Should I Switch My Major? Why & How to Make the Change

student studying

Most college students will change their major at least once. What you decide to study may place you on a lifelong career path, so it’s a decision that’s worth getting right. But recklessly changing your major can extend your graduation time, stack up tuition costs, or ultimately lead you to change it additional times. That’s why it’s critical you understand all the factors surrounding a change of major before making the switch.

Signs You’re in the Wrong Major

If you dread going to classes for your major, there’s a good chance you’re studying the wrong major. If your grades are poor despite your best efforts, it could be a sign that your skills lay elsewhere. If you’ve started down a career path and area of study only because it might pay well, or because your parents told you to, you might be making a big mistake.

Finding the right major doesn’t mean you have to find every class thrilling, or that you’ll always be an ace student. But you do want to be able to see how a class will help you in the future. Any degree prepares you to enter a dozen different industries, so sticking with your current major doesn’t necessarily mean you will be locked into a single career path. However, having the right major does ensure you’re on the path with the best options for you.

Deciding to Make the Switch

Identifying that you’re not satisfied with your current major is the first step to fixing the problem. Deciding on a new major is the next step. If the classes you’ve taken so far haven’t helped to uncover an interest in a specific career path, try talking to a student counselor. They have plenty of experience helping students like you find new studies that suit them.

Pinpointing what you don't like about your current studies can give you clues about what you do like. But nothing will help you discover an interest in something as well as hands-on experience. Getting experience can help ensure you don’t start a new major only to find it’s not a better match than your previous choice.

If you ask politely, you’ll find most professors won’t mind if you sit-in on one of their classes. This can give you a better idea of what courses are like before making the change. You should also check out our Career Planning Wizard to see if it can help point you in the right direction.

Switching Your Major During Junior Year

As many as 75% of students change their major, and they often do it two or three times. These aren’t just freshmen – about 15% of those who make their change in major will do it during junior year. But the later you decide to switch, the worse off you’ll be. If you've already completed most of the basic courses towards one degree, consider also if it would be worth it to double major so all that time doesn't go to waste.

Understanding Impact of Delayed Graduation or Increased Tuition Costs

An English major switching to a math program will find their new program comes new prerequisites. Many of the English credits and elective requirements they have would be unlikely to apply to their new degree. That means delayed graduation and increased tuition costs. Be sure to sit down with a counselor in your prospective major to fully understand what your new course load looks like and how much it will cost before jumping in.

Things to Consider When Switching Majors

When do you want to graduate? Every year you’re in school is a year you’re spending tuition instead of developing job experience. For anyone in the later years of their education, it’s important to ask if a change of major will lead to considerable delays in graduation. Even if you’re switching majors early, it’s a good idea to do some quick accounting to see exactly how many of the courses you’ve completed would no longer apply to your degree.

Choosing a Minor

If you don’t want to derail your graduation but you do want to redirect your studies, sometimes a minor is the perfect solution. These sub-disciplines can push your degree into a direction you want your career to go, and save you a considerable amount of time and money compared to a change of major.

Just be sure to look before you leap. Take a moment to evaluate the earning potential for your new major. Does it match your expectations? Are unemployment rates sky high for graduates in this field? Answering basic questions like these can help ensure you won’t be looking to change again in another six months -- or regretting your decision after you graduate.

How to Change Your Major

Switching majors may sound intimidating, but it’s often as simple as filling out some paperwork. You can talk to an advisor at your school about the specific steps required to change majors. Sometimes the change will require you to switch to a different college within your university, like going from the college of business to the college of arts and sciences. Yet, the formality of changing is the easy part -- the hard part is finding out what you want to do and what will give you a good start on a fulfilling career path once you graduate.

The right major for you is whatever sets you on a path that helps you collide with the jobs you want most. Even if you don’t currently know what career path you’re interested in taking, having the right major will help ensure you ultimately find one that suits you. It may take a little extra effort, but it’s worth getting right.