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Gateway Advising and Major Exploration Center

Ward Edwards 1900
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660.543.4721


Five "Major" Misconceptions

Misconception #1: "I want to find out about a major so I’ll take an intro course."
Scheduling an introductory course is one way to learn about a particular major, but it may not be the best way, especially if you're just beginning the exploration process. Here are some reasons why:

  • If you schedule a course just to learn more about a major and then decide not to choose that major, you'll have eliminated one major but you still will not have chosen one. Deciding on majors by eliminating them one course at a time is costly, inefficient and time-consuming.
  • Some introductory courses will not give you a good idea of what the major is like. These courses are often survey oriented, meaning you are quickly covering a large body of information.You can often learn a lot about a course and a major just by looking through the required textbooks, reading the course syllabus, and visiting the department before deciding whether or not to schedule a course in that major. While this does take time, it is free. Taking an intro course typically will cost you between $250 and $750.
  • You may take an intro course and subsequently decide that you aren’t interested in the major simply because you do not like the instructor. Perhaps if you take the same course with a different instructor you would have chosen the major?????.

Misconception #2: "I’m just gonna get my Gen Eds out of the way first."
Most majors have specific General Education requirements.

  • For example, every Bachelor of Science in Education degree requires a Biology course, US History, and American Government. The only Gen Ed courses required by every major are Composition I & II.
  • Some majors require beginning major courses in the first semester, others by the second or maybe the third semester to graduate in four years.

Misconception #3: "Picking a major and picking a career is the same thing."
Students often think choosing a major is the same thing as choosing a career (and vice-versa). Although these two choices are related, choosing one doesn't automatically mean you've chosen the other. Here are just a few examples:

  • Some people assume students who major in the arts, humanities, or social sciences are either not qualified for any career, or qualified only for careers in those specific areas. Actually, students who major in theatre, history, psychology, and similar majors do find jobs in business, research, human resources, teaching, the military, non-profit institutions, and a variety of other occupations.
  • Many students who decide they want to be a lawyer automatically assume that they should major in pre-law. The reality is that a student can choose any major and still be accepted into law school.
  • Many students who decide they want to be a doctor assume they should major in pre-med. Students can major in many different areas and still qualify for medical school, as long as they take the courses required by the medical school(s) to which which they apply, and do well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Choosing a major doesn't limit you to just one career; choosing a career doesn't limit you to just one major.

Misconception #4: "Choosing one major means giving up all the others."
UCM offers many majors that leave room for minors or for free-choice elective coursework. Often you can begin with coursework in one or more areas of interest. Later, once you’ve determined which area is more interesting, you can declare your major and possibly a minor.

  • Some majors require similar courses to other majors. For example, Dietetics and Exercise Science both require many of the same courses. Sometimes, students who find out how much time it would take to complete more than one major decide instead to complete just one undergraduate major and then go on for a master's degree in another area of study.
  • Graduate degrees don't have to be in the same area as undergraduate degrees. For example, a student who earns a bachelor's degree in music might go on to earn a master's degree in business administration.Thus, a student can eventually focus on 40-60 credit hours in a major, as well as several other areas of interest.

Misconception #5: "My major will determine what I do for the rest of my life."
Did you know studies have shown that within ten years after graduation, most people are working in careers not directly related to their undergraduate majors? Just as some students change majors, some graduates change their careers.

  • There are doctors, for example, who decide to become lawyers, and lawyers who decide to become doctors. Although these are unusual examples, it's not unusual for most people to change careers several times during their professional lives. A teacher, for example, might become a principal or a superintendent, or an engineer might move into a management position.
  • Most jobs also change over time, whether people want them to or not. Many current jobs will be very different five years from now or may even be obsolete by then. New types of jobs are emerging every year, and most of us have no way of knowing what those jobs will be or what type of education will be needed in order to qualify for them. The current emphasis in career planning at the undergraduate level is on the development of the types of general skills, e.g., writing, speaking, computer literacy, and problem solving. Employers want graduates that can adjust to rapidly changing careers.

For individualized assistance with your Major & Career Exploration, make an appointment with an Open Options Career Counselor.