Spring 2016

Choosing a major can be difficult

Sarah Dettmer


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Where are you going to college?
What is your major?
What do you want to do with your life?
These questions are some of the most difficult queries posed to students, and yet they are questions students hear on a regular basis as they prepare to move forward with their education.
Students in the tumultuous transition from high school to college or those looking to continue their education are only made more overwhelmed by the pressing decision of choosing the correct career path for them.
There is an innumerable amount of majors for students to choose from and, for many, their choice is indicative of how they will be spending the rest of their lives.
What do you do when it seems like all of your friends have it figured out while you’re still staring at lists of career paths you didn’t even know existed? You knew about Health Sciences, Biology and Business, but what are occupational therapists, biological engineers and financial analysts?
“Many people come in with no idea and some people have known what they want to do since they were four years old,” Mike Ouert, assistant director of recruiting at Montana State University, said. “Coming from someone who changed their major four times in their first semester, believe me when I say if you know what you want, then go for it. You can always change it later.”
Though changing your major is not ideal, it’s not derailing to your education — usually.
Some majors, typically science and engineering sequences, have a lockstep regimen of classes to take in order to move forward. Deciding on one of these majors later in you college career will set you back, but if you know it is what you want to do, go for it.
Other majors, like history or English, usually have more general education requirements that are easily transferable from one liberal arts degree to another. English majors often require many of the same basic history classes a History major must take, and vise versa.
Ouert suggests students look through their respective University’s major catalog and circle the programs that appeal to them. That will help students narrow 200 choices down to three or four options that interest them.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was in high school, but as I got older and started going through my general education requirements I was able to decide,” Erin Larson, Great Falls College Montana State University student, said. “I knew I wanted a health major. I really like the thought of helping people out. I chose to go into dental hygiene because it’s a stable job with good hours and good pay.”
Larson is currently in her first year of the dental hygiene program at GFC MSU.
Remember that the major you choose now will more than likely be the career you have later, so don’t take the decision lightly. Assess your strengths and areas of interest. Research what classes are required in your programs of interest.
You would be ill-advised to seek out a career in engineering if you’ve struggled with math in the past.
“It’s great to get real-life experience as much as possible,” Julie Edstrom, University of Great Falls vice president of enrollment, said. “Job shadow, volunteer or go to informational sessions.”
Not all careers are exactly what they seem. Talking to people and finding opportunities to experience “I’ve talked to many people over the years who went to a four-year college, entered their career and it wasn’t what they expected,” Edstrom said. “It’s important to get a feel of what the career is actually like.”
Consider using your final high school semesters to take a few classes that relate to the majors you are most interested in. That will give you a better idea about what your major’s coursework will be like.
“Start the process early,” Ouert said. “Some students get caught up in their senior years and put everything off. The sooner you get started, the less stressful the process will be.”
It’s never too early to be thinking about possible career options.

A student writes notes during a lecture at Montana State University.

A student writes notes during a lecture at Montana State University.

“The earlier you can start thinking about your interests, the better,” Edstrom said. “It will help sort out what fits and what doesn’t. High schools have a lot of great resources for students
to explore.” The Great Falls Public Schools
system utilizes the Montana Career Information System to inventory students’ interests and skills. The system helps point high schoolers in the direction of the general fields they might be interested in.

GFC MSU also provides students with access to Career Coach, an online database that provides information on local job availability, wages, schools offering the major and training.
Students who are stuck between choosing two or three different majors can use Career Coach to get an accurate forecast of what they can expect from the workforce with each given degree.
“It’s important to know what jobs are available in a field,” Joe Simonsen, director of admissions at GFC MSU, said.

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December 2020

Student Snapshot

Student Snapshot

Terry Bradley

School: Montana State University

Year in school: Senior

Age: 23

Hometown: Huntley

Major: Elementary education with a science option

Why did you choose MSU?
It offered a quality teacher education program while not too far from home.

What was your biggest challenge your freshman year?
Being a first-generation college student, I was working multiple jobs and my academics suffered. I had to navigate an entirely new academic system all by myself.
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