Making a decision about a major or a degree program is a significant step in your career at Binghamton University. The following will provide you with some preliminary advice and some key facts about making your decision. If you find this document helpful, we have additional resources available on our Blackboard site.
There are always a few myths to dispel when discussing major choices. The first myth is that students often believe most of their peers have majors, and they have already decisively chosen a major. The assumption is often that everyone else is on their way...everyone but you. This is not the case. All freshmen enter Harpur College as undecided students. We require you to take time to consider your options, our first years here. As a result, we do not even permit freshmen to choose a major until at least the second semester. Many students also believe they are the only ones that are still in the decision-making process. Did you know that research suggests that over half of students change their major in their college career?* Your friends and peers are likely to be exploring their options.....just as you are.
Another common myth is that your major will set you on a definite, straight and narrow career path. This is also not the case. Exploring a career is a long-term process, that is not decided solely by your major. Even long after you graduate you will likely make several career changes. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average college graduate changed jobs roughly once every three years, and changed their career or field at least twice.
Liberal arts majors, in particular, are valued in a whole host of professions. The expansive array of skills and the level of insight liberal arts students bring to the table are highly attractive to employers. On this point, we encourage you to fully consider not only the subject matter, but the broader skills particular majors help you develop. In today's increasingly global marketplace, employers are not simply looking for technical know-how; they want worldly individuals that are adaptable and have the ability to innovate. The liberal arts foundation provides you with a broader world view, the ability to consider a multitude of viewpoints and perspectives, and the ability to generate original, creative works. This is true if you are a science student or a fine arts student in Harpur College. Specific majors also provide for mastery in disciplines that are highly applicable to business, industry, public service, medical arts, education and beyond. Consequently, you do not need to know your ultimate career goal to a make a major decision. Because of the range of options a liberal arts degree opens up to you, your interests and goals -- combined with the skills offered by a major -- will often illuminate a career pathway as you proceed.
When designing a degree plan, it is just as important to consider developing marketable skills. Your degree in Harpur College will provide you with in-demand skills such as interpersonal communication, oral communication, a global understanding of culture, the ability to understand and manage groups, and excellent composition and writing skills. In addition to building these skills while fulfilling your major requirements, you are encouraged to pursue internships and co-curricular opportunities that build on the above skills and provide for additional applied experiences. Practical, applied work in a field is often sought-after in the job market.
Students sometimes fail to consider the multitude of careers open to students, and the flexibility and broader applicability liberal arts majors provide. When deciding on your major, try to avoid the major-to-career myth and consider your experiences and your goals/interests in a broader sense. To demonstrate this point, we suggest reviewing the CDC's resource: "What Can I Do With This Major?" The CDC also has a wealth of additional resources on this topic. For more advanced career information, and career outlooks, you are strongly encouraged to visit the CDC, who specialize in helping you understand your options. They can be of assistance throughout your career at Binghamton - helping you explore a major and helping you in the job hunt.
While you major decision is a major decision, we have a great deal of support available to you in the form of workshops, self-discovery opportunities, group advising and one-on-one consultation. Decision-making opportunities exist in all corners of the University, and it's important to recognize them in all forms. For example, the General Education curriculum was thoughtfully created to help you broaden your understanding of the world around you, but also designed around helping you make academic decisions, and explore the various disciplines at the University. Your involvement in General Education courses is a productive, developmental endeavor that may be bringing you closer to a decision, and engaging you in an academic discipline. We recommend consulting with faculty who are teaching courses that interest you. A trusted faculty member can open doors to the major, and provide opportunities to further explore a subject or discipline. Your academic advisor can also work with you to determine how General Education is helping you reach your goals. The Harpur College curriculum certainly provides opportunities for decision making and self-discovery... but it requires you to be an active participant, and an active learner.
Because of our liberal arts focus, we also have many elective opportunities open to students. We encourage you to use these opportunities to explore an interest; whether it is a career interest, research interest, or simply a highly personal interest. Your interests are key barometers when taking steps toward a major, and can provide clues and pathways to making a major decision. Key common denominators often exist between certain subjects and academic disciplines. An interest in one area you are familiar with may provide a path to exploring new disciplines or subject matters. Perhaps you will discover that an interest area provides for careers, research or post-baccalaureate opportunities that you had never considered.
Move On: Decision Making Steps
Last Updated: 12/5/14