Whatever major you choose, don’t pick what’s easiest—or what your best friend is studying—because you’ll only be cheating yourself out of some great opportunities!
And college is, after all, about opportunities.
The Princeton Review’s Top 10 Majors follow. Be warned, however, that these are not necessarily the degrees that garner the most demand in the job market. More importantly, they don’t lock you into a set career path. Each major offers unique intellectual challenges and develops skill sets that will be applicable to various careers.
1. Business Administration and Management/Commerce
Think you’re a born leader? You’ll need stellar people skills—no room for wallflowers here—and talents in problem solving, number crunching, and decision making. And don’t forget great communication skills! While studying business, you’ll get a thorough grounding in the theories and principles of accounting, finance, marketing, economics, statistics, and human resources functions. You will be a whiz on how to budget, organize, plan, hire, direct, control, and manage various kinds of organizations —from entrepreneurial-type start-ups to multi-million-dollar corporations. This major will also get you thinking about issues such as diversity, ethics, politics, and other dynamics that play a role in every work environment. Make sure those competitive juices are flowing; the business world is all, well, business.
If you find yourself delving into why certain people react to certain aspects of their environments in a certain way, then studying psychology will help you learn about the biology of our brains. Psychology majors focus on such features of the human mind as learning, cognition, intelligence, motivation, emotion, perception, personality, mental disorders, and the ways in which our individual preferences are inherited from our parents or shaped by our environment. Within the field, psychologists seek to educate, communicate, and resolve many of the problems surrounding human behavior.
Compassionate individuals with a great mind for the intricate—and sometimes heartbreaking—world of medicine will be well-suited for a nursing career. In the course of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating health problems there is also the chance to work with ever-evolving and ultra-sophisticated technology. Nursing majors take the traditional science and liberal arts courses as a first-year student and begin clinical rotations at hospitals and other health care facilities during the second semester of their sophomore year. Certification exams are required after graduation from an accredited nursing program before you can be officially registered. And the job prospects for nurses are not only plentiful but also varied, available in fields such as geriatrics, neurology, oncology, obstetrics, and pediatrics.
4. Biology/Biological Sciences
From microscopic organisms to cloning procedures, biology encompasses pretty much the whole world. Biology majors can study human, plants, animals, and the environments in which they live, and studies are conducted at the cellular level, the ecosystem level, or anywhere in between. You might find yourself looking to uncover secrets and for ways to solve problems, such as finding a cure for a disease. Biology majors might find themselves in med school or in one of many growing fields such as genetics and biotechnology or working as a veterinarian, optometrist, ecologist, or environmentalist.
Patience. Creativity. Dedication. Enthusiasm. Compassion. Education majors tend to have an abundance of all of these traits. In this major, you’ll learn the skills necessary to become an effective and inspirational teacher with the ability to influence young children and teenagers when they are most impressionable. Although much of the coursework will be general education material, most states require you to choose a specific grade level you’d like to teach. When you are done with coursework, you’ll find yourself in the classroom as a student teacher. This practicum lasts from one semester to a full academic year.
6. English Language and Literature
If you find yourself generally immersed in some book—anything from Shakespeare to Hemingway to Jack Kerouac—you will likely find others just like you in the English department studying the trochaic octameter of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the stunning word choices of narrative nonfiction author Annie Dillard, or the experimental elements of the writings of Walter Abish. English programs focus on literature, language, and writing, and an English major will encounter a wide array of absorbing works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from around the world and throughout history. Analyzing the works of the greatest minds and imaginations that human civilization has produced will surely sharpen your critical, emotional, creative, and moral faculties. The study of literature also helps to shed some light on the answers to the enduring questions of the human condition. This degree is tremendous preparation for a future in law, journalism, publishing, graduate studies, and just about anything else.
Economics is the study of choices—those of individuals, businesses, governments, and societies and how they choose to spend their time and money and otherwise allocate their resources. And you guessed it: Economics involves heavy doses of critical thinking and math. This study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services is an indispensable tool for making sense of the intricacies of the modern world. It is also an excellent preparation for a future in business, as well as for graduate studies in law, public policy, and international studies.
8. Communications Studies/Speech Communication and Rhetoric
Communications majors tend to be great storytellers with quick wits and fiery personalities. You’ll spend a significant amount of time scrutinizing different kinds of presentations—such as speeches and scripts—and the strategies behind the messages that speakers and writers use to make their points. You’ll learn about verbal and nonverbal messages, audience reaction, and the varied effects of different communication environments. It will prepare you for a wealth of careers in business, advertising, human resources, public relations, government, education, media, and social services.
9. Political Science and Government
Because it often deals with current events and sophisticated statistical analysis, political science is timely, fascinating, and perpetually changing. In a nutshell, it’s the study of politics of government, and some of the common concentrations are American government, public policy, foreign affairs, political philosophy, and comparative government. Political science majors develop excellent critical thinking and communication skills, and more broadly, an understanding of history and culture. There will be lots of reading, writing, and math. Possible career paths are diverse—from lawyer to politician to journalist.
10. Computer and Information Sciences
Not only will you learn more about computers—hardware and software—but you’ll also learn about the applications of such knowledge, such as how technology fits into a business scenario. You’ll be exposed to areas such as robotics, natural language recognition programs, artificial intelligence, programming languages, numerical analysis, and gaming technology. Problem solving is a major component of CIS, no matter which segment of the industry you want to pursue.