Exploring Majors & Careers
If you are undecided about your major, you are not alone. About a third of students begin college without having chosen a major, and of those who do begin college with a declared major, 60-70% change it at least once before they graduate. You are encouraged to spend your first few terms, especially if you are a freshman, learning more about yourself and exploring different academic options.
Selecting a major is a process which:
- begins with self-assessment: identifying and analyzing one's personality, skills, interests, and values
- proceeds to exploration of majors and careers: taking courses in interest areas, researching options for careers
- concludes with decision-making: what is a "good fit" - declaring a major
An important first step is to know your skills, interests, and values. There are many ways to do this:
- Take a career assessment. Both the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Strong Interest Inventory (SII) are administered on a regular basis by our office and and are valuable tools in the self-assessment stage. Check out our calendar for a current schedule. ACS staff can also help you understand the meaning of these tests in selecting a major or career.
- Complete activities on the Major Exploration Worksheet and bring it to with you to an advising or career counseling appointment. This can help your adviser/counselor understand you better and allows for more focused conversation.
- Take a career exploration class. UNST 195, Career Exploration, is a five-week, one-credit hour course designed to help students choose majors and careers.
Exploring your options can happen in a variety of ways. Try any of the following:
- Know your options for majors. PSU offers more than a hundred different programs. Review the list of PSU majors, minors, and certificates and make a list of the top 5-10 that interest you most.
- Take introductory courses in the academic areas that interest you. This is one of the best ways to explore a potential major. A list of exploratory/introductory courses has been compiled to assist you. Enrolling in these courses also provides an opportunity to talk with faculty about the particular field of study. If you decide after taking a course that this major is not for you, the course will still apply towards your degree, whether it fulfills a specific requirement (e.g., BA or BS) or as an elective. An academic adviser can help you better understand the applicability of your courses.
- Test out different career fields. Observing the day-to-day operations can help you discern whether a field is a good fit. Do job shadows or look for part-time jobs or internships in the career fields that are of interest. Career counselors and advisers can help you find these opportunities.
An informed decision will help you to feel more confident about your choice. There is no "right" major, but there is a major that complements your skills, values, and interests.
- Do your research. Talk to students and faculty in the majors you are considering. What to they like/not like about it?
- Learn about career opportunities. Realize that most career fields do not require a specific major. Although there are exceptions (e.g. accounting, mechanical engineering), for most fields the relationship between your major and your career is not as direct. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on the connection between major and careers.
- Evaluate the pros and cons with an adviser. Is time-to-degree a factor for you? Does the major require courses that are challenging for you?
- Once you have made a decision, declare your major! If after a period of time you realize this is not as good of a match as you thought, re-assess and explore again!