There are three kinds of undergraduate students at UMBC:
1. Those who have declared a major and will stick with it until graduation,
2. Those who have declared a major and yet are thinking of alternatives and options; and
3. Those who are still exploring and have not yet declared a major.
No matter which type of student you are, you may have felt the pressure of having to choose one slice of human knowledge to be the main focus of your college education. So much seems to ride on this decision! And it is always the first thing family, friends and other inquiring minds ask you when you say that you are a college student.
Whether you are in category 1, 2, or 3 above, you will feel more secure about your choice of major if you do some research and investigation about majors, minors, and certificates available to you at UMBC.
"Do’s" for the Major & Minor/Certificate Investigation
1. Become familiar with all the majors, minors, and certificates available at UMBC.
Indeed, some academic fields may be completely unfamiliar because they were not taught in high school or your prior college. Interdisciplinary Studies (the “build your own major” major), Health Administration and Policy, Ancient Studies, and Business Technology Administration are interesting majors students may not have been aware of prior to arriving at UMBC.
2. Narrow the list to 5-8 possibilities based on your interests and aptitudes and then do more in depth research.
Read the entire catalog sections, all the course descriptions, faculty bios, and any other information about these majors available on the Department websites. Visit the bookstore and take a look at the 300- and 400-level books and materials required in various majors. If there are concentrations within the major, which would be most appropriate? How many credits are required? Are there any entry requirements (such as gateway courses or a portfolio review)?
3. Use your “general education” courses to experiment with potential majors.
Choose your general education courses thoughtfully so you can test your reactions to potential majors by taking an introductory course. Sometimes it is necessary to take that first course in order to know whether a field is truly of interest or not.
4. Talk to people, network and attend events.
Talk to friends, attend Council of Majors meetings, or discuss the major with professors in the field. Also seek out related extracurricular activities and “major” related presentations sponsored by student organizations and various offices on campus.
5. Consider minors and certificates as interesting options for diversification.
Did you know that UMBC offers 34 minors and 24 certificates? Minors and certificates can provide a structured way for you to explore additional academic interests, develop specific transferable skills, or even “repurpose” courses from a previous major.
6. Explore careers.
If you already know what you want to do as a career, this is a great first step. If not, the FOCUS tool offered through the Career Center website is an excellent starting point. The Woofound Compass is a visually intriguing way to find out more about yourself and obtain some career insights. INSIDER TIP: it is actually a fun activity!
When you have identified some “good fit” careers, thinking about what skills or knowledge you need for that career can help guide you to a major and potentially a minor or certificate program.
A Few “Don’ts” for the Major & Minor/Certificate Investigation
1. Don’t let anyone else choose your academic program for you.
Friends, parents, siblings all have ideas about what you should major in. It is very important that you listen to what they have to say with an open mind, but then make your own individual choice. You are the student and you are making decisions that could affect the rest of your life.
2. Don’t assume that a college major will necessarily lead directly to a specific type of job.
Many of the skills acquired in college are of a general nature and can be applied in many different professional settings. The workforce is full of people whose undergraduate majors bear only an indirect relationship to the positions they hold. A degree in a specific area does not necessarily mean you are only limited to jobs in that field. After all, Kevin Costner (star of “Dances with Wolves,” “Waterworld”) is not working as an accountant today!
3. Don’t stick with a major when it is clear that you are performing poorly in the required courses.
If your grades are low in your major, this may be an indication that it is not appropriate for you. Be open to other options in which you can be more successful.
4. Don’t assume that difficulty choosing a major is a sign of weakness or failure.
Some of the most intelligent and creative people have many strong interests and difficulty choosing a primary focus. Combining a major with a minor or certificate program may prove to be a good solution.
5. Don’t just wait to be inspired.
Willingness to take action is often the most important factor in moving forward with a thoughtful decision regarding a major. Getting involved in a community service project, internship, research opportunity, alternative Spring Break, or even studying abroad can provide different vantage points from which to consider academic interests and future career directions.
6. Don’t pick a major based on how much money graduates make.
Picking a major based solely or primarily on potential salary is a bad idea. This can lead you to something that you do not enjoy or may not be good at. Realistically, potential salary could be a factor in picking one major over the other, but do not make it the primary reason.
LINKS AND RESOURCES
Click here to find out more about all of UMBC's majors, minors, and certificates!
Additional suggestions for students investigating majors are available on the Academic Advising website and students are always welcome to make an appointment with an advisor in the Office for Academic and Pre-Professional Advising by calling 410-455-2729. In addition, the Advising Office (located in the Academic Services Building) has a resource library that includes:
• How to get Any Job with Any Major by Donald Asher (See related video here)
• How to Choose a College Major
• The Complete Idiot's Guide to Choosing a College Major
The Career Center website includes a feature called “Career Path” that tracks the connection between UMBC majors and careers pursued by alumni. This website also includes “What Can I Do with my [fill in one of UMBC’s 45 majors] Major?” handouts that are very helpful in illustrating the many types of jobs that students in various majors can aspire to.