Don't know what to major in? Here are some tips and ideas to find your path.

Feb. 5, 2021

Don’t know what to major in? The tug-of-war between doing what you love vs. what gets you paid probably sits at the top of your list of things to consider.

Don't know what to major in? Here are some tips and ideas to find your path.

Illustration from Icons8

This can be a pretty destabilizing experience for students who have spent their whole academic career on a mapped-out road that leads to a cliff edge.

At MentorCruise, a mentorship platform, our career experts understand that going college to learn a valuable skill set and earning a degree will unlock new career opportunities for you and boost your earning potential. This guide will help many students choose the right course to major in according to their dreams and career aspirations.

Part of successfully reaching your destination – or attaining your career goals – is having a clear path to follow. And choosing what to major in is something critical - you wouldn’t want to blunder with. In this article, we’ve put together some tips and ideas to guide you in making the decision that’s right for finding your path. You’ll learn;

  • How to play on your strengths and monetize your talents without sacrificing passion.
  • That your career will be a winding road.
  • Mistakes students make when choosing a major.
  • Paths to a major when you don’t know what to do.

Play on your strengths and monetize your talents without sacrificing the passion

You may want to target your strengths within your field of interest. A constant fascination of mine throughout my childhood and high school career was filmmaking, and I took the plunge of choosing to major in film.

I worked well in dynamic, fast-paced environments.

Because of my strong personality and the fact that I like to see things get done, I was also a good candidate for leading a project to completion. I was also conscious of my storytelling capabilities - notably my ability to illustrate characters, switch voices and literary registers. These elements have contributed to my work now as a content writer.

Your career will be a winding road

Keep in mind that your career pathway is a winding road. Take whatever major you choose and spin it into something marketable to employers. You’re bound to find someone who needs what you can offer. I mainly worked on production management but highlighting these writing skills is what later landed me gigs in script supervision and copywriting after finishing my degree.

If you don’t know what to major in, in school, remember that you aren’t imprisoned by your choices later on. Employers are ultimately looking for potential hires who can demonstrate an ability to carry their skillset into real-world scenarios.

There are no set rules for what majors to take to insert yourself into the tech industry. Want to get into tech but not exactly making a beeline for data science? With all fields impacted by technological development, majoring in business or finance, or even fashion design could get your foot in the door.

Your genuine interest in a specific field communicates everything an employer needs to know, just as long as you can sell your potential as a team player capable of devoting what you have learned onboard complex or time-consuming projects.

Whatever the case, you need to keep in mind that your career will be a winding road but do not let this weigh you down. Below are some mistakes that students make when choosing a major. Learn to evade these mistakes, and you’re much more likely to end up content with where the major you pick takes you.

Mistakes students make when choosing a major.

Choosing for income

Because going to college is costly. It’s beneficial to frame it as a business decision. You’re trading your time, money, and approximately 4 years’ possible full-time work pays in exchange for a better career opportunity in the future.

This is a perfect mindset to take when you’re assessing the possible cost of your schooling (enrolling into a cheaper college vs. attending a more expensive one, for example). It would be a pretty poor decision to adopt this mindset as your single tool for deciding on a major.

Research has shown that a lack of money can make you unhappy, but having money doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be happy. The world isn’t exclusively about money, so the major you pick shouldn’t be about it either. Consider majoring in something marketable (or ensuring that you make yourself marketable out of class), but understand that your career will take up 40 hours of your time every week once you begin working. Make sure these hours aren’t dedicated to something you do solely for money. Find something you’re fulfilled doing.

Following Your Friends

You are a person with different interests, levels of drive and motivation, and diverse relationship networks. And as time goes by– particularly in college’s opportunity-rich environment – these differences will become even more pronounced. This means you may have to drift from some friends and make new ones eventually.

Therefore, your friends’ decision to choose a major shouldn’t have any influence on you. Having friends as classmates is great, but you need to be your own person. Carefully assess your values and interests, and make your own decision based on them.

Permit yourself to seek your interests, even if it means you’ll have to meet new people or takes you outside of your comfort zone – it will be worth it.

Trying to find your passion

“Try to find your passion” is that one terrible piece of advice that people will throw at you from all directions as you prepare to choose a major for college.

Regardless, you have to resist the paths of former generations – paths that center on hard work and job stability – seeking “fulfilling careers with perfect work schedules,” full of exciting duties, zero boredom, intriguing conversation… in short, 100% all-the-time fun.

The “follow your passion” masses often go with that ancient quote from Confucius - “Pick a job you like, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But the problem is you really can’t just “pick a job you like.” Why? Because you don’t have adequate experience.

The truth is that - When you work hard at anything, you become great at it - When you become great at anything, you enjoy performing it more. When you love doing something, there is a big possibility you will become passionate about this thing.

So it’s mostly about hard work first. You must toil through the boring crap before you get enough experience even to begin to discern whether or not a particular line of work could be your “passion.” Passion is not something you can select at any time. It isn’t something you can choose right away.

If you hold interest in something but don’t yet believe it’s your “passion,” adhere to it anyway. Work on it, get better and observe how things turn out.

Choose a major based on your interests.

One way to look at the approach above in a more pragmatic way is to find a career you’re interested in and targeting the appropriate major that leads to it.

Here are some examples of majors that you can do:

Psychology

Psychology grads make up a large chunk of hires for online tech companies from a non-technical field. Employers’ attractive transferable skills include data handling and statistical analysis, which can be applied to careers like IT, finance, and marketing.

History

If you’ve ever considered careers in product development or marketing, studying in history is another surprising way to break into the tech industry. Like psychology, History is a leading degree for newcomers in tech as they possess marketable traits to the business and financial sectors for demonstrating extensive research and analytical skills.

Game Design

Unlike studying general graphic design, choosing to major in game design puts you at the forefront of the fast-growing games industry. In addition to game design and development, this option makes you a competitive candidate for entering the field of animation, software engineering, and VFX. You may also find yourself an asset to jobs in cybersecurity or within the broader web design field.

Communications

Essentially all about conveying information, the skill set you develop from majoring in communications can be applied to virtually every discipline. This degree gives grads an equal opportunity to break into marketing, advertising, and digital media sectors to help bridge the gap between business and consumer. PR-minded people are valuable elements of any team, and if you see yourself as a skilled communicator looking to work in technical industries, this degree might be the best starting point for you.

Take a career aptitude test

If you still don’t know what to major in, there are career assessments available for you to find your path. These quizzes analyze your personality and interests to shed light on how they may inform potential career paths. The most prevalent of these assessments is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Campbell Interest Inventory.

Unfortunately, career aptitude tests typically come at a cost, but several free online alternatives follow similar formats– my own personal favorite being CareerExplorer by Sokanu. Having taken this particular test, I can vouch for its accuracy as it directed me to careers in both the visual arts and writing. Like most assessments, you need to pay to unlock a full breakdown of your results. However, there are still plenty of resources available online that provide you with enough information for you to at least get a sense of your career potential.

Get yourself a mentor

Still don’t know what to major in? Consider working with a mentor. With MentorCruise, you have access to an extensive catalog of mentors who double as an accountability partner in your pocket. As professionals with backgrounds primarily in Tech, this option is perfect for those in search of the guidance of an experienced member from technical, design, and business fields.

You might be wondering, “How could a mentor possibly know me more than I know myself?”. By looking and learning through the lens of their experiences in the industry, MentorCruise’s 1-on-1 mentorship may be the extra push you need to unlock your full potential and gain the best advice for discovering what career pathways to take.

Whether you’ve considered tackling the ins and outs of JavaScript or dipping your toes in user experience design, MentorCruise’s catalog boasts an impressive cohort of industry veterans ready to help you maneuver through the field.

No degree? No problem.

Having a degree certainly helps. But it’s entirely possible to enter the tech industry with no formal education or with a totally unrelated degree. All it takes to be successfully self-taught in technical sectors is to use the infinite resources available to you online, which have been tried and tested by many others who made the career shift.

All you need might just be a new way of thinking or a fresh angle from an outsider’s POV. Or, if you’re not too sure about ditching higher education just yet, simply advise, on how to gain the confidence to overcome reservations you have about pursuing a particular major.

At a time when remote services have become more valuable than ever and with no limit to interactions between mentor and mentee, you’re given the flexibility of personalized guidance.

Sometimes it’s best to seek more specialized help and admit it might be time to look outside of your school’s standard guidance counseling.

Take a gap year

Looking into taking a gap year when all else fails has its benefits. Higher education comes at a steep cost. Taking a year off before committing to a major buys you the time to get a job and save money for whatever you do eventually choose to study. The chances of you finding yourself a year into a degree you don’t want will be much lower.

Use the time to find work experience or dabble in different career pathways. Take short courses that interest you. Learn something as a hobby. You might surprise yourself and finish a sound engineering course only to find yourself two years later working as a hyperbaric welder after a summer discovering a love for diving in Bali.

Having a mentor guide you through a gap year gives you the extra security you need to make sure you’re staying intentional with your time. And with MentorCruise’s flexibility and personalized service, you don’t have to choose between work and play. Stay on top of your professional goals while enriching your personal life amongst a community of mentors and mentees at the touch of a button.

Whether through traveling or merely having more time to think things through, there’s certainly room for finding inspiration. Knowing I still wanted to pursue the arts after two gap years gave me the added reassurance that I would be doing the one thing I wanted the most.

Settling on a major doesn’t have to feel like a life-long sentence. You’re guaranteed to find your path once you set aside some time to soul-search, do your research, and seek whatever guidance you need. Ultimately, your enjoyment in the subject you choose is the biggest deciding factor in whether or not you walk away satisfied with the major you declared once you’re on the stage with your cap and gown.