Choosing a major right after surviving the hustle and bustle of high school can be quite challenging. Like millions of other high school graduates, I have been there. Constantly haunted by the questions: How do I know which major is right for me? Or, what if I don’t know what I want to do yet? The truth is, while selecting a major can be difficult, learning how others have found their dream career could help. Here are a few factors that have influenced the decisions of others – one or more might resonate with you.
Don’t miss my interviews with two bright college students (towards the end of this post) to learn how they were inspired to choose a college major.
1. Life-Changing Experiences
A number of students select their major based on a hero they encountered during their high school or college career. They learned about a civil rights icon and aspire to become as influential and make the same impact on society. Another common source of inspiration is a family health crisis. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear from students pursuing a degree in medicine or nursing that their choice stemmed from a personally impacted by a health crises in their family. They are often inspired by the remarkable efforts of a nurse or doctor and want to make a similar contribution.
2. High School Impact
Some students find their lifelong passion by taking a class in high school, often an elective course. Quite a few culinary majors, computer science majors, English Lit majors, for example, have discovered their love for their field through the success they experienced in a high school class. They fell in love fall with a subject which then sparked a deep interest in a particular field. A simple one semester class can play a big role in helping you choose a major or discover what you want to do for the rest of your life!
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3. World Problems/Crisis
In some cases, the shortcomings and injustices a student experiences in their community could drive them to pursue a particular major. For example, a student in an under-resourced community might consider pursuing a major in business or politics with a goal to change the world around him. If you are on a mission to make a positive impact in your community, it could help you overcome the challenges you’ll face in college.
Keep reading to learn how two Dallas area college students selected their majors and learn what it takes to succeed in their field.
IT Management (Major)
Pius Ukiri, a college junior at Western Governors University (WGU),majors in IT Management. He graduated with an Associates in Science degree from Richland College in Dallas, TX, and is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in IT Management.
How did Pius choose his major? “It all started with an elective class in high school,” he said. He discovered an underlying passion for business during his freshman year of college but thought a business degree was too broad for him, and computer science dealt with coding and fields that were not quite for him. According to Pius, “IT Management was the perfect combo of the two” and “it was definitely meant to be.” The college classes he has taken so far have not been too challenging, but they involve a lot of reading.
Pius had a word of caution for anyone pursuing a major in IT Management: Do not work while studying full-time. He said students might find it overwhelming and he would not recommend it unless it’s absolutely necessary. Another bit of advice he has for anyone interested in this field: “Make studies a priority since it is very easy to get comfortable and underestimate the difficulty of your courses.”
Careers in IT is ‘booming’ at the moment and students can earn fairly high salaries, Pius shared during our interview. He aspires to be an IT Manager, a position that now pays an average of $146,000 (with an MBA and about five years of experience). Asked what recommendation he had for students unsure of a major, he suggested starting out at a community college to save money. Students could finished their for the first two years of their university education and then transfer to a four-year college which will help them during this career discovery process too.
People who succeed in a profession as IT Manager will need to have strong analytical, communication and leadership skills. If you are interested in this field and already have some of these skills, IT Management might be ideal for you! If not, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to acquire these skills in college.
Dayspring Johnson is currently a college sophomore at Dallas College pursuing an Associates of Science. He has plans to follow-up with a Bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity. Although only a sophomore, he is CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ certified, and currently interns as a Cybersecurity Analyst at an Insurance Brokerage firm.
How did he choose his major? Dayspring has always had what he refers to as a “childhood curiosity” for consumer privacy stuff. He pays attention to things like the commonly overlooked ‘Terms and Agreements’ contracts of products and services. By freshman year of college, Dayspring was very sure of what major he wanted to pursue – cybersecurity. Some of the common courses you can expect to take in this field include IT Basics, Malware Analysis, Networking, and programming classes (such as C++, Python and Java).
Anyone interested in pursuing a degree in cybersecurity should consider securing an internship while in college. Dayspring noted that this can be quite challenging to do as a freshman or sophomore in college. He, however, advises spending ample time building skills and making use of the many free resources to gain experience.
The potential average salary for a Security Engineer is around $99,000 annually. New entrants to this field have the opportunity to earn as much as $250,000 annually (management positions). Although Cybersecurity demands a lot of dedication and hard work, Dayspring explained, “it eventually pays off at the end of the day.” Anyone pursuing this career will is “never out of a job.”. He advises college freshmen with an interest in this field of study to take it very seriously from their very first year in college. Participating in clubs and blogs (with people that share common interest), making a strong LinkedIn profile, obtaining certifications, and working on their skills relentlessly will allow you to stand out in the field.
Students who might find this major a perfect fit are those who have a keen interest and passion for keeping the internet safe. Security Engineers work to keep the internet secured from online criminals or the ‘bad guys’ as Dayspring calls them. He recommends students stay committed to learning and enjoy the thrill of Cybersecurity!
There are many ways to discover a college major; however, taking note of how others discovered their majors can help make the task easier. It is important to discover what you’re good at and then find a major or career that will motivate you to succeed every single day. It is about looking around (and within) to find out how you can change the world around you. No matter what major you choose, it’s very important to keep striving towards your goal. Choose a major for the right reason and any obstacles you face will feel less like a challenge and more like a calling!