With all the stress of college applications, choosing a major can sometimes fall by the wayside. For those individuals who haven’t discovered their passions as of yet, it can be daunting to decide on a major. Many choose their major based on its popularity or their expected salary after graduation. Yet a major is not necessarily indicative of earning potential, and spending four years studying something you are not actually interested in may be a means to an end, but it could also be a mistake.
Here’s how to choose a major that’s not only interesting, but also will lead to some exciting job opportunities.
When choosing a major, you should first consider what you want to get out of your collegiate education. Are you enrolled because you want be part of a large network of like-minded individuals? Are you willing to devote yourself to studying on weekend nights, or will you want to go out partying? How much importance do you place on earning a lot of money after college?
The answers to all these questions are relevant when choosing a course of study for the next four years. Most likely, in addition to paying attention to your educational goals, you also have one eye on the present and the other on the future, hoping to find a major that will be fun and interesting while also affording rich opportunities for careers. It's a tricky balance to strike, and although lots of jobs don't require training in their specialized area, it is a good idea to choose a major that will pave a path toward success later in life—whatever that means for you.
So, what are some cool majors that feed into cool careers? If you’re looking for a major that will land you an interesting job, one surprising piece of advice is to specialize. This means you should consider majoring in a very specific topic in order to be better prepared for a chosen career when you jump into the job market. Think about it: would a brewery be more likely to hire a biology major or a fermentation studies major? Read on for more specialized majors at different colleges and universities.
One of the major benefits of attending a larger institution is the specificity of their majors. This is certainly true of Duke University’s visual & media studies major. This major was designed to dissect how our worlds are shaped by media, and by visual content itself; this interdisciplinary major demands that students be well versed in theory, art, historiography, analysis, computation and multimedia storytelling by the end of their education. It's perfect for art-inclined students who have always had a penchant for pop culture. With a major like this, career opportunities are limitless; you’ll be likely to find a spot working in media journalism, designing websites or producting in the television or film industries.
Washington State University offers one of the nation’s only majors in fermentation sciences, or the study of the creation of wine, beer and other fermented beverages and foods. It actually requires a strong base of knowledge about chemistry and biology to understand the way different substances are affected during the chemical transformations necessary to ferment a product.
Some classes you’ll end up taking with this major include “Cereal Chemistry” and “Processing and Sensory Evaluation of Food and Wine.” The major intends to educate students on the process of fermentation but also to instill within them the desire to work towards food safety improvement. Natural jobs to get with this degree would be available at various breweries or vineyards or working with the USDA, FDA or other food-safety organizations.
If you’ve always nursed a passion for porpoises, this major might be a perfect fit. As part of Stony Brook University’s marine vertebrate biology program, students with a strong background in biology are given the opportunity to study most sea life, from fish to sharks. Students will end up taking classes like “Apex Predators” and “Long Island Marine Habitats,” among other exciting courses. After graduating, MVB majors head on to do marine-based research, work in government or nonprofits or continue their education to eventually become a doctor or veterinarian.
At Michigan State University, one of the most off-the-beaten-path majors available is packaging. This degree is designed to educate students about the entire process of packaging, from the science of the materials used in the process to the way the product is marketed in the real world. As part of this program, students must choose to concentrate on either packaging science or packaging value chain management and will end up taking classes as “Agribusiness and Food Industry Sales.” Most packaging majors unsurprisingly end up in a job related to packaging, such as a packaging engineer, a packaging specialist or a packaging operator.
Wesleyan University is not the only school with some variation of the feminist, gender and sexuality studies major. This program offers some of the most fascinating classes on college campuses — Wesleyan hosts selections like “Litanies for Survival, Plots for Revolution” and the 85-character course title “Place, Belonging, and Sound in the 20th c. Latina/o/x, Black & Caribbean Imaginations.” Graduates from programs like the FGSS program usually find places at nonprofit organizations directed toward social change. (After learning about all the injustice in the world for four years, it makes sense that these individuals would want to combat it in some way.)
Despite the fact that this degree seems like it would just involve working on a farm, it’s actually a very intellectually challenging course of study. At Washington State University, students majoring in organic and sustainable agriculture take classes across the disciplines of science in order to further their knowledge of organic agriculture, a field which has consistently seen dramatic growth since 1991. Students can choose to concentrate on organic animal and dairy production, crop production, pest management, soil management or economics and marketing. Of course, the major does also necessitate some time spent on WSU’s Eggcert Family Farm. Graduates from the program go on to become organic farm managers or owners, organic certification specialists and organic food production specialists.
If you’ve always preferred the Top 40 Billboard and obscure celebrity fun facts to reading and mathematics, this might be the major for you. The pop culture major at Bowling Green State University examines elements of pop culture (TV shows, advertisements, cars, etc.) in order to glean a deeper understanding of modern society. Some fun courses these majors can take include “Television as Popular Culture” and “Folktale and Legend.” Pop culture majors go on to participate in the fields of advertising, journalism and public relations, but their degree prepares them well for many more careers.
Kinesiology is the study of movement. As part of this University of Virginia major, students learn about the body, health, fitness and physical activity. Students take courses from both UVA’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Curry School of Education and Human Development. The courses offered at Curry are especially praised for being more hands-on. Through this program, graduates earn a B.S.Ed. degree instead of the normal B.A. or B.S. offered by other programs, which is helpful in the route to becoming a personal trainer, fitness coach or physical or occupational therapist.
Disability studies at Fordham University is technically just a minor, but in a world that is beginning to accept all bodies instead of just the ones we see on magazines, disability studies are becoming more and more important — major, one might even say — so this minor makes it onto the list. Specializing in Disability Studies allows graduates of the program to find work in advocacy, healthcare, architecture and public policy. With courses like “Extraordinary Bodies” and “Disability, Literature, Culture: Neurological, Mental, and Cognitive Difference in Culture and Context,” pursuing this topic becomes fascinating in addition to socially relevant.
Kansas State University offers a major in bakery science, which sounds entirely scrumptious. In case you were wondering, yes, this major requires baking training — look forward to the course titled “Practicum in Bakery Technology,” where students are given the opportunity to use commercial equipment to cook all sorts of sweet confections, from cookies to sweet doughs. This major prepares students for various positions in the bakery industry and regularly churns out researchers, food sales managers, quality control supervisors and more. Plus, graduates can always open a bakery.
Humber College offers a major in comedy that grooms young comedians for the professional stage. Students test out their routines while being exposed to information about the commercial business end of comedy. There are plenty of opportunities for getting over stage fright, such as a weekly open mic comedy show at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club and Comedy Bar and a selective showcase at the end of each semester which scouts and agents attend. The introductory courses all sound highly diverting, with titles like “Sketch,” “Physical Comedy (Shtick)” and the daunting “Improvisation.” Graduates of this program usually enter the comedy world, either as performers or as writers.
In the speech, language and hearing sciences major offered by the University of Connecticut, students are introduced to the fields of audiology and speech pathology. Students take a scientific approach to hearing, first learning about normal speech and hearing development and then moving on to several disorders that prevent normal developmental processes. The classes “Intro to Aural Rehabilitation” and “Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Hearing” may not seem absorbing at first glance, but those who find their passion in the auditory world will be thoroughly enthralled. Majors move on to graduate school in either audiology or speech pathology and eventually become speech therapists, pathologists or audiologists—jobs that pay pretty well.
With this exciting major, you can personally help usher in the reign of the robots. Offered by Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, this major intends to help students create computer programs that are capable of human interaction. Unfortunately, this major is only available to those who are double majoring, so you will have to split your time between building your robot army and some other pursuit. Even the names of the courses sound slightly sinister: classes like “Designing Online Communities” and “Embedded Designs in HCI for Mitigating Unconscious Bias” are sure to hold your attention. Since the field of human-computer interaction is rapidly expanding, there are many lucrative, exciting positions available for graduates of this program, such as a web designer, an advertising consultant and a freelance visual designer.
Most smaller liberal arts colleges and universities offer this option, for individuals who want to create their own path. Though creating your own major takes a lot of time and energy, students who feel that their interests lie beyond the scope of what is offered can opt for the challenge. With a personalized major, you also have the opportunity to create your own career path.
These fascinating majors that prepare students for very specific career paths. If you're not tempted by these choices, just keep looking. With luck, you'll find a major that works for both your intended collegiate lifestyle and your desired career.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Hannah Berman is a teacher in Washington, D.C., and a former editorial fellow for Fairygodboss.