How to Choose a Major: With Your Head or Your Heart?

Choosing the right major for you can be difficult when your head is at war with your heart. Here's how to analyze your options with both in mind!

When choosing a college major, where does one typically start? The answer is different for everyone. You may have a few people in mind who are already preparing to apply to schools with a chosen major. However, you may feel completely lost about what you want to do with your life—and that’s normal! This is your future, and its not an easy decision.

Should you follow your passions and possibly seek a path of lower job opportunity or income, or sacrifice your innate career desires for higher pay and job security? (Consider yourself lucky if you already have a love for higher-paying job fields.) So the real question is: When choosing a college major, do you follow the logic of your head or the passions of your heart?

Ask yourself important questions and make some lists

Heres an exercise to help you answer this question—using another important question. Ask yourself this: If money or job security were no objects, what career path would you want to follow in life? Dont think too hard about it—just go with what you feel in your heart. If you have a few career paths in mind, choose your most desired job. Now, grab a pen and piece of paper and weigh the pros and cons of this heart-led career choice by following the steps below.

  1. List all the pros of working the job you have in mind. In other words, what are the positive aspects of this job? Maybe this job is your passion, or maybe you could make a difference in the world working in this particular field. Whatever these pros are, list as many as you can. 
  2. List the cons of working this job. What are the possible negative aspects about this job? Maybe there’s slim opportunity to land a job in this field, or maybe the pay isn’t enticing. 
  3. Write down the pros of not landing this job. This one may be a little trickier to answer. Perhaps not having this job will allow you more free time to spend with your family or will prevent you from boatloads of stress. 
  4. Jot down the cons of not landing this job. Perhaps if you dont work in a job similar to this one, youll always wish you had followed your heart. List as many of these cons that come to mind.

Related: 3 Quick Tips to Narrow Down All Your Major Options

Tally up your results

Take a look at the answers you wrote down for the first and last questions only. If you notice any repeating answers, cross out the duplicates. For each remaining list item, rate the importance of each item with a one, two, or three: one being not important to you, two being moderately important, and three being highly important. When you’re finished, add up all the ranked items and write down your total. Next, complete a similar task for the second and third questions only, also ranking each item with a one, two, or three after youve eliminated any duplicate answers. Keep in mind that this scale is different, as it will represent how much each item bothers you—one will represent what list items don’t bother you, two is what you’re moderately bothered by, and three will indicate you’re highly bothered by the item. Add up the numbers for each item and write down your total. 

Analyzing your results

So what do the results mean? If your total was higher on the first tally, you may be leaning toward choosing a major according to your heart. On the other hand, if you scored higher on the second tally, this may indicate that you prefer to choose your major according to what your head is telling you. 

Related: 4 Interesting Ways to Help You Find Your College Major

Examples of high-paying jobs

You can complete this same pros and cons task for any potential jobs you have in mind, and try comparing your results to determine what you may want to lean toward when it comes to choosing a major. If you prefer to ponder higher-paid jobs and majors, take a look at some of the most popular jobs and majors of 2020 that tend to pay well and have high job satisfaction:


U.S. News & World Report recognizes that many of the highest-paid entry-level jobs of 2020 include some form of engineering. Engineering is a widely varying career field. If you’re considering this lucrative career, do your research on the different fields of engineering you could go in to. 

Engineering in a nutshell

  • Pay: Starting pay of about $67,385–$96,445 per year 
  • Education: Minimum of a bachelor’s degree; internship and state licensure exam must be completed for those seeking licensure
  • Majors: There are many applicable majors!
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Outlook (2017–2028): 4% in growth
  • Common struggles in the field:Though these may be different for everyone, some say they experience high stress, lots of commuting, and limited social interaction at work.
  • Common benefits: Many tend to consider this field rewarding and are able to exercise their mind in their career.

Related: List: Great Engineering Programs at Small Colleges


Nearly all jobs as a doctor pay well, as the need for medical health attention continues to grow. The schooling to become a doctor is extensive, and the years of internships and residency may be lengthy, but those who become doctors are often satisfied with their decision.

Medical doctors in a nutshell

  • Pay: Over $208,000 per year, depending on the type of doctor 
  • Education: Ranges according to specialty; typically involves four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, and up to seven additional years in a residency program, plus a licensure exam
  • Majors: Depends (talk to your prospective college about this); a science major like Chemistry or Biology should be sufficient prior to enrolling in medical school, but med schools accept many different majors
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Outlook (2017–2028): 7% in growth 
  • Common struggles: Though different for everyone, this career field sees stressful and fast-paced environments, making high-risk decisions quickly, and long hours.
  • Common benefits: These include helping people and saving lives, for starters!

Related: List: Colleges Providing a Fast Track to Becoming a Doctor


With the stigma of mental health on the decline in 2020, psychiatrists are highly sought-after doctors and often have long waitlists, indicating a high sense of job security and good income. Psychiatrists enjoy helping people with their mental health needs and can prescribe medications for those who don’t find mental health therapy alone effective enough to manage their symptoms. 

Psychiatry in a nutshell

  • Pay: About $220,000 per year or more
  • Education: Similar to medical doctor requirements; residency will have a psychiatric focus
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Outlook (2017–2028): 16% in growth
  • Majors: Majors will vary from school to school; for instance, a science major like Chemistry or Biology could be sufficient prior to enrolling in medical school
  • Common struggles:Though different for everyone, professionals often have long hours, deal with insurance billing, and manage high-risk mental health situations with patients.
  • Common benefits: These include helping people change their lives and increase life satisfaction as well as the easy ability to be self-employed.

Invest in yourself and do your research

When choosing a college major and career path, it takes time and research! With the number of years you’ll be investing into your future, you want to make sure you’re making a well-thought-out decision. You’ll thank yourself as a future professional when you’re working in a fulfilling career that you chose for all the right reasons.

Even if you haven’t chosen a major yet, you may have colleges you’re interested in. Check out the majors offered at those schools using our College Search tool! 

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Jacleen Charbonneau

Jacleen Charbonneau is the founder of and senior tutor at iOpen Tutoring & College Prep. She specializes in college prep, test prep, and English subjects for teens around the world, conveniently hosting her services through Skype and FaceTime. She graduated with a BA in English from Assumption College and will soon hold her MA in Counseling Psychology, which provides her the right skills to not only to assist students academically but to understand them on a deeper level.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress


High School Class of 2023

Being a sophomore in high school, I never really worried about college. I thought it wasn't important to worry about until senior year. Through this program opportunity I came across, I realized how important it is to start looking at colleges early and start planning ahead. CollegeXpress has opened my eyes to what colleges require, what colleges are near me, and what they offer. The daily emails I get from CollegeXpress really help me look at the different options I have and what colleges I fit into. Without this website, I would not be taking the time out of my day to worry about what my future will be nor what opportunities I have. I could not be more grateful for such an amazing and useful website. It's thanks to CollegeXpress that not only me but my family now know how much potential I have in to getting into these colleges/universities that we thought were out of my reach.

Fabiola Rodriguez

Fabiola Rodriguez

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me on my journey to get to the school of my first choice by showing me all the options I have. I didn’t know of the College of Southern Nevada until I went on this website, and it helped me look for other choices and compare what colleges would be right for me.

Carlie Cadet

Carlie Cadet

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me learn about an abundance of scholarships available to me and my situation. I was able to do research for colleges in my best interest with your website. I've had multiple colleges email me and offer me multiple scholarships and things of that nature because of this website! Thank you so much for uploading scholarships I didn’t even know existed, even if my life took a huge turn and I wasn’t able to go to college straight out of high school. CollegeXpress helped me a lot in high school to be even more motivated to get into my dream college (which I did, by the way). I'm looking forward to using the materials CollegeXpress has kindly provided me for free to look for scholarships to help pay for college.

Lydia Huth

Lydia Huth

Student, Campbell University; CollegeXpress Student Writer

I discovered CollegeXpress while embarking on my college search journey as an excited—but scared and way confused—high schooler without a counselor or college-bound sibling to give me advice. Let me tell you, I’m so glad that I stumbled on this community! CollegeXpress helped me find potential colleges and keep application deadlines straight. It gave me a great list of scholarships, and the blogs and emails made me feel like I wasn’t going it alone. Almost three years later and with freshman year of college down, I still love the CollegeXpress vibe so much that I’m writing for them. I’d recommend this site to anyone!



High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Evangel University

Springfield, MO

Washington College

Chestertown, MD

Malone University

Canton, OH