Choosing a Major
Answers to the most common questions about selecting the right major for you
How do I pick the right major for me?
Selecting the right major can be overwhelming – it can feel like your entire future rests on this choice! But the reality is that UMass SBS majors provide you with knowledge and skills that set you up for success in a wide range of career fields.
When choosing your major, your future career plans are only one piece of a larger puzzle. A lot can change during your time a UMass – students learn and grow, finding new interests and passions along the way. You want a major that will keep you engaged for the long run and helps you achieve your goals.
What subjects do you keep coming back to over and over again? What are your strongest skills? What are your goals for the future? These are big questions, but they will guide you toward a program that aligns with the things you enjoy and hope to accomplish long term.
All new students are part of the Exploratory Track program, which allows you to sample coursework from a number of majors before you declare. Keep an open mind, try new courses, and see what works best for you. And if you have any questions, you can always reach out to the advisors in SBS Pathways.
How do I learn more about SBS majors?
The SBS Exploratory Track program gives you the opportunity to take classes in all of the SBS departments. This means you can experience what it might be like to major in a given subject before fully committing to any one program. As you take courses in the College, please feel free to ask your instructors about areas of study that interest you! Almost all professors offer office hours/drop-in hours where you can visit and ask questions about the class or the subject matter in general. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of this important resource!
SBS Pathways also offers peer advising, where you can meet with someone majoring in one (or more) of the SBS majors. They can provide information on what it is like to be in a given program. Some departments also offer peer advising – check the department websites for more information.
Another way to learn about SBS majors, their requirements, and the types of courses involved is by visiting the department websites. This page provides links to the departments, as well as what you have to do to declare the major.
When do I declare a major?
It depends on the major, but generally, no later than the registration period during your third full-time semester (for many students, that is the fall semester of their second year). Some majors require you to declare earlier, so it is a very good idea to do your research early to see what the requirements are for the major(s) that you find interesting.
Should I just focus on my General Education requirements if I haven’t decided on a major?
No – choosing a major should be your priority. There is a timeline for declaring your major, while GenEds can be completed at any time prior to graduation. The SBS Exploratory Track allows you to focus on deliberate major exploration to guide your decision-making process. If you are uncertain about your major, don’t worry – you can always meet with a peer advisor or academic advisor to discuss your concerns.
How do I declare a major?
There are two types of majors – restricted and unrestricted.
Restricted majors have some sort of application process, and admission to the program is not guaranteed. The requirements for each program can vary, and some have GPA requirements associated with acceptance. Any student interested in a restricted major will need to have a Plan B major that isn’t restricted; an advisor will be able to help you with this process. You will need to do your research for restricted majors, as many have deadlines beyond which you cannot declare the major.
Unrestricted majors generally require a meeting with a major advisor to process the declaration. Some programs require a meeting with an advisor, attendance at an information session, and a completion of a Statement of Interest.
Visit the How to Declare a Major site to learn more details about SBS major requirements.
How do I declare a backup (Plan B) major?
If you are in your third full-time semester and you have applied to your top-choice major, you will declare your Plan B major at the same time. Having your Plan B in place first gives you the best access to available courses. If you are accepted to your top choice, we can always change your major and adjust your schedule accordingly.
Does my Plan B major need to closely relate to my top-choice major?
No. Sometimes there is an unrestricted major with closely-related content that makes sense, but your Plan B major does not necessarily have to relate to your top-choice major.
What are certificates and letters of specialization?
Some departments offer undergraduate certificates or letters of specialization. These are completed as part of your undergraduate program and show that you have a level of specialization or additional training in a given subject. To see which programs offer undergraduate certificates and letters of specialization, visit this page.
What if I picked the wrong major?
Don’t panic! While we try our very best to help you pick a major that is a good fit for you, sometimes a change is necessary. If you think you need to change majors, the best course of action is to meet with an advisor to go over your options and get you back on track.
Everyone is telling me to focus on my career. Will I have good career options with an SBS major?
Yes. Sometimes new students believe that in order to have a great career, you must declare a certain major. While that may be the case for highly technical fields or careers that require certifications or licensure (think engineering, medical fields, architecture, etc.), there is generally no single path to any given career. We have many alumni who have gone into lucrative fields, including business.
It is more important to pick a major that you like and that matches your interests and skills. When you enjoy what you study, you work harder at acquiring the knowledge and skills presented in your courses, which often means better grades. You will participate more in class, engaging in discussions with faculty and other students – that will be the foundation of your network as you move into your career. You will add to that network through internships and other opportunities, and the process will be easier because you are happy with what you are doing!
If you are interested in learning more about careers, don’t wait until your senior year. Check out your options, connect with SBS alumni, or talk to a career counselor to start planning for your post-graduation future!
I really wanted to major in business. Will I still be able to go into business with an SBS degree?
Yes. “Business” is a very broad subject matter. Many SBS alumni have gone into private industry in highly competitive fields and done quite well. Our majors offer a level of flexibility along with specialized knowledge – especially analytical skills and policy knowledge – that are in high demand by many companies.
The reality is that our alumni have built careers in a broad array of industries, including non-profits, government, policy think tanks, tech industries, NGOs, financial advising, business analysis, and law, just to name a few. If you see yourself as a business person, you can achieve that goal with an SBS major – come speak with an advisor, so we can find the right major to match your future plans.