Guide to College Majors

Choosing where to attend college is a big decision. But even if you’ve had your sights set on attending your dream school since you were a kid, what will you study there? Some majors, like business, offer courses on a broad range of related topics, while others, like mechanical engineering, present a more specialized track. Deciding what to major in can be overwhelming, but learning about the variety of majors available, coupled with understanding your own strengths, interests and goals, can help you decide which one is right for you.

This guide presents information about some common college majors, the pay associated with those majors and what to expect if you find yourself wanting to change your major.

Understanding College Majors

A college major is a focused area of study. While many undergraduate students must meet general education requirements like taking an English composition or a world history class, the courses associated with a major provide a deeper dive into a subject or specialty area, usually to prepare students for careers in that field.

When considering potential college majors, students should think about the following factors:

  • Interests and passions. What do you love and care about? How do you spend your free time? Can you picture yourself still caring about those things throughout your college and professional careers?
  • Aptitudes and strengths. What are you good at? Are you an excellent problem solver (in complex situations or when doing math homework)? Do you have a knack for writing or public speaking? Consider how your strengths might benefit you in a variety of careers. At the same time, be aware of your weaknesses. If you faint at the sight of blood, the medical field might not be the right fit for you, for example.
  • Career goals and prospects. What do you want to accomplish in your professional career, and how might a college degree help you achieve that? Do your goals align with the demands of the job market? What skills might you need to obtain and which topics might you need to study to reach your goals?
  • Flexibility and exploration. Do you want to define your own path and figure out what interests you most throughout your college journey, or do you have more rigid or focused career goals?

Exploring Common College Majors


STEM majors

The science, technology, engineering and math – collectively known as STEM – fields present a wide variety of in-demand and potentially high-paying jobs. Students with an aptitude and interest for math and science might consider one of these majors, which include:

  • Computer Science.
  • Engineering.
  • Biology.
  • Mathematics.
  • Physics.

Many STEM subject areas can be subdivided into more focused areas of study, such as mechanical engineering or microbiology, for example.

Social sciences and humanities majors

Chances are, you’ll take some introductory courses for social sciences and humanities regardless of your major. But students who choose to major in one of these subject areas go deeper, on their way toward becoming experts in their field. Social sciences and humanities majors include:

  • Psychology.
  • Sociology.
  • Political Science.
  • English Literature.
  • History.

Business and economics majors

If you declare a business major, you’ll be in good company on your campus. Business is one of the most common undergraduate majors, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. While some majors in this field, like accounting, are more tailored toward a specific career, others, like a general business degree, can provide a broader scope of the subject area. Business and economics majors include:

  • Accounting.
  • Finance.
  • Marketing.
  • International Business.
  • Economics.

Arts and communication majors

Arts and communication majors likely won’t receive paychecks as large as those their peers in some science or business roles get, but they use their skills to tell stories and convey messages, whether for education or entertainment. Some popular majors for students who want to hone their arts and communication skills include:

  • Fine Arts.
  • Graphic Design.
  • Film and Media Studies.
  • Journalism.
  • Communication Studies.

Health and medical majors

Jobs in the health care field are always in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs including physical therapist, registered nurse and pharmacist are projected to grow by at least an average rate by 2032. While some roles in this field can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree, others require further schooling. And for students who hope to be accepted into medical school, majoring in a related field for their undergraduate education can lay a firm foundation for the rest of their studies. Health and medical majors include:

  • Nursing.
  • Premedical Studies.
  • Pharmacy.
  • Physical Therapy.
  • Public Health.