Major Exploration Guide

The Role of a Major in Your Academic Life

What role does a major play in your academic life?

Understanding the role of a major and the major-to-career relationship helps you make the most of your major exploration.

Q: What role does a major play in your academic life?

Students need at least 120 units to graduate from the University of Arizona.

Typical breakdown (varies by major):

  • 30-45+ units of courses towards a major
  • 45 units of courses towards General Education requirements (you may need less depending on major, placement, and test credits)
  • 18-20 units of courses towards a minor (not required for all majors)
  • Remaining courses to reach 120 total credits are electives

Why is this important to know?  Because your major coursework can comprise as little as a third—or even a fourth—of the units needed to graduate. The UA aims to graduate students who are not only well prepared for a career, but are also well-rounded and culturally competent citizens.

[Helpful Tip!] General Education courses can be great for major exploration! Find a General Education course offered through a major you're considering. If you love the subject matter, you've made a huge step in finding the right major for you. If the disciplinary perspective is not one you want to pursue, no worries: you've still earned General Education credit needed to graduate. It's a no-risk way to explore your options.

Q: What is the relationship between majors and careers?

The relationship can vary. Some majors (e.g., nursing, engineering, architecture) offer the opportunity to gain licensure or credentialing. Most majors, however, give perspectives, theories, and skills valuable in all kinds of professional endeavors. Therefore, the best major for you is one that matches your interests, academic strengths, and values.

For example:

  • Use your History degree to become a sports broadcaster (like Chris Berman of ESPN) or a business tycoon (Martha Stewart).
  • Take your Sociology degree and go to law school (like First Lady Michelle Obama).
  • Your Psychology degree could open doors in the field of entertainment (it certainly did for Director Jerry Bruckheimer and television show host Jon Stewart).
  • Simpson’s creator Matt Groening, meanwhile, went the Philosophy route.

Not sure what you can do with a major of interest? Check out this fantastic website to discover the many directions a major can take you! (Note: The UA does not offer all of these majors, though we do offer most of them. For more on what majors are available at the UA, check out Degree Search.)

Most majors open all kinds of professional doors. You don't need to know which of the 10,000+ occupational titles out there has your name on it to choose a major that can keep all the right doors open for whatever your future holds!

Q: I'm interested in a specific career. What is the best major to choose?

Most careers do not require specific credentialing. What they do require is the right combination of academic and career preparation.

Start by finding out the Training, Qualifications, and Credentialing needed to pursue a career in the field you’re interested in. Two fantastic resources: the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the University of Arizona’s Career Services office.

Some career fields (e.g., nutrition, education) require credentialing that is offered at the UA. Other career fields (e.g., interior design, culinary arts) require credentialing that may be offered elsewhere. Still other fields (e.g., advertising, human services, retailing) require specific experience in the field, regardless of major. Knowing what is important to future employers —and often, what’s important is not which major you completed—is the key to making sure you are prepared for life after graduation.

NEXT: Identifying Your Options

Major Exploration