Your academic area(s) of focus can be related to—but does not necessarily determine—your career path. Employers focus on areas of career readiness, specific skills, and other criteria far more than a candidate’s major or field of study.
The Mosaic: Beyond Your Area of Study
By the time you graduate, you’ll have earned much more than an academic degree. You will have developed a mosaic made up of experiences, skills, and knowledge about yourself, as well as earning a diploma.
Necessary for graduating, your major, concentration, or area of focus is part of your whole mosaic.
Volunteering, whether near campus or home, has career benefits for you as well as the inherent good of giving back. You’ll gain experience and build skills, plus you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the field and the organization. Not sure where to start? Explore what the Community Service Center has to offer.
Internships, part-time or summer jobs, experiential learning programs, practica. Direct experience of fields of work, industries, and organizations helps you build experience as well as better understand career paths that interest you most. Not sure where to start? Explore on-campus work with the Student Employment Office and off-campus options in Handshake.
An international experience lets you embrace a new culture, learn a new language, and build transferable skills like adaptability and self-reliance. Study abroad programs, spending a summer working in another country, or even travel will expand your global experience. Not sure where to start? Explore BU’s Global Programs and Study Abroad options.
Student Activities and Leadership
With more than 400 student organizations, BU has something for everyone. Try something new, make friends, and get involved on campus. Clubs, sports, student government, residence life can all enrich your BU experience. Not sure where to start? Explore options through the Student Activities Office.
Indulge your curiosity with coursework unrelated to your focus area. Find new knowledge and skills that interest you and maybe (or maybe not) inspire your plans for the future. Not sure where to start? Explore options in the BU Bulletin.
Under the guidance of a faculty mentor, gain one-of-a-kind experience in the production of new knowledge and critical problem solving. Not sure where to start? Explore options available through BU Research.
BU provides information and support for many fellowship, scholarship, award, and prize opportunities, including Rhodes, British Marshall, and Fulbright. Learn more about options through BU’s Fellowships and Scholarships Office.
Undergraduate Students: Choose or Change a Major
There is no one right answer for how to decide on a major. The goal is for you to be engaged in your academic program and to love that field, even if it is something that doesn’t seem connected to any career paths that interest you. If it is a subject you love, you will be happier, learn more, and do well in your coursework. And you will still gain skills and knowledge that will be applicable for whatever career path you follow.
How To Choose
Majors and career goals are two separate and sometimes complex things to decide on, sometimes further complicated when trying to think about them together. The most common scenarios are:
- You are set on what to major in, but don’t have any idea about career paths and/or goals
- You have a clear career goal, but don’t know what to major in
- You have some ideas for both major and career, but you’re not sure about either
- You want to change your major, for any of a number of reasons
First, you are not alone. We work with many students who are trying to make similar decisions.
Second, you may have more of an idea than you realize for majors and/or careers. At the very least, you probably have some ideas of what you don’t want, which is also helpful.
Third, you don’t have to change one to fit the other. You don’t have to change your major to fit a career goal once you identify it. Or vice versa, you don’t have to change your career goal to fit a specific major.
Fourth, 80% of students change their major at least once, some change it several times. There are some restrictions based on how much time is left in your program (talk to your academic advisor), but changing your major is a common situation.
Lastly, these decisions are not permanent, you can change your major and select new goals as you learn more about yourself, the fields, and the careers.
In any of these scenarios, we have the expertise, experience, and resources to help. Here are a few places to start:
- Use the suggested steps in the Self-Discovery and Exploring Careers portions of our Career Development Cycle
- For your major: Think about your classes so far, which ones did you like the most? What did you like and not like about them?
- For your career: Think about any experiences you’ve had, what did you like and not like about them? Think about the jobs that people you know have, do any of those jobs or any aspects of them interest you?
- Explore resources like What Can I Do With This Major? and Candid Career to get ideas for possible majors and career paths
Feel stuck or want some help? Make an appointment for one-on-one help, including self-discovery assessments to shed some light on your interests, values, skills, and personality.
Academic Advising vs. CCD
Academic advisors and CCD staff can both help you with choosing or changing a major, just in different ways. Your academic advisor focuses on your academic interests and the requirements needed to complete your degree. At the CCD, we will work with you on a more holistic view, of which your major is one component, and on strategies for decision making.
Graduate Students: Supplement Academic Focus
Graduate programs are already focused so changing your academic focus may not be feasible. Instead, think about how you can supplement your program with additional coursework, experiential learning, and hands-on experience.
- Attend a choosing a major workshop to get started. Check the calendar for upcoming sessions
- Read more tips and advice on the blog
- Meet with an academic advisor to discuss the academic requirements of the programs you are considering. Make an appointment at the CCD to discuss the decision-making process, possible career paths, and building an action plan for evaluating your choices.