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How to Pick a College Major A guide for un­der­grad­u­ate, graduate, transfer, and second-career students

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Choosing a major in college plays a critical role in your career opportunities. You want to make sure you select a college major that fits your goals and helps with your plans. You also need to recognize that your personality and interests help you clarify the best option for your situation.

How To Pick A College Major

A simple way to identify the right option for your goals is taking a choosing a major quiz. A college major assessment test helps you identify the options that fit your personality and multiple interests. It also helps you clarify the best option based on your skills. You can take a college major personality quiz to narrow down your choices based on your personality type. Of course, the most famous of personality tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, but there are many free options like:

  • Life Values Self-Assessment
  • Personal Strengths Inventory
  • Personal Values Assessment
  • Simple Skills Assessment
  • Strengths and Weaknesses Aptitude Test

Since you do not want to wait until the last minute to pick a college major, it is ideal to narrow down your choices before you make a decision that will impact your long-term career goals.

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How to pick a college major is based on your personality, which allows you to stay interested in your studies. It means you are focusing on learning about interesting subjects that keep you motivated to do your best when you study. A personality quiz that focuses on choosing a major is a tool that gives you a starting point for your decision making process.

When you have narrowed down your options, you want to look into the differences for each major. Ask questions at your college to find out the details regarding the topics you must study to complete your bachelor’s degree and the specifics that apply directly to your major. Curiosity allows you to avoid majors that do not align with your career goals or your personal interests.

The final step of narrowing down the options for your own major and choosing an area of study is your plan for your career. If you have a specific goal in mind for your career, then you want to select the major that helps with your plan. For example, if you want to work in journalism, then you may benefit from an English major or a journalism major. On the other hand, if you want to work in technology, then you will want to focus on STEM courses and programming. Your college major should reflect your career goals as well as your personality and interests.

College Major Options

Art & Design
Business & Management
Computers & Technology
Criminal Justice & Legal
Education & Teaching
Liberal Arts & Humanities
Nursing & Healthcare
Psychology & Counseling
Science & Engineering
Trades & Careers

What are the Best College Majors for International Students?

International students in USA colleges face challenges that differ from their peers. As an international student, you will want to study in a field that has a high demand and a limited number of potential candidates. That allows you to benefit from your degree by finding an employer who will sponsor a work visa within the time frame set by your student visa.

When you start looking into how to apply for college in USA for international students, you will notice that a college must accept you as a student before you are granted a visa. That means you will want to make sure you follow the right strategy to gain admission into a college or university. In some cases, colleges will offer easy admission for international students based on your plans for a major. If, for instance, they have a limited number of students taking certain majors, they may encourage international students to apply and study in a specific field. Keep in mind that international students in USA colleges will still need to take appropriate SAT or ACT tests, and prove that they graduated from high school before qualifying to attend a college or university. Talking to a school counselor or academic advisor can offer a great advantage in the admissions process.

To apply in the US:

  • Plan well ahead of time – at least 12-18 months
  • Take the appropriate standardized tests (SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, etc)
  • Apply for student visa
  • Line up housing

International students statistics suggest that the best academic fields for students from abroad to focus on are STEM topics. Engineering and computer sciences are a growing field and attract international students because the degree programs have a high rate of hiring after graduation. Business and management are also popular majors for international students. A degree in business and management allows students to learn valuable skills that apply to career paths in the United States as well as other countries.

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What Are the Best College Majors for Return on Investment?

Although your personality and interests play a role in your decision about your major, you also want to look for degree programs that have a high return on your investment. The highest paying majors ensure that your graduate or bachelor’s degree is worth the cost by repaying the full cost of your college and then allowing you to start building up your net worth within a few years.

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Majors that will continue to maintain a high demand over time include:

  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Information Technology
  • Mathematics

The most in-demand majors fall into STEM fields and the humanities.


Mathematics degrees allow college students to take on a career in operations research or accounts payable, as well as accounting and related academic fields. An operations research analysis manager makes an average salary of roughly $146,000 per year, which is a good return on your investment. If you start out as an actuary, then you can expect future earnings to hit roughly around $70,000 per year with a mathematics degree.


For students who are not interested in mathematics fields, you can focus on information technology and computer science majors. Technology is an industry with a wide array of career opportunities for students. Information technology or computer science majors allow students to take on a role as a web application developer or an information technology manager. The role of a web application developer earns an average salary of roughly $80,000 per year. If you decide to work in information technology as a manager, then you can earn an average salary of roughly $107,000 per year.


Engineering is another field that allows students to obtain a high return on their investment in college. The highest paying majors in engineering start out with an average salary of roughly $60,000 per year, and students can earn around $100,000 per year after a few years of experience. You can study chemical engineering, aerospace engineering, or general engineering studies to get started in your career.


If your interests do not align with STEM fields, then you can focus on humanities with a high return on investment. A degree in human resources will allow you to take on a role as a human resources manager or a compensation and benefits manager. A human resources manager earns an average income of roughly $87,000 per year. If you decide to pursue a role in compensation and benefits, then you can earn roughly $95,000 per year as a manager.

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Obtaining a degree with a high return on your investment starts with clarifying your personal interests. You can then evaluate the return on your investment for different roles that apply to your degree. In general, STEM degrees have a high return on investment and high demand for new graduates; however, you still have options in other fields that allow you to make a return on your investment in college.

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What College Majors Have the Happiest Graduates?

Another important topic is college experience. When you are looking into the happiest college students, you may want to evaluate the popular majors and program offerings for students in college. The top 25 happiest colleges offer students the most useful majors for their future goals and allow students to participate in interesting activities to advance their college experience. Students may also rank their happiness levels at school as part of the evaluation.

While the happiest students give an indication of the school’s majors and faculty, alumni of the school also give an indication of the best options for new students. The career paths with the highest satisfaction rates focus on three main categories: the feeling that their work is meaningful, a reasonable salary, and opportunities for promotions within their field.


The best things to go to school for depends on your interests and goals; however, certain careers give students greater satisfaction in their work when they graduate. Nursing is a career path that results in happiness in a student’s work. A key reason for the high rate of satisfaction among nurses is the feeling that they are doing meaningful work. They are helping others and focus on the needs of their patients. When you factor in career opportunities and long-term expectations, nurses also have stable work that adds to their satisfaction. The average income for a nurse after completing his or her degree is roughly $54,000 per year. After gaining experience, nurses earn an average of $70,000 per year. Specialized nurses may earn more due to their areas of expertise and extra training.


Business is a great field for students looking for undergraduate and advanced degrees, generally speaking. Business majors also have a high rate of happiness when they enter the workforce. Since business and entrepreneurship majors focus on building and maintaining a company, it allows students to pursue a career as a business owner. The salary and income of a business owner varies widely based on the company, the products a business sells, and the success level of the business. Business owners are among the happiest professionals due to their freedom to make decisions and focus on their plans.

The downside of working as a business owner is that you are taking the risk of starting a business and you can end up working very long hours to maintain your company. Despite the long hours, variable income, and the risk involved in building a business, it is a career path that offers flexibility and freedom to pursue your personal goals. This results in a high level of happiness.

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What Are the Best Colleges and College Majors for Transfer Students?

When you have completed a portion of your degree, you may ask a simple question: should I transfer colleges? The answer is that it depends on your situation and your goals. The best colleges to transfer to differ based on the major you choose and the credits you already earned through your efforts at a different college or university.

Choosing a College

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The first consideration for your degree is to look into transfer friendly colleges. You want to look for colleges and universities that are friendly to transfer students and encourage you to complete your degree. Transferring from community college to university after one year will require students to look into what do universities look for in a transfer student.

You will need to give the school a copy of your transcripts and you will need to meet or exceed their standards for acceptance. Since each college has different important factors they consider when evaluating their students, specific advice for each college or university will make it easier to get accepted into the program.

  • Articulation Agreements: Does the university have an explicit agreement with the community college
  • Cap on Transfer Credits: Some universities will take as much as 60 or 90 transfer credits; some will take only 30-45
  • Credit for Work Experience: Some universities will offer credit for years of relevant work experience in the same area as your major – but not unrelated work
  • Credit for Military Service: Military-friendly universities will offer credits for military service and courses taken while on active duty

Choosing a Major

When you are selecting a major for your college degree, focus on programs that fit your plans for your career and that the college focuses on when advertising to students. Colleges want to attract students to different programs and majors. Depending on your preferences for your career, you can focus on colleges that accept transfer students and are looking for students for specific fields of study.

Keep in mind that colleges may provide information about the fields of study that are highly selective. A highly selective field means you will need to compete with others for a spot at the college. The majors that the college identifies as highly selective will likely have a high rate of competition and very high standards for new transfer students. Pay particular attention to the details, since it will help you identify majors to avoid when transferring into the college or university.

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What Are the Best College Majors for a Second Career?

When you’re looking for the best midlife career changes and you plan to go back to school for a graduate or professional degree, you want to focus on the best majors for your goals. If you are looking for career change ideas, you want to evaluate your current education level and your experience before you return to school for a new degree. The best career changes focus on your interests and uses your experience to enhance your future career opportunities.

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A career change with no degree is a difficult situation because you have limited options for your goals. By returning to college for a degree, you can find career change ideas that allow you to move into more lucrative or interesting jobs. It can be tricky to find the best career change jobs; however, many individuals find that moving into lucrative and interesting academic fields may offer new potential career opportunities that help you regain your energy and enthusiasm for your work.

Information Technology

When it comes to easy career changes that pay well, you want to consider information technology fields. Information technology is a growing field that offers a myriad of opportunities for your long-term goals. When it comes to second career jobs in demand with employers, you will find that technology is a good option for your plans.

Business Administration and Management

Easy career changes that pay well when you have corporate or managerial experience may focus on business administration degree path. A degree in business administration teaches you the skills to handle the organizational details of a business. Since the major focuses on developing your leadership skills, it also prepares you to take on a management or leadership role within a company.

Alternatively, you can focus on business management and develop skills that work directly within the context of a company’s management goals. The management degree focuses on the specific skills you need to manage company employees and improve efficiency. It is a specific area of leadership and offers opportunities to move into a lucrative career. Additionally, this is a great focus for professionals looking to graduate school and an advanced degree. A Master’s of Business Administration degree is a great choice for any undergraduate major. This master’s degree allows students to level up into management roles and widen their job prospects. Some graduate students might even choose to double major with business management and another specialization to increase their competitive advantage.

Whatever you choose, remember to take some intentional time researching the best options for your future goals. Good luck pursuing your dream job!

Related Resources:

Types of College Degrees – The Ultimate Guide
What is an Accelerated Degree Program?

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