Woodshop students working

Choosing a Major

In many ways, a major is like a contract between you, the student, and the school you attend. By declaring a major, you agree to perform certain work (i.e. classes) in exchange for a college degree. In looser terms, a major is simply an organized collection of classes, either revolving around a subject (e.g. mathematics), theme (e.g. media studies), or professional field (e.g. pre-med, pre-law, engineering, etc.) Northern Michigan offers more than 180 different majors from which students can select.


Native American Studies students drumming

When Do I Need to Choose a Major?

It depends on the college and the major. Most schools prefer that you start looking at a major by your sophomore year. Some schools actually require you to list a major choice on your college application. Fortunately, "undecided" is often one of the available options. At Northern Michigan University, you may certainly indicate a major on your application for admission or you can list "undeclared." Usually, you need to choose a major by the end of your sophomore year at the latest. However, if you are interested in being, for example, a nursing major at NMU, you will need to apply to that major at the beginning of your sophomore year. Some majors require students to apply for a spot in their program while others are open to all students.

Chloe Wilkinson on top of Sugarloaf

When I began my time at Northern, I had no clue what my future plans would be. Following my passion for the sciences, I decided to major in biology. Thanks to the support, guidance, and opportunities that NMU has offered me, I am no longer lost and confused. I could not be happier with my decision to come to NMU.

Chloe Wilkinson ('20)

Biology and Spanish

Is choosing a major one of the most important decisions of my life?

No. While it is true that choosing the proper major early on can get you on a career path you immediately love, the truth is that the major you choose today gets you started on an exciting journey. It is not a final destination. At Northern, we offer faculty and professional advisers, computer-based assessment programs and career resources to help you decide on a major that fits your interests.

Fact: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average college graduate changes jobs once every three years and changes career fields two or three times before retirement. So, choosing a college major does not lock you into a specific career for the rest of your life.

Changing Majors

As a college student, you've got a lot of decisions to make besides your major, such as what classes to take, when to study, whether to work, and whether to ask your chemistry lab partner out on a date. Chances are, you'll change your mind on some of your choices. Your major is no exception. Colleges expect that you might change. That doesn't mean they make it easy.

Changing your mind is normal. Remember, you are going to be exposed to areas of study and potential careers that you have probably never thought of before. For many majors, a core of general studies is required and can be pretty transferrable from one major to another. For some majors, you must take specific courses (prerequisites) during your first and second year before you can even be considered eligible for upper-level courses. So, changing your major may result in an additional semester or two of coursework to meet graduation requirements.

Double Majoring

Many schools offer the chance to major in more than one subject. Some even give you the chance to earn two separate degrees. Again, rules vary from school to school on how you can pull this off. At Northern Michigan University, students can choose to double major (such as business and theater) but will get a single degree (Bachelors of Arts or Bachelors of Science). Although students can generally finish a degree at NMU in four years, double majors may require more time. Pursuing a double major is an effective way to get more out of college and improve your chances of future success, but it can take a lot of effort and dedication. It helps to know ahead of time what type of workload you'll be expected to handle.

Do you know what the most popular college majors are around the U.S.? Last year's top ten included: Business managementPsychologyElementary EducationBiologyNursingSecondary EducationEnglish Language and LiteratureCommunicationsComputer Science, and Political Science.