Choosing a College Major: What to Consider

Parents and son at graduation.

Did you know that the college major with the highest starting salary ($58,000) for recent graduates is mechanical engineering? Or that one of the fastest growing careers is biomedical engineering? Choosing a college major is an important – and sometimes tough – decision for undergraduate students. Your major will pave your path to graduation and your future career, so you should do some research before deciding. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few things to consider:

Popular majors

Look into the favorite majors of students across the United States to get some initial ideas. Consider taking a class in a popular discipline to find out if it’s something that interests you. Check out part of the Wall Street Journal’s list of the most popular college majors below to get started.

  1. Business management and administration
  2. General business
  3. Accounting
  4. Nursing

Job growth rate

Look for jobs in booming – or soon-to-be booming – industries. These careers will continue to grow and will need to hire new employees (like you) to accommodate the growing industry demands. Here are some of the top-growing jobs, according to Career Cast.

  1. Biomedical engineering (61%)
  2. Biochemistry (31%)
  3. Computer science (25%) and software engineering (25%)

Starting salary

While the importance of salary will vary from person to person, investigate the average starting salaries of majors that interest you to get an idea of how much you might earn straight out of college. Also, keep in mind that even though some jobs have high starting salaries, they may have high unemployment rates or low growth rates, making it more difficult to land a job in that field. Check out the majors with the highest and lowest starting salaries, according to AOL Jobs.

Highest-paying starting salary:
Mechanical engineering ($58,000)

Lowest-paying starting salary:
Drama/theater ($26,000)

Unemployment rates

You major’s rate of unemployment is an important factor to think about. Areas of study with low unemployment rates are more promising for recent graduates and can help build a stable future. High unemployment rates can make the job search after graduation somewhat challenging. Here are some of the majors with the highest unemployment rates, according to CBS News.

  1. Clinical psychology (20%)
  2. Fine arts (16%)
  3. U.S. history (15%)

Want to learn more about majors and careers for college students? Check out our “Major Decisions” infographic.