Explore Majors & Minors

Overview

Your major is a concentration of study and will be the central focus of the work you do for your Bachelor of Arts degree. Through your major, you will become familiar with a particular discipline or theme in depth and learn related fundamental skills and methodologies.

We encourage students to declare a major by the end of their second year or beginning of their third year. However, some majors have specific timelines for declaration (see the Declare or Change a Major for more information).

Consider your options! A lot of focus is put on asking students what they are studying - do not let this pressure you into making a rushed decision. You will want to consider all of your options before making decisions and you should take some time to explore different subjects taught at UC Berkeley and do your own research with the Career Counseling Library, Career Center and your academic advisers (e.g. L&S College Advisers and Undergraduate Major Advisers) to understand which major is best for you. 

Watch the video below to hear perspectives from UC Berkeley students on finding a major:  

(GBA) Choosing a Major

Play this video to get student perspectives on choosing and changing majors. 

How Can I Explore My Options?

  1. Go to the Academic Guide's list of majors and minors. You may select the filter on the left side of the page (toward the bottom) to only show majors offered in the College of Letters and Science (L&S). Click on pages for all majors you are unfamiliar with or have interest in to discover all of your possibilities.

  2. Read the major’s description.

  3. Select the “Major Requirements" tab. Clicking on the required courses will display the course descriptions and provide you with an idea of what students in this major study. The heart of any major is located in its upper division program. Carefully read course descriptions for upper division courses (#100-199) for a preview of the coursework that defines what the major is truly about, and make up the curriculum for your junior and senior years. Make a list of the majors (and minors) you are most excited about.

  4. Visit the department's website (links in the Academic Guide) to learn more about opportunities, research, and resources. You can also meet with a Major Adviser or Peer Adviser in a major department to ask questions about the major (see "Meet with an Undergraduate Major Adviser" in the Planning section below for suggested questions). 

  5. Sample major/minor options by sitting in on course lectures. This will give you a sense of which subjects make you feel interested and engaged. If a course has 50+ students in the course, you can sit in the course without contacting the instructor. If the course has fewer than 50 students in it, you may wish to contact the instructor for permission.

More helpful resources for all students

More helpful resources for first-year (freshmen) students

Considering enrolling in...

  • L&S 1: Intro to the Liberal Arts, an introduction to the majors found in each academic division in the College of Letters & Science, and to the intellectual landscape at Berkeley as a whole. The course is offered exclusively to incoming freshmen, either during the Freshman Edge summer program or in the Fall semester of your freshman year.
  • Freshman or Sophomore seminar to learn about a specific academic topic with a faculty member who is passionate about it; also learn about the majors that allow you to further engage in that topic.
  • Spotlight course to encounter different ideas and perspectives and explore intellectual areas that may lead to a choice of major. These courses are taught by outstanding faculty who are passionate about their topics and have won awards for undergraduate teaching.

Planning Your Major Exploration

After the above steps and used the resources listed, you have hopefully identified a few majors (and/or minors) in which you are interested. What is next? 

Declaration Requirements

Check the declaration requirements and application process for the majors you are interested in. You can find this information on the department website (you can find department websites through the Academic Guide).

While all majors have prerequisite classes, a few majors at UC Berkeley require a minimum GPA, have specific deadlines to declare, and may have additional criteria in their application process such as essays or resumes. This is usually because the number of students interested in the major exceeds the number of spaces available to admit new students. For these majors in particular, we strongly recommend that you plan for a few alternate majors. 

Review our Declare or Change a Major page for more information about high demand majors and declaration.

Sample Study Plans

Check if your intended majors provide a sample plan of study. Most majors do not have a particular order in which to complete the prerequisites. For these majors, you can make this decision yourself based on which classes you are most interested in and/or are being offered in a given semester. However, a few of our majors require several prerequisites with specific sequencing or that need careful planning to complete in a timely manner. Some of these majors provide a sample plan of study in the Academic Guide or on their website to help you plan your time at Cal. Remember that these are just examples! You may need to make adjustments based on your own situation.

If you are intending to explore Economics, Business, Computer Science, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Integrative Biology, or a pre-health path, it may be helpful to review the related schedule planning webinar recording in our Golden Bear Advising Webinars playlist on YouTube. 

Meet with an Undergraduate Major Adviser

Once you have done your basic research, an Undergraduate Major Adviser (or Peer Adviser, if available, for your intended major) can support you in planning out your major classes if you need support beyond what is on their website (links can be found in the Academic Guide or through your Advising Neighborhood). 

Tips:

  • You do not have to be declared to seek advising from intended major departments in the College of Letters and Science (L&S), but you may be directed to speak with a peer adviser. 
  • Not all major departments schedule appointments the same way. The "Undergraduate Major Advising" section on your Advising Neighborhood page will direct you to the advising services for your major
  • If you are interested in a major outside of L&S, you will need to contact advising services for that college's major adviser. 

Questions to ask a Major Adviser to help you explore whether that major is a good fit for you:

  • How does your major and department stand out from other colleges & universities?
  • What are the qualities or characteristics of students who are attracted to and do well in the major?
  • Are there opportunities for students to get involved in research with faculty? What types of research are faculty in the department working on?
  • What are career pathways available for students in the major?
  • Does the department offer field work opportunities or other special programs?
  • Does the department offer undergraduate clubs or associations to get involved in?

Myths About Majors

MYTH OR FACT? My major will give me hands-on, real world experience to prepare me for a career.

MYTH: Your major is what you study, not what you do! Most majors in the College of Letters and Science take a theory-based approach to studying a particular field, just like other top research universities around the world. This type of education prepares students to be critical and creative thinkers and provides students with a foundation for a range of careers after graduation.

Students, therefore, will supplement their education with hands-on experience outside of the classroom in the form of research, internships, volunteering, working, participating in competitions, and more, in order to explore and prepare for careers.

MYTH OR FACT? I have to major in something practical if I want to get a job after I graduate.

MYTH: A major can certainly help build skills relevant to a career (ex: quantitative skills from a Mathematics major or communication skills from an English major), but is never the only building block of your resume. Hands-on experience will be a critical part of your marketability after graduation and tends to be valued more than major choice by employers. Because of this, it is important to understand that majors are much more flexible in the job market than students commonly believe. 

Your major will provide you with a point of view and critical thinking skills that will help you approach future careers in a deeper way and give you flexibility when navigating the job market. It is important to find a major that you enjoy and do well in, hopefully one that makes you curious to explore it further. 

Visit the Career Library and Career Center (especially their Career Connections event series) to explore career options and to learn about how to incorporate career exploration and preparation into your plan for your undergraduate experience. 

For more perspectives on the above, check out the following articles:

"That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket" from Forbes

“Throughout the major U.S. tech hubs, whether Silicon Valley or Seattle, Boston or Austin, Tex., software companies are discovering that liberal arts thinking makes them stronger...The more that audacious coders dream of changing the world, the more they need to fill their companies with social alchemists who can connect with customers.”

"Ask the Recruiter: Liberal Arts Edition" from Goldman Sachs Careers Blog

“A lot of what liberal arts majors learn—writing skills, communication skills, project management, research—is applicable across all of our divisions...It’s also important for us to have people who are good communicators and who can distill complex information into understandable terms, and we’ve found that this is a strength for many liberal arts majors.”

MYTH OR FACT: Double majoring will make me a better candidate for a job or graduate school.

MYTH: Having more majors has not been shown to increase one's competitive edge for graduate schools, professional schools, or career. Graduate/professional schools and employers want graduates who are well-rounded and have outside-the-classroom experience including internships, research with faculty, or leadership roles in student organizations. While adding a second major can diversify your education in wonderful ways, it can also make it challenging to fit in critical career-oriented experiences while completing requirements for two separate majors.

Read more about the pros and cons of multiple majors in the Double Major and Simultaneous Degree page. 

Our advice if you are considering a double major: take a prerequisite course (or sit in on upper division courses) for each field of study that you are considering to get a better sense of whether you want to pursue both majors or just one. This will also help you choose between the options if you decide to declare just one.

MYTH OR FACT: Everyone knows what they want to major in already.

MYTH: All students enter the College of Letters and Science as undeclared students. Some students arrive on campus with a strong idea about their intended major and career goals, but the majority of students do not. Even students who are sure about their major intentions now are likely to make a change during their Berkeley career as they discover options. 

On average, students change their mind about their intended major 3-4 times. The best way to approach your first year is to explore major options broadly, both through your class schedules and through other methods of exploration (discussed below), and narrow that exploration as you move through your second year.

Related Pages

Assessing Degree Progress

Declare or Change a Major

Unit Ceiling and Semester Limit

Double Majors and Simultaneous Degrees

Also, get support exploring and defining your goals with the help of our L&S Mentors.