4 Things to Consider Before Switching College Majors

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Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

Within three years of initial enrollment, about 30 percent of undergraduates in associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs who declared a major had changed it at least once, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education. The same study found about 1 in 10 students changed college majors more than once: 10 percent of associate’s degree students and 9 percent of bachelor’s degree students.

Many current college students can relate to the desire to change-up their major. Whether you’re bored, it’s overwhelming, or it’s just not what you were expecting, it’s perfectly reasonable to graduate with a degree different from your initial major.

Changing your major for the better will decrease your stress levels and increase your motivation to excel in school. However, if you don’t consider every factor before making the switch, the results can negatively impact your career success years down the road.

So before you take the big dive into a new major, ask yourself these questions — and be honest with the answers:

  1. What are the cost and time factors that come along with changing my degree?

The degree you graduate with will dictate your future, so you need something you’ll be passionate about and happy about doing every day. Unfortunately, though, money and time are always critical factors.

When deciding on changing your major, you need to consider how many more semesters will get tacked onto your education. Depending on how far you’ve gotten into your program, this may not be a large deficit. However, if you’re switching to a focus that’s drastically different or you are in your third or fourth year, the cost could be monumental.

Weigh the risk versus the reward before making your final call:

  • Can I afford the additional costs?
  • Is staying in school for the extra time (and after my friends have graduated) something I’m really OK with?
  • Is it possible to graduate with your current degree and find career happiness?
  1. What internship opportunities exist?

For most college majors, there are no hard-and-fast rules for internships. Companies are looking beyond degrees into students’ personalities and experiences. They want to find people who have the skills and gumption to lead their companies into a bright future.

It’s essential to consider opportunities that aren’t directly in the realm of your degree. For example, a student with a major in English may have piqued an interest in marketing. Before ditching English, they could see if they can acquire an internship in a marketing department.

Once you’ve found an internship in your field of choice, open up to your newfound co-workers about any uncertainties you have. Chances are, you’ll find a few employees who have successful careers using knowledge from a degree that isn’t directly related to their job title.

  1. How competitive is the current job market and projections?

This is a tricky, but necessary question to ask yourself. Some careers and job titles are just now gaining traction, while others are slowly phasing out. It would be a huge waste of resources and discouraging if you changed your major only to find the career will ultimately be extinct within five to 10 years.

Assess where your new degree will lead you after graduation and if it will afford you greater opportunities in the long-haul. Use the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine where your career salary was and is right now. Also, dig into wages by area and occupation to see where you’d need to live to succeed in this field.

Other great options include Glassdoor’s salary index, which will help you evaluate your potential earning in your current major compared to the one you’re considering. Also, create or log into your CareerShift account, search for keywords pertaining to your college majors and see how many options are currently available.

  1. How easy will it be to shift careers with that degree in the future?

All industries and careers are susceptible to change. Whether it’s from market trends or your own change in opinion, you’ll want a degree that will help you be a shapeshifter. By this, I mean you’ll be able to change your mind down the road, easily move into a new career, and become successful in a new field without additional schooling or training.

If the degrees you’re contemplating are complimentary, consider if the change is necessary.

Recommended Reading: Pay attention to what you learn in college and take these lessons into your job search!
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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.