Choosing an academic major is the most important decision you'll make for your academic career, but maybe not for the reasons you think.
Many students believe the major they choose will define the career they pursue and will limit their choices. Aside from some very specific exceptions, your major doesn't define your career. Of course if you'd like to be an engineer, you'll need to be an engineering major. Or, if you want to be a public school teacher, you'll want to be an education major.
However, most jobs that our students find themselves in, don't require a specific major. Because of that, we believe you should choose a major you love. Because after all, if you choose a major that speaks to you and feels like a part of your life, then reading about it, writing about it and talking about it will be something you'll enjoy. And, evidence suggests that choosing a major you love will help you have a higher GPA.
By contrast, choosing a major based on the influence of well-meaning friends and family or assumptions about which majors are "practical" and "impractical" has been proven to have a negative effect on the student experience, affecting retention, engagement, student learning, academic standing, setting of academic and career goals, and more.
In the College of Arts and Sciences, we encourage our students to follow a passion so that they can enjoy their education and meaningfully live some of the best years of their lives. Some students and their families have some anxiety about “following a passion” when it comes to career opportunities, though. Anxiety about your future is natural, but there is a lot of evidence that suggests the education gained from a Liberal Arts degree is a very valuable and marketable one.
A Liberal Arts education is grounded in these skills, as we ask our students to write and present often, and we give them instruction in how to do both. We also have majors that ask big, complex questions about the world and our lives, and expect students to have thoughtful, evidence-based opinions about them. A Liberal Arts education provides students with the education that employers say they want.
We also encourage our students to add to their degree with complementary minors and internships that add breadth and diversity to their education and resumé. Employers we’ve polled have told us that they are willing to hire any of our majors, but that it’s helpful for students to have a minor or internship that ties their education and interests to a particular career field or industry. Our advisors can help students be thoughtful about the majors, minors and internships they pursue to help make their education enjoyable, interesting and productive.
Choosing a Major
If you're not sure about which major is right for you, a good way to start is to read down the list of majors offered at UNO and see if anything leaps out at you. From there, you can research any majors that sound interesting by going to the department's website and familiarizing yourself with what those majors study and the reading about faculty you'll work with.
If nothing in the list is compelling, there are many personality and interest assessments that you can take that can help point you in a direction. Also, talking to an academic advisor about your interests and passions is always a good idea. Advisors are very good listeners, and can help match your interests to academic majors.
Majors & Pre-Professional Programs
- Medical School - Some majors incorporate more of the required pre-requisites for medical school than others, but the major doesn't make you any more or less likely to be admitted to medical school. (However, medical schools really like humanities majors.)
- Law School - No particular undergraduate major or course of study is required for admission to law school or even recommended as the best preparation for the study of law. Rather, law schools typically emphasize the need for pre-law students to cultivate certain skills –- such as clarity in written and oral communication, an understanding of human institutions and human nature, and creative and critical thinking –- that can be developed in the context of a variety of majors.
It should be noted that some pre-health programs require that a student graduate with a bachelors degree before they apply to their school of choice. For example, students must graduate before making application to medical school. However, there are some schools that don't require that you graduate first. We, however, suggest that you graduate first so that even if you don't get in to the school you apply to, you'll still have your degree.