• Post last modified:April 10, 2023

There is no fixed time to gain a further degree. Continual education is the norm in the current knowledge economy.

Going to college at any age can be an exciting experience filled with many unknowns.

For older students, usually referred to as non-traditional students (those who, at the time of enrollment, are 23 years or older), there can be further complications to the process.

One of the biggest challenges that many college students face is writing a narrative essay for a college application and picking a major. Those who come into post-secondary education with previous work and life experience face this challenge uniquely.

Many who go back to college to start (or finish) their undergraduate degree usually have different reasons for attending college than their younger counterparts.

Much like their younger classmates, adult learners tend to return to college for career and financial benefits, like a better position at their place of employment or a better-paying job. Job satisfaction, however, is not always the driving force behind non-traditional students’ return to higher education. Many older adults seek to reinvent their self-identity by going back to school. While still others go back for the simple act of mental stimulation.

Picking the Perfect Major

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect major.

The college major that is perfect for one individual will be completely different for another. It is advised against choosing a major based on traditional stereotypes of the job and your personality’s potential “fit” into that position.

For example, the belief that people in the medical field are all people-persons and outgoing does not mean that if your personality matches, then the job will match.

Below, we list some guidelines to help you pick a good major for your circumstance. Because every non-traditional student has a different reason for being in college, this guide is meant to help you critically think about your choice of major, not tell you which specific major you need to consider.

Do What You Love

We cannot stress this enough.

If you do what you love, then chances are, you will not be disappointed. With that said, however, this golden rule is especially meant for those who are not currently doing what they love. If you are going back to school to get out of the seemingly endless drudgery of your job, then we highly advise you to seek out opportunities in fields that interest you the most.

If you do not know off the top of your head what it is you would love, this would be a great time to do some deep thinking and exploration about your passions.

Sometimes our greatest passions may not seem like they can fit into a career. For example, if you find that you love to ride bicycles, and you have a talent for a small business, you could find yourself working within a bicycle business (or starting your own). It may take some creative thinking when planning to pick your college major, but it is well worth it.

Continue What You Are Doing

For those who truly enjoy their current job or career, perhaps sticking with that same career is the answer to your college major quest.

If you find yourself loving what you already do but have hit the career ceiling for your educational level, then sticking with that field, or increasing your knowledge or specificity in that field will be most beneficial.

We all have seen people who have worked in social services and non-profits who are passionate about what they do. Yet, after so many years working in that field, they realized that they can no longer move up in their jobs. Therefore, they returned to school to either get their degree (which would allow them to apply for a specific job), or they returned to school to specialize in an area, such as non-profit management, to advance their career.

Just Pick a Major

It takes a lot of thought to make such a big decision. After all, it will cost you a lot of money (and time) and you want to make sure that at the end of the day, you can feel good about your decision. This piece of advice is for those individuals who are simply going back to college because they want stimulation or to finally finish that degree but do not need it in a career sense.

For those fortunate enough to be able to go to college for the great experience of getting an education, picking a major is not quite as stressful.

What you will want to do when choosing your major is to look at the requirements of each major you are interested in to see if those are courses you want to take (though not all requirements seem like the most fun to undertake).

What to Make of All This?

Since many non-traditional students do have work and life experiences that they bring to the table, we highly suggest using these experiences to help inform your decision in choosing a major.

If you have worked in customer service in the past and realize that you do not want to work with the public, then picking a major like medical assisting may not be the best fit for you. Having realistic expectations of what your education and potential career entails will help you make informed decisions about choosing your major.

You should take this time to pull together your experiences, your passions, and your dreams to help guide you in making this important step. Each school is equipped with counselors and career experts to answer some of the questions regarding career facts, but in the end, only you know what is right for you and your circumstance.


SOEG Career & Learning portal aims to understand the pain points of professionals looking for career growth and then makes every effort to provide innovative solutions.