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When to Know It Is Time to Change Majors in College

by Dr. Mary Dowd, Demand Media Google

    There are many sensible reasons for changing majors in college. It is not uncommon to discover new interests that pull you in a different direction. Practical considerations, such as job prospects after graduation, also are important. College is a time for self-discovery and dreaming big. According to the Career Advising Center at the University of California, Berkeley, a typical student switches majors three to five times after declaring a major at orientation.

    Job Outlook

    In 2012, Kiplinger released a list of majors that lead to jobs with low wages and high unemployment. Majors mentioned included anthropology, fine arts, film, philosophy, liberal arts and theater. If competition is intense for jobs in your chosen field, you may want to rethink your major, plan for graduate school or develop practical skills to complement your major. For example, a theater major will have expanded career options by taking classes in public relations and sales.

    Overwhelming Courses

    It may be wise to switch majors if you are doing poorly in your classes despite sincere effort. Science and technology classes are increasingly complex and competitive. According to a 2011 article in “The New York Times,” many science majors are not prepared for calculus and physics, which results in failing grades. Seek advice from your instructors, arrange for a tutor and enroll in developmental classes. Also take good notes, complete homework on time and study hard. If your performance still does not improve, consider a different major that could lead to a similar career.


    If you lack enthusiasm for your major, ask yourself whether it is the subject matter, uninspiring instructors or your feelings about being in college. The answer will help you decide whether you should change majors, transfer schools or take a break from education. Being gifted in a certain area does not dictate how you must spend the rest of your life. While your parents may not understand why you changed your major from engineering to elementary education, it ultimately is your decision. The College Board suggests you will be happier and more successful if you choose a career based on personal interests.

    Uncertain Career Goals

    Students often choose majors before researching related careers and later discover they don’t like the types of jobs associated with their major. Other students change majors because they don’t know what to do with a degree in that field. The solution to career indecision is to research careers online and make an appointment with a career counselor. Then you can determine if a different major is better suited to your occupational and lifestyle preferences.

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    About the Author

    Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's degree in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In her 20 years of higher education experience, she has taught classes, served as interim dean of students, and worked in many areas of student affairs, including student discipline, career advising, orientation and violence prevention.

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