What Percentage Of Students Switch Their Majors In College?

In the USA, the main subject a student studies in a college or university is their major. Engineering, Business, Psychology, and Health Professions are some of the most popular majors. Typically, a student must declare their major by the 3rd or 4th semester, also known as the sophomore year. However, most colleges allow students to change their majors as many times as possible, without a limit. What Percentage Of Students Switch Their Majors In College?

This results in the fact that about 1 in 10 students change their major at least once, if not more. According to the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES), about 30% of undergraduates in associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs had changed their majors at least once within the first three years of enrollment. That accounts for one-third of students in Bachelor’s degree programs and 28% of students in associate’s degree programs who switched majors. 

What Percentage Of Students Switch Their Majors In College?

This practice has become so common that it is almost expected for a student to change majors. People are changing majors as many as six times before eventually settling on one. 

Is It Only STEM Majors Who Switch?

Natural Sciences40Humanities36
Engineering and Engineering Technology 32General Studies and other32
Computer and Information Sciences28Social Sciences31
Healthcare Fields26
Other Applied22

TABLE: Percentage of 2011–12 beginning postsecondary students who changed majors by original declared field of study: 2014 

(Data published by the NSCE in 2017)

35% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors changed their original field of study within the first three years of enrollment, with Mathematics being the most opted out of major (52%). The numbers are not very far apart when looking at non-STEM majors. 29% of people switched from non-STEM majors. 

After analyzing this information, we conclude that it is not just STEM majors who switch; the latter participate in roughly the same amount. There is no list of reasons pointing at a particular major that is causing students to leave, but several other factors come into play.

Why Students Change Majors

  • The first and most obvious reason students change their majors would be that they simply decide it is not “for them” anymore. They can’t build interest in it or don’t find it worth their time.
  • They cannot see themselves working in the said field in the future. This could be due to financial reasons, conflict of interest, or they’re not being many job opportunities down the road.
  • They are being pressured or pushed into choosing a major by their loved ones.
  • They initially made a hasty decision and did not bother performing thorough research about a major before choosing if it was something they wanted to pursue. 
  • They realize that their major does not match their capabilities and skills, and it feels like a strain.
  • There was no experienced person available to help them make a decision. 

How Does It Affect Them

  • College credits are the amount of effort put into a course which is most commonly represented by the number of hours one spends attending class. To receive a Bachelor’s degree, a student is typically expected to complete 120-130 credit hours. 
  • Changing majors might mean stepping into an entirely different territory. Such as switching from a Health Professions degree to an English Literature one. One would have to catch up with the course and earn the required amount of credits while working to pay off their student loan. It is worse if majors are switched more than once.
  • According to the latest statistics in 2022, Forbes accounts that student loan debt is now the second-highest consumer debt category in the US. There are 45 million people who owe an estimated $1.7 trillion in student debt.
  • So not only is changing majors causing a delay in the graduation period and cramming earning credits toward the end of the degree, but it is also very expensive. It latches on to student loan debt. Every additional semester adds to the final cost. 

What Can Colleges Do Curb The Percentage Of Students Switching Majors?

As important as it is for young minds studying in an institution to be able to have the liberty to make decisions for themselves and discover the path they would be delighted to tread on, it is also necessary for these places of education to take into account the very apparent drawbacks of switching majors as desired. Therefore, it is monumental for each college to develop a plan to deal with this issue. 

According to Youtuber Thuan (channel name “Twenty-Something”), UC Berkeley restricts students from changing majors after taking a certain amount of courses and having earned credits. This reads like a feasible policy to set the seal on because it does not take away the freedom of choice from the student and, at the same time, lays an outline to follow, avoiding problems such as late graduation.

Professional career counselors and advisors come in handy, and students should be encouraged to seek guidance. In case of confusion about which major to opt for, a student can choose a major that falls under a general category and will not interfere with the field of study chosen later.  

Another suggestion would be getting hands-on experience in the field individual wishes to pursue. People are often passionate about a particular subject until they realize practicing it, in reality, is different from what they imagined it to be, and it is not something they like doing. Receiving practical experience through courses or industry visits would help students be in touch with their interests. 


After evaluating all the pros and cons and considering the consequences of changing majors, a student who wishes to go ahead with it is free to do so by checking in with their college officials, as terms of switching majors are different depending on college to college. It is important to receive all the details beforehand to avoid mishaps and fully inform the process and all available options. Factors such as course credits and expenses must be taken into account carefully.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can you switch majors after being accepted?
  • The answer to this depends on the college itself. However, a person needs to be sure about their major before being declared into it.

2. Can you change your major after freshman year?

  • Generally, most advisors would recommend changing majors in the first year of college.

3. What are college majors easy to pursue and pay well?

  • Psychology, Criminal Justice, English, Education, etc., are some of the majors considered relatively easy to complete and pay well.

4. What are the hardest college majors?

  • Chemistry, Biochemical Sciences, Architecture, Aerospace Engineering, etc., are commonly considered the harder majors to study.

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written by Gwyneth George