Published Aug. 11, 2020
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.
Illustration from Icons8
Not knowing what to major in 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.
Here are some ways to ensure you’re making the decision that’s right for finding your path.
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.
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, remember that you aren’t imprisoned by your choices later on. Employers are ultimately looking for potential hirees 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 learnt onboard complex or time-consuming projects.
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 grads make up a large chunk of hirees for online tech companies from a non-technical field. Some attractive transferable skills for employers include data handling and statistical analysis, which can be applied to careers like IT, finance and marketing.
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.
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 as an asset to jobs in cyber security or within the broader field of web design.
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 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.
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 are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Campbell Interest Inventory.
Unfortunately, career aptitude tests typically come at a cost but there are several free online alternatives that 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 but 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.
Still don’t know what to major in? Consider working with a mentor. With MentorCruise, you have access to an extensive catalogue 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.
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 make use of 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 advice 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 personalised guidance.
Sometimes it’s best to seek more specialised help and admit it might be time to look outside of your school’s standard guidance counselling.
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 personalised 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 it be through travelling 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.