What to Do When You Realize You Chose the Wrong Degree

It’s a question that many people find themselves dealing with, and the answer all depends on when you realized it. If you were lucky enough to figure it out in the first year of university, you’ll have a different path than someone who doesn’t figure it out until their second year on the job. No matter when you decide that you’ve made this mistake, there are ways to make the best of it and forge a new path forward in life.

The Freshman

Well this one is a no brainer. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have much to worry about. Perhaps you’re knee deep in field work and you realize that you hate it, or the subject that you thought would be fascinating to study is putting you to sleep. At this stage in your life, it’s easy to make some changes. Perhaps you switch to being undeclared for a bit while you take several elective courses to figure out what you enjoy. Just be glad you figured it out now.

The Junior

If you’ve got a few years under your belt and you’re just not feeling it, you may still have time to change your major. Speak with an academic advisor to see what it is that you would need to do, and what courses will transfer to a new program of study. You may have to pick up a summer course or two, but you shouldn’t find any significant barriers to following your new passions.

The Senior

Here’s where it starts to get tricky. At this point, you’re so close to graduation you really should just stick it out. In fact, you’re so close to accomplishing your goal, that it will be easier to finish out what you started than it will be to make changes at this point. What you can consider, is taking a few classes that might count towards a second degree later if that’s the route you’re considering.

Keep in mind that many employers in today’s market aren’t as interested in what your degree is in, as they are in the fact that you have a degree. And if you’re up for it, consider a graduate degree that will help you change career paths.

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The Graduate

You’ve just spent 4 years of your life studying a field that you now can’t stand, or that you can’t seem to find a job in. Or you’ve realized that you cannot possibly support yourself on the salary, and you have to find something else to do.

Unless going back to school is an option, use this time to brush up on your soft skills and start some volunteer work in the field that you think you may be interested in. This will allow you to network, gain some experience, and begin searching for a new path. Remember that 62% of people with college degrees don’t find a job working in their chosen career, and often just having a degree in anything is considered a desirable trait that employers look for.

The Old-Timer

If you’ve been slugging away at a miserable job for the last 10 years, you probably realized before now that you chose the wrong degree. You’ve probably given a lot of thought to what it is that you’d rather be doing. What are you waiting for? If you are truly unhappy in your chosen field, it’s not going to get any better if you keep at it. If you can, go back to school. If you can’t begin networking and independent study. See if there are any volunteer opportunities or freelance jobs in the industry you’re hoping for, and get some experience. It’s never too late to change your future.


If you’ve discovered that you made a mistake in selecting your degree, you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world find themselves in the same situation every year. What you have to do now is to decide how you’re going to start pursuing your dreams outside of your field, and get to it.

Article Contributed by Mary Frenson

Mary is a Marketing Assistant at Checkdirector.co.uk, a new source of information on UK companies. Mary is always happy to share her marketing ideas and thoughts on business issues. In her free time she enjoys handicrafts.