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Choosing Your University Major
Choosing a subject to major in at university is no easy task. There are a wealth of options available, and it can sometimes be quite daunting. Some students don’t know where to start. The first factor to take into consideration should be how enjoyable you think each of the potential options would be to study (Bhardwa, 2017). Ideally, you should choose a subject that inspires you. If you don’t know if a course is likely to do this or not then perhaps consider attending an open day at a university and finding out more about what it entails (Tobin, 2014). Your degree will occupy the majority of your time for the next few years, so it makes sense to do something that you’ll be able to stick out at the very least.
Your choice of subject might also influence your future career depending upon whether you opt for a course that will lead to a role in a specific industry or whether you go for one that is a route to any job irrespective of its relevance to your subject. Many graduates don’t end up working in a field that is related to their degree (Gardner, 2014), suggesting that it is not of the utmost importance to tailor your subject to your desired job. However, some careers have clearly defined requirements in terms of qualifications. If you want to be a dentist then it is essential for you to have a dentistry degree. If you want to be a doctor, you’re going to need a degree in medicine (Bhardwa, 2017), as degree in drama or music would be irrelevant. If you have a job in mind, it’s advisable to research whether or not a specific degree is needed to attain the role.
If you have no idea what job you want to do then you should explore different career graduate options and job websites before choosing a subject (UCAS, 2017). This will provide you with a better insight into what you want to spend your future doing. Even if your main motivation for choosing a subject isn’t to attain a specific job, it’s better to have some indication of how well aligned your options are to your desired career.
You also need to consider the variety of different avenues for employment that your degree can open doors to. There’s a common misconception that scientific degrees lead to a better choice of jobs than arts degrees. In reality, the employment prospects that these two types of degree offer are roughly the same. However, it’s notable that the admissions requirements for scientific courses are stricter than those for the arts at many universities (Ravazi, 2012). This means that if you want to increase the chance of getting accepted at the university of your choice, artistic subjects might constitute a better set of options. You might want to think twice if you’re considering studying creative arts though, as this subject produces graduates with the lowest median annual earnings of any degree (Minsky, 2016). It’s possible that you might not be motivated by money though; you may just view this course as a means of facilitating a higher quality of self-expression.
Those who wish to earn a more substantial wage would be better off studying medicine or economics, which tend to lead to more highly paid work (Minsky, 2016). However, these subjects are notoriously difficult, and students should take their individual strengths and weaknesses into consideration when choosing a course. Do you want to challenge yourself, or do you want to make sure that you study a subject you’re good at and will definitely be able to pass with flying colours? This is an important question that you need to ask yourself before making your choice.
An effective means of gauging your competence at a specific subject is by looking at how you have performed in it in the past. Look at which classes you did best in at college and school, as this will provide you with an idea of your skills (Becker & Price, 2003). You will then be able to make an informed judgement about whether or not you think that you’ll be able to achieve your desired grades in the subjects that you’re considering taking for your degree.
Another point to take into account is whether to follow your passion or aim your decision solely at forging a path to your chosen career. It might be the case that you have a deep love for the written word and want to study English literature, but don’t feel that it will have as high a chance of leading to a job as another subject. It’s important to remain cognisant of the fact that your tastes might change at some point in the future. You might find yourself searching for employment in a completely different area, and regret taking a degree that you weren’t truly passionate about.
Whatever subject you opt for, it’s impossible to know precisely how it will benefit you until you’ve embarked upon your future career path. However, if you take the time to choose carefully then at least you’ll know you’ve given the decision due care and attention. Doing so will enable you to rest assured that you did everything in your power to ensure that you made the correct choice.
Beck, L. & Price, D. (2003). How to manage your science and technology degree. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bhardwa, S. (2017). Which subject should you study at university? Times Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/which-subject-should-you-study-university
Gardner, R. (2014, 30 June). Half of UK graduates do not work in their field of study, survey reveals. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/half-of-uk-graduates-do-not-work-in-their-field-of-study-survey-reveals-9574042.html
Minsky, C. (2016). Highest and lowest graduate earners by degree subject in the UK. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/news/highest-and-lowest-graduate-earners-degree-subject-uk
Ravazi, L. (2012, 12 June). Science or humanities: Which did you choose? The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2012/jun/05/choosing-degree-subject
Tobin, L. (2014, 9 October). Don’t know what subject to study at university? Don’t panic! The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/oct/09/dont-know-what-subject-to-study-dont-panic
UCAS (2017). What to study. Retrieved from https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/getting-started/ucas-undergraduate-what-study