Ouya International Education

What to Consider When Choosing a Study Abroad Major (3 Tips)

You may find it difficult to decide what major that you should choose when considering studying abroad. Some students naturally wonder whether they should consider working for a few years before going to Canada, Great Britain, Australia, or the USA to pursue their studies. Most parents will not hesitate to choose employment first as the foremost important factor when helping their children to choose a major for studies abroad.

The university application in Canada for 2023 fall entry will be closing shortly for most of the major Canadian universities, including the top three: the University of Toronto, McGill, and UBC. Whether you are a student or the student’s parent, how will you choose a major and a destination?

Here are a few points to help you out of this dilemma:

Does the major that you have in mind for your studies abroad determine high or low employment prospects?

Whenever the application season arrives, a large number of international students are indecisive about choosing their major, and they are often troubled by the question of “employment first” or “academic interests first.”

Some parents are more concerned about future employment and salary of their sons’ and daughters’ chosen majors, often ignoring the interests of their children. When their children are choosing majors, parents of some international students are focused much more on future employment prospects, whereas the students themselves often give up their original interests and choose a “popular major,” one in which they are not much interested, because of parental intervention.

In fact, this problem is moot, because it is not scientific to talk about career prospects without considering the student’s personal abilities and the comprehensive quality of the post-secondary institution under consideration.

Although the choice of majors can certainly affect future employment prospects, areas of study or academic disciplines pursued do not play a decisive role in job and income prospects. Outstanding personal ability and excellent Grade-Point Averages (USA) or Cumulative Percentage Averages (Canada) enable students to get into relatively competitive university programs, and therefore lead to enhanced salaries in various industries, even those in which the average income is lower.

In other words, as long as the personal academic record is high enough, students can achieve excellence in their post-secondary years, creating value and standing out in career competitions after graduation.

“Hot majors” and “cold majors” are relative rather than absolute; for example, graduates in chemical engineering might be in demand now, but the situation may be very different on the job market four years from now. The competition for jobs across all industrialized nations in “popular majors” is very fierce, while “cold majors” are not necessarily as weak as people think.

Just two years ago, the job prospects for newly graduated teachers were poor, but, thanks to Covid-related retirements, many good positions in public and private education have become available, for instance.

Your success in applying for a competitive program will depend on your relative position in the same batch of students. In the same major, the top 10% and the bottom 10% of study abroad majors definitely have very different career development and salary packages.

Those “study abroad” majors that are ideal for others may not be suitable for you.

Many prospective international students tend to put aside their own ambitions and proclivities and blindly refer to other people’s experiences when choosing a so-called “safe path” to study abroad. Such students are probably used to “taking the path that others have taken,” thinking that a major that suits others will also work for them.

However, choosing the safe path is not a good idea. You should choose your major in a customized way to avoid having to take detours or arrive at dead-ends. For example, if your child is not good at math, as a parent you should not consider math-intensive majors such as engineering and actuarial science; the student’s strengths and weaknesses must always be considered when choosing a major.

Prospective students need to experience more, gather more information, and be academically prepared before making the choice of a major. Make an effort to see the situation ahead of your chosen path; understand where you will be employed after graduation; be clear about what you will have an advantage over others in what you do; and know who will be willing to pay for your talent and time in the future. If you think about all these questions clearly, you avoid confusion in choosing your major, and you will not be at a loss when writing your personal statement in your university application.

There is NOT only one chance to choose a major for study abroad.

The choice of your major when applying to study abroad has an important impact on your future career. If you unfortunately choose a major that you discover you do not or is not suitable for you, will you have a chance to remedy the situation? In fact, in Canadian and American universities, students have more than one chance to choose a major, so that international students can “correct” their original choice of major in first year by changing majors up to the end of second year.

Here, in the US and Canada, it is easier and more common for international students to change their majors. North American universities encourage students to pursue their own interests and consider their strengths throughout their studies, and are open to and tolerant of students changing their majors.

From the perspective of an international student, compared with domestic universities, the academic system of foreign universities is more flexible, and it is much easier for international students to change their majors without going through too many administrative procedures.

From the perspective of the post-secondary curriculum, it is not very difficult to change majors in Canadian or American universities. Most of the courses offered in foreign universities during the freshman and sophomore (first and second) years are general courses, which are equivalent to public courses in domestic universities. Since the credits from these “study abroad” courses can be counted together with the credits of future major studies, changing majors as early as possible will not have too much impact on the student’s academic progress.

A student may change their major at the end of second year in any of Canada’s ninety-six public universities without incurring a major loss of degree credits. For example, a student who has the first and second-year prerequisites for a science-related degree could easily switch from Physics to Mechanical Engineering, for example, picking up in Summer Session the few missing first and second-year courses.

In fact, regardless of whether you choose to study abroad or at home, you should make your own decision about choosing a major, whether for employment or interest. As a student (as opposed to a future employee) you should focus on improving your personal and academic abilities and your communication skills. Once you have chosen a destination country and a specific university, you will still have many decisions to make and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome.


You might wonder if it’s better to gain employment for a few years before concentrating on academics when considering going abroad. What’s important is that you follow your interests and choose a major that you can excel in. In this way, you can find sufficient employment no matter which major you choose. Remember, it’s never too late to change majors later on if you find you’re unsatisfied.

Deciding on a major and destination is a big piece of the puzzle but it’s not everything. Speak to a experience school application consultant today to learn more and find answers to all your questions.

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