Major/Career Exploration

Need help narrowing down all the major options at Western Illinois University?

  • Use this form to check off the majors you are not interested in  - and see what remains.
    (Note: The pre-professional options, such as pre-physical therapy or pre-dentistry are not on this list.)

Want to list the pros and cons of majors and minors you are looking at?

  • Use this form to help determine the best fit for you.

How do I know which major to choose? How do I know what type of career I want to invest in?

These are very important questions to ask.

Majors that have a close match to your interests, personality, skills and values may be more personally rewarding. The more information you have about yourself, majors and careers, the easier it is to choose a major. The process of deciding on a major can involve four steps;

  1. Self Assessment
  2. Researching Majors & Careers
  3. Decision Making
  4. Setting Your Goal

Choosing a Major

Step 1 - Self Assessment

The first step in the process is to examine or self assess your interests. The more you know about yourself, the clearer your life goals will become thus helping you determine how to reach them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you truly enjoy? Consider the classes and activities that you have liked the best. What did they involve? Why did you enjoy them?
  • What are you good at? Identify your skills and abilities. What types of things do you seem to do well? Are they technical…adventurous…intellectual?
  • What is really important to you? Is enjoying your work more important than prestige? Is creativity more important than security? You want your choice to be compatible with your values.
  • What is the coolest job you can imagine? Describe it as specifically as you can.
  • Ask your career center staff what assessments they offer. These can help you discover more about yourself.
Step 2 - Research Majors & Careers

The second step is to start gathering information and exploring your options. There are over seventy different majors available at Western ranging from accountancy to zoology.

  • Make a list of your options and eliminate those that don't interest you. Read about the majors remaining on your list. Mark the courses in each major that most interest you, match your abilities, and share your values. This should help you further shorten your list.
  • Review additional information about the majors on your short list. Visit each department's web pages, or read print materials they offer. Talk with an academic advisor, students currently in these majors, and faculty members.
  • Visit the Career Services Office website. They have great resources available to help you determine your values and interests. You can also talk with a career counselor. The more information you find, the more informed your final decision will be.
Step 3 - Make a Decision

The third step in the process is to make a decision and put together the information you have collected.

  • Narrow your list down to two or three majors by weighing the pros and cons.
  • Learn about the specific degree requirements for each major
  • Consider the possibility of a second major or making one of your options your minor.
  • If you are still having difficulty deciding, talk with an advisor or career counselor who can help you evaluate the information you have collected, suggest additional resources, and guide you through the decision-making process.
  • Feel good about your choice!
Step 4 - Goal Setting

The fourth step is to set your goal and take action! You have completed your research and you are now ready to develop goals toward major selection and career preparation. If you find that you are having difficulty defining your goal, you may need to reevaluate Steps 1 and 2 and make some adjustments.

A Few Things to Know

  • Understand that majors and careers have developed independently of each other. Many times majors can lead you to careers that you never expected.
  • There is a lot of information out there and it's easy to become overwhelmed. Don't give up. You can learn how to quickly and efficiently find helpful, reliable information on the internet. Don't be afraid to ask you advisor or the staff at the career center to help.
  • Take the college major quiz
  • Once you have decided on which major you would like to pursue, contact your advisor about setting up a meeting with the advisor of the department for your new major. You will also need to fill out a Declaration of Academic Program form.

Adapted from:

Oakland University Advising Resource Center. (2008). How to choose a major: Overview. Retrieved on June 24, 2008, from Oakland University Web site

Taylor, M.L. (n.d.). Choosing your major. Retrieved on June 30, 2008, from JobWeb Web site