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Frequently Asked Questions About Majors & Careers

Do I have to select a major when I enter college?
No, many students will begin college without knowing a major. And, of those students who have chosen a major, many will change it at least once before they graduate. Your freshman year is really a time of exploration; try to take a variety of classes that seem interesting to you. As your interests become clearer to you, choosing a major will become easier and less confusing.

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How do I know which major will be good for me?
As a general rule, the best major is one that interests you and challenges you. Ideally, you will enjoy the classes in your major. There is no one "right" major. Many students are concerned about how major choice relates to potential career fields. There are a variety of resources at PSU to help you with decisions about your major and career interests.

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Should I major in a "hot" field so I know I can get a good job after I graduate?
No, it is better to major in an academic field that interests you rather than trying to make yourself adapt to a growing career field. The job market changes frequently; the "hot" fields today may not be the "hot fields" five years from now. Labor market trends do matter when making career choices, but it is better to consider trends after you have narrowed your own interest areas. In other words, don't begin your career decision-making process with what's available, begin with what you would you enjoy doing. Also, it is very difficult to predict that any degree of accuracy just what the job market will actually be like in the next five years.

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College is expensive. Can someone tell me what to major in so I know that I can get a good job after I graduate?
College is expensive and most students want some type of assurance they will be employable after graduation. A college degree does not guarantee there will be a good job waiting for you upon graduation. It does however provide you with opportunities. A bachelor's degree will open doors for you that would not otherwise be open. On average, people with college degrees usually earn more money over their lifetime and usually experience less unemployment. But your major does not determine your success in the job market. Your success is determined by you and what you put into your college education and how you build your skills both inside and outside the classroom. As an urban university, PSU can offer excellent opportunities to learn outside the classroom through community service, internships, and work experience.

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Is my major going to determine my success in the job market?
Many career fields that do not require a specific major will be open to you after completion of your bachelor's degree. Certainly there are some career fields that require specific fields of study as preparation. For example, if you want to be a mechanical engineer, you will need a degree in mechanical engineering; if you want to be an elementary teacher you will need graduate education coursework qualifying you for a license. But there are many career fields where the relationship between your major and career field is not as direct.

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Will I be able to get a good job with a degree in the liberal arts?
Yes, as stated above many careers do not require a specific field of study. Employers do not normally list jobs with a requirement for a B.A. in English or B.S. in History but rather employers seek individuals with a set of skills or experiences. Among the most common skills employers seek when hiring new graduates are: communication skills (oral, written, and computer), critical thinking skills (analyzing information, solving problems), interpersonal skills (teamwork and/or leadership experience), strong work ethic, and most importantly — an ability and commitment to lifelong learning. All majors can develop these skills. However, this is not to say that there will be a job waiting for you upon graduation. Employers also want relevant work experience to complement your academic studies. Students who have invested some time in the career decision making process and prepared themselves by gaining real world work experience can be successful in the job search process.

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What should I know before I choose a major?
You should know something about yourself. What are your skills, values, and interests? The process of choosing a major or career field begins with you, not with a list of job titles. You will do best at what you enjoy. Once you have clarified your own skills and talents, you can begin to research career fields that will fit your strengths and interests. As you begin to understand your career interests, choosing a major is much easier. Try to choose a major which will allow your individual skills and talents to flourish and, at the same time, seek experiences outside the classroom to supplement what you are learning and to prepare yourself for the world of work.

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Can anyone help me make this decision?
Yes, a variety of people at PSU can help you choose your major or career field. If you have some ideas about majors that may be of interest to you, read the course descriptions in the catalog and talk with the faculty or advisers in those academic departments. Students who have not selected a major or who are changing majors should see an advisers in Advising & Career Services for assistance. Advising & Career Services is a good place to begin exploring your skills and interests and to research career fields.

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Doesn't my choice of major now determine what I'll be doing for the next 20-30 years?
Probably not. As noted above, there are some career fields that do require a specific major. These tend to be primarily in the engineering fields, health care, education, and some areas of business. But there are many careers for which companies are willing to hire and train new college graduates. Additionally, the longer you are in the job market, the less important your major becomes. The skills you acquire as you are working will be far more important in determining your career path. In today's job market you can expect to have several career changes. You will want your college education to give you a strong base on which to build the skills which will enable you to continue to grow and learn after graduation.

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