How to pick a Major for your Undergraduate Study?

Are you having a hard time choosing what major to pursue for your university education? Have you been constantly browsing course syllabuses, trying to figure out the differences between them? We know how you feel!

Choosing a major for your university education is probably one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make in your academic life. Unsure what to do, fear not! We’ve compiled a guide to help you discover and choose the most suitable major for you.

What’s up in Singapore?

“Choose a major that can help you earn a lot of money!” “Will you have a good future doing that?” Some of you may have heard your parents advising you to pursue a major that is conventionally leads to a  “well-paying” and “stable” career.

Is the most popular major Law? Or is it Medicine? Turns out, it’s neither of them, but rather Computer Science (Information Systems). In fact, a survey done on NUS and SMU in 2017 revealed a drop of 17 and 22 percent in the number of applicants for the Law program respectively. NUS also reported a 35 percent increase in the number of students listing computer science courses as their first choice. The trend is in line with the increase in demand for computer sciences degree holders, with the 2016 graduate employment survey showing how graduates from the different information systems course in NUS received the highest jump in salaries.

The shift suggests that  future employability and earning potential still remain popular factors in deciding a major. Indeed, these two factors remain undeniably important in choosing a major, as most seek to reap the highest Return On Investment (ROI) for tuition.

In case you’re wondering, ROI refers to the ratio of the net profit one receives after an investment. Well, in other words, it compares the starting monthly gross salary to the entire cost of a university education. After all, a degree is an investment right? To give you a general idea of ROI on the different majors in Singapore, we have created an infographic based on findings by Value Penguin.

Despite their low ROI, majors such as Medicine remain popular among applicants because they ultimately provide fast employment progression and long-term earning potential, which will eventually cover up for the time, money and effort spent for your university.

But these factors career-focused factors, and while they are important, you may risk sidelining other important factors such as interests and abilities as well! Check out our comprehensive list of other factors below:

  1. Interests

    • Have you heard of the saying, “You’ll only do well for what you like?” That is certainly true for most people, as studies have shown a strong correlation between interests and results for a subject. Choosing a major you have passion for will definitely make it easier for you to endure the long hours of lectures and studying that ensue – it’ll usually translate to a higher GPA as well! Wouldn’t a high GPA look fantastic on your resume? Most employers think so too, as GPA is often seen as a strong indicator of your ability to handle pressure and your ability to learn. Now, who’s to say there’s no future in pursuing what you like?
  2. Abilities

    • You should also assess the current abilities that you possess to make more informed choices of which major to pursue. For example, if you know that you not good with numbers, figures and symbols, then perhaps courses related to engineering or mathematical science may not be for you. Similarly, if you know that you have a flair for convincing, negotiating, working closely with others and pitching of unique ideas, you can consider taking up a business-related degree course. With that said, you should first identify your strengths and weaknesses by reflecting on your academic, work and life experiences. This will allow you to narrow down your choices for a potential major which will be beneficial for you in making better choices.
  3. Characteristics of Major

    • As you may have noticed, there are similar majors offered by the different universities in Singapore. But, are they all the same? Well, a quick look at course syllabus will tell you it’s a strong no! Take NUS and SMU Political Science for instance. Despite having the same name, both majors are very different in their content and the way it is carried out. NUS Political Science is heavier on the lectures, while SMU Political Science is often conducted in seminars. This means that for SMU Political Science students, active participation and presentations are key aspects contributing to your grades! Think about your learning habits and your personality – it’ll be beneficial for you to choose a major that is taught in a way that is best suited for your needs.
  4. Psychological and Social Benefits

    • Turns out, studies have shown that choosing a course with people sharing a similar mindset as you will do you good! Not only will you feel at ease with them, they will also motivate you to work hard and enjoy your learning in university! This is otherwise known as the “Person-Environment Fit”, which looks at how well a person’s characteristic match with the environment that he/she is in. Your learning environment is affected by the members of the community (i.e. your future peers!), hence it would be a plus if your peers share the same beliefs, attitudes and mindset as you do.
  5. Other Minor Factors

    • Specialisation

      • What is specialisation? Well, degrees can be separated into two main categories, specialised and general. General degree includes majors such as History, English, Chemistry – they are not catered to a specific career. Whereas, a specialised degree is usually catered to a very specific field, such as Computer Science and Aerospace Engineering. So, should you pursue a specialised or a general degree? The answer is, depends on what you want! If you are very sure that you are interested in a specialised field, then it’ll be highly beneficial for you to pursue that specialised major. Jobs in specialised field usually fetch higher salaries due to the highly specialised skill sets demanded by the industry. But if you are still unsure about, then it might be good to go for a general major, as it usually opens up various career paths for you to explore!
    • Double Degree / Double Major / Minors

      • Most students pursue double degree / double major programs to increase their marketability. But before you apply for anything, do consider how time and energy intensive they can be! Most double degree / double major programs require you to clear a lot more credits than an average student. Is it worth it for you? Is it really what you want? If you think it is, then go for it! Otherwise, you might want to consider pursuing a minor instead. Minors do not increase your workload significantly, but they can highlight your interests and skills to your employers! Some courses are also available as minors, such as Creative Writing (NTU), Forensic Science (NTU) and Geosciences (NUS) – if you are interested in any of these, pursuing a minor in it is the way to go!

What You Should Do in the Meantime

If you are still unsure of what major to pursue, do some research and talk to more people! Find out more about the different majors from people who have completed them, or read up about them on forums. Check out their content and the ways the majors are taught on the various course websites! The more you know, the more sure you’ll be in your choice of major.

You should also apply for internships in industries that you’re interested in, the experience of working in the field might alter your perspective of it – it’ll either cement you passion, or help you realise that you’re better suited for other industries.

At the end of the day, there will be many people advising you what to choose for your major. But remember, it is your major – don’t let their voices drown your own opinion, choose a major that you think is the most suitable for you, and everything will work it’s way out for you!