Going to college starts with choosing a degree program and declaring a major. Certainly, many freshmen come in as “undeclared,” but nobody wants to answer the question, “Why are you going to college?” with “I don’t know.” Unfortunately, that can lead many first-time or first-generation college students to start off on the wrong foot, with a major they don’t really want. And that’s not good planning – personally, or financially.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go into your college major search alone. Value Colleges is focused on good educational investments. We’re here to help prospective and current college students – traditional and nontraditional, on-campus and online – get the most for their money. You may be paying with student loans, federal grants, scholarships, or out of pocket, but whatever the case, making good decisions up front can make the difference between making a sound return on your college investment, and wasting time and money.
And it all starts with choosing a major.
What Should I Major In?
Choosing a major may seem like a monumental decision; after all, most college freshmen think, “This decision is going to determine the rest of my life.”
It’s not quite so dramatic. US Department of Education college degree statistics show that around a third (30%) of first-time college students change their major within three years – and in some specific majors (such as math), as many as half will make the switch. Those numbers go down, though, for engineering, computer science, and health professions, especially with adult students. After all, returning nontraditional students generally know what they want, unlike the average high schooler.
However, college degree statistics show that a poorly-informed choice in major can have some real downsides. For one, it can slow down your graduation – maybe by a semester, maybe by a whole year or two. There’s a reason graduation rates are generally measured by six years instead of four. And those extra one, two, three, or more semesters can hit you where it counts – more student loans and out-of-pocket expenses for your education.
Making the wrong choice of major can also delay or derail your career goals. The Harvard Business Review finds that only around a third of college graduates go straight into the career they trained for, and another third never even work in the field they majored in. (The other third, the “Wanderers,” get a little sidetracked but eventually make it.) In some cases, those numbers come from a lack of jobs in the field; in others, graduates who discover they’re not all that enthused about the career path they chose. Either way, the bumpy path to a career can mean losing some significant money that you could have made if you’d chosen the right major, with the right career opportunity, in the first place.
The College Major Search
Whichever way you look at it, changing your major may be common, but it’s also costly. A well-prepared college student would be smart to avoid that expense by making the right choice from the get-go, and that means doing your homework – on yourself, and on the degree programs that are right for you.
The Value Colleges degree guides are here to help prospective students do their homework, focusing the college major search. Our degree guides give prospective students a thorough, down-to-earth, and practical tour of the different academic disciplines, college degree levels, professional fields, and career paths available. Throughout the guides, we keep the focus on the practical – what it will take, and what you can make.
Value Colleges Guides to the Most Popular College Majors
Business (along with its many subfields) has long been the most popular college major, according to the Department of Education. For students choosing a major in business, Value Colleges has a thorough guide to the options available to future accountants, executives, and entrepreneurs at all college degree levels. Whether you’re just starting your path with an associate’s in accounting, or looking to earn your MBA or MSM, Value Colleges has the lowdown on online business programs, financial aid, and salary expectations in all sorts of business career paths. You can also link to our many rankings of business degree programs, from online MBAs to Master’s in Taxation.
The Department of Education points out that health sciences, including nursing, is the second most popular degree program in the nation, and it’s no wonder. With healthcare jobs expected to grow strongly for the foreseeable future (as much as 18%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), high school graduates and working adults alike are turning to careers in health. For the rundown on everything from online RN to BSN degree programs, to financial aid and nursing certification requirements, take a look at the Value Colleges guide to college majors in health sciences and nursing. There are few careers as likely to give students a reliable return on their college investment.
Few career paths are as stable as education; jobs in business or trades may come and go, but a good teacher will never be without a job for long. That’s one reason education is forever one of the most popular degrees – the second most popular master’s degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Without a doubt, the teaching field has its challenges, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but for prospective students with the fortitude, passion, and will to be teachers, Value Colleges has what you need to make an informed decision. From choosing a degree program to the certification requirements, the VC guide to teaching and education degrees will help you make a smart investment in your future.
There’s a simple reason STEM careers are some of the highest-paying jobs in the world – not everyone has the math and tech skills to pull off engineering or high-level computer science. With a lower pool of applicants, comes higher pay, well into six figures for jobs like nuclear engineers or biomedical researchers. Often, someone with those kinds of math and science skills know they’re going into STEM, but choosing a STEM degree program can still be a challenge, with so many option available. The Value Colleges guide to STEM degrees gives prospective engineers, researchers, and scientists a clear, direct, and no-nonsense look at what it takes to go into a college education in science and technology.
The unemployed arts major is an old, lazy stereotype that needs to be put to rest. In the internet age, there are more avenues for valued, lucrative work than ever for artists, photographers, filmmakers, and all sorts of designers. There is simply more content than anyone ever dreamed possible just a generation ago, and more work for content creators. Arts and design includes everything from acting and costuming to booming, 21st century careers like packaging and UX design. For prospective students with an eye, a voice, and an imagination, Value Colleges has developed a practical guide to art and design degrees, from choosing a major to salary expectations and job field growth. As always, it’s all about value – quality, affordability, and return.
Working adult students, returning professionals, and first-generation, underrepresented students alike have been gravitating to computer science and information technology in recent years. Along with health sciences, computing is one of the most reliable and rewarding fields, especially for nontraditional students, and those changing careers. Whether you’re adding a graduate credential to enhance your current career, or striking out on your first or second career, the Value Colleges guide to computer science and information technology degrees is the place to start. Get up-to-date information on the tech job market, direction on choosing a major, and, of course the money, from financing your education to salary expectations for computer science and information technology jobs.
The inherent value of a career in the criminal justice system should be obvious. Law enforcement, Homeland Security, corrections, and other jobs within the field are perpetually understaffed and in need of competent, responsible professionals. Some of these jobs are more dangerous than others, but whether you are putting your life on the line for the safety of others, or leading investigations with forensics or criminology skills, criminal justice is a necessity. The Value Colleges guide to criminal justice and law degrees gives students reputable information about certification requirements, salary expectations, and other aspects of getting a degree and starting a career in public safety and security.
For generations, a liberal arts education has been the foundation for learning and leadership in American colleges and universities. Even in the 21st century, when more career-oriented and technical education is becoming standard, a solid grounding in analysis, communication, and critical thinking is still the hallmark of the liberal arts. Students with liberal arts degrees can go on to master’s programs in areas ranging from business and education to computer science or public health. For students who want to build their careers on the classics, Value Colleges has a straight-shooting guide to liberal arts degrees, with realistic career paths, degree types, and salary expectations.
Since the end of WWII, Americans have grown to see a traditional college degree as the most important educational goal, but in the 21st century, the time has come to take trade and vocational education seriously again. From old-fashioned, but still crucial trades like plumbing and electrical work, to the new blue-collar – programming, coding, network technology, and the like – associate’s degrees and non-traditional certifications can be the door to a lucrative career. Value Colleges’ guide to trade and vocational degrees is a much-needed reminder that career success doesn’t need 6, 7, or more years of school – it needs smarts and hard work, and a good choice of direction.