Tips On Selecting Your Degree

You've done it. You're on your way to having enough credits to graduate, you're staying on top of your classes (or at least you're trying), and you have a few scholarships lined up so you'll be financially set for university. All in all, you're doing pretty well for yourself until you hear the age-old question:

"So what are you going to study?"

It's easy to find yourself stuck when deciding your field of study. In fact, it's a fairly common struggle. There are thousands of majors available, so here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing your degree. 

What can I do?

Choose a field of study based on your ability. What are your talents? If you have a knack for building projects and love problem solving, it might seem natural to pursue a degree in engineering or architecture.

Don't rely only on one opinion—pull in your friends and family and ask them what your strengths are. Sometimes, the more voices, the merrier!

What are my interests and values?

If you're going to study a specific field for years, you owe it to yourself to choose a degree that you care about. Consider your interests and the causes that matter to you.

What is your purpose in life? For example, if you're dedicated to promoting sustainability and raising awareness for climate change in your own life or in your community, you might be well-suited for a degree in environmental sciences or geography.

If you're the kind of person who has too many interests, try to differentiate between personal interests and career interests. You might have loved that one time you dissected a frog in biology class, but could you see yourself as a laboratory technician? Knowing what you like to do for fun versus what you could do as a career can help you prioritize your interests.

Is it employable?

Many students choose their degrees based on their chances of finding a high-paying, in-demand job. Factors to take into account can include:

  • Overall program cost - will the cost of your degree justify the salary you expect to make?
  • Average salary - will the salary made by the average graduate from your field be enough to support the lifestyle you want or future goals?
  • Employment rates within the field - what are your chances of finding work in your field?

If you're a student whose interests and talents lean towards a degree that is considered to be less employable, don't despair! The ability to land a job isn't determined by your major, but by the steps, you take to build your career. To get a head start, check out our Career Development Toolkit!

Remember, with the right skill set, no degree is completely unemployable. Maybe except for underwater basket weaving.

What are my priorities?

Some students choose degrees based on their potential for earnings. Others focus less on their salary and more on launching a meaningful career that will keep them engaged in the long run.

While the two don't have to be exclusive, figuring out what matters most to you is important. Consider where you want to be in five years. Where will you live? What career do you want? (If you don't know, consider this a fun thought exercise.) From then on, you can map which university pathway will help you get there.

It's okay to change degrees.

Interests can change over time, especially during post-secondary education when you're exposed to classes and fields of study you previously weren't able to access in high school. According to a report from the University of La Verne, up to 70 percent of students change their major at least once during their degree.

You could (re-)discover a passion partway through your studies. For example, you might realize that you need to change streams when you find yourself looking forward to your writing classes more than life drawings in art school (true story!).

You might also choose to pursue a different path once you gain a stronger grasp of your limits and capabilities, including discovering new skills you never knew you had or the workload you're able to handle. You might make the switch from medical school to a bachelor's degree in computer science once you realize that keeping up with residency and the long years of schooling will negatively impact your health.

This isn't a sign that you had poor judgment to start or that you're indecisive. Rather, it reflects that you've grown in your understanding of yourself.

At the end of the day, it's crazy that we decide who we'll be and where we're going at 16 or 17, but choosing the degree that's right for you is the first key to setting yourself up for the life you want to pursue in the years to come.