vital part in your choice of academic major, minor, and elective courses. Usually, the easiest way to land that first job is to have a skill that is immediately useful to the employer. There are many ways to develop such skills while you are becoming educated: summer or part time work, intern/EXTERNships, volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, elective courses, and the like. Once in the field of your choice, you, as a well-educated person, can build your own career and become a generalist, but careful planning to get your foot in the door is required. To become competitive in today's market, you need the experience and competencies related to your chosen fields.
Internships, EXTERNships, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities provide numerous opportunities for you to gain experience and develop the competencies required by your career choices. . . .[Y]ou are faced with the challenging task of discovering better ways to compete in the employment market, increasing your awareness of employment options and creating more links between your undergraduate experience and the world of work. Creating these links requires flexibility, imagination, and divergent thinking. This can further be accomplished by looking for a combination of courses and activities that will be rewarding—beginning the exploratory process early enough to test perceptions of yourself against realities, avoiding premature commitments or single-minded concentration on one area of knowledge to the exclusion of other areas. . . .
New first-year students need adequate information about all that a college has to offer, and they need to know the requirements of the different programs of study. Just reading the catalog isn't enough, and for the majority, exposure to a few subjects in high school simply won't serve to introduce or to interpret the college curriculum, which is a smorgasbord of specialization (and, often, of obscurity) by comparison. Before you can make a realistic decision about your major, you must take an informed look at all the possibilities. . . .
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Many students don't really know what they want out of life. College students always want to start a session with their advisor with the question, "What should I major in?" or "What can I do with a major in so-and-so?" But good advisors know that you can't really start with those questions. You have to put them aside until you first find out about "What do I want to be? What do I really want out of my life? What kind of person am I, so far? Where do I really want to go with myself?"
Perhaps the primary reason first-year students choose the wrong major is that so many concentrate exclusively on studying for a specific "job," as if each job required a certain major. This orientation is especially powerful among students during uncertain economic times and has been fostered by the attitudes of parents, employers, government officials, and educators. Additionally, students often see majors unwisely because they lack sufficient information about themselves, potential courses of study, jobs and the job market, and above all about how to combine their education with their career goals.
[Open Major Advisement] can help you focus on the broader career planning question of "What do I want to do?" This can lead you to explore yourself and career fields that provide opportunities for you to achieve what you want, not only from your college major, but from life as well. In attempting to answer what you want to do, you'll find that the choice of an academic major takes on new meaning. You are no longer concerned with the prescribed route of specific majors. The search becomes one of finding the best academic program for your chosen career goals.
We can compare this process to map-making. You actually begin to chart your college career, using your career goals as the basis for decisions about academic major, minor, elective courses, internships, vacation jobs, leadership commitments, and extracurricular activities. Instead of looking at an academic major as a map, view the choice of academic major as one part of the map you are making in order to reach your chosen career goal. Don't limit yourself by starting with the question "What can I do with my major?" and then after reading about what other people with the same major are doing to earn money, decide without further thought, to look for the same kind of job when you graduate. How many times have you heard someone say, "I'm majoring in English so I guess I'll teach"? If questioned further, this person might not like anything about teaching except the subject matter. Obviously, this person chose to follow someone else's map. . .
EVALUATING THE MAJORS/CAREERS YOU ARE CONSIDERING
New first-year students need adequate information about all that a college has to offer, and they need to know the requirements of the different programs of study. Just reading the catalog isn't enough, and for the majority, exposure to a few subjects in high school simply won't serve to introduce or to interpret the college curriculum, which is a smorgasbord of specialization (and, often, of obscurity) by comparison. Before you can make a realistic decision about your major, you must take an informed look at all the possibilities. . .
*Excerpts (for the use of Open Major Advising) from a handout titled "Choosing and Using Your Major" from the Career Planning and Placement Office at the University of Virginia.
Additional Major & Career Information
Information and experience are critical to making a sound decision. You acquired these through your classes, your association with new ideas and different people, and more particularly through primary and secondary information sources. Primary information sources are people who are actually in professions who share with you their experience with that profession. Secondary information comes through things you read or through people you talk to who tell you about a career or a major. The following information will help you better understand the process of information and experience gathering and to make contact with primary and secondary information sources.
As a student at Brigham Young University there are many resources available to you as you research majors and careers of interest. The following links will direct you to just a few of these resources.