Choosing a Major

Although University, College, and Berkeley campus requirements are essential components of the degree, your major program will be the central focus of the work you do for your Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Letters and Science. Students in a major program become familiar with the intellectual boundaries of a particular discipline, study particular aspects of that discipline in depth, and develop competence in the fundamental skills and methodologies related to it.

In order to choose the best major for you, it is important to remember that your choice of major will not necessarily determine your choice of a career later on. For many L&S students, career options are determined more by what they do outside the classroom, through career research and internships. Even in those majors that are related directly to particular careers, it will still serve you well to gain hands-on experience, in order to reaffirm your career choice. As in many other things, you will probably find that the most rewarding and engaging major will be the one best suited to your talents and interests.

In general, it is a good idea to choose a major as early as possible, but it is also important that you not hurry the process. You want to consider all your options before making a decision, and you may need a little extra time to explore different fields before you are ready to commit yourself to the major that will be the best fit for your interests and abilities.

Note: Some majors are restricted (see "capped majors" in the List of Majors) and have special declaration requirements.

Steps for Choosing a Major

Choosing your major is probably the most important single decision you will make in planning your undergraduate program at Berkeley. Finding the right major may feel like a daunting task, but it does not have to be. To start, use the online tools here or meet with a College adviser to explore your options. Following that, you will probably find it helpful to visit the departments whose majors you find interesting, in person or at their websites.

  • Familiarize yourself with the list of majors.
  • Cross off those majors that you are sure you will not want to pursue. (It is a good idea to eliminate only those majors you know you will not want and to leave majors on your list that you are not familiar with or that you do not recognize until you have completed the next step.)
  • Read the curriculum summary in the online General Catalog for majors still on your list, and continue to narrow your focus. Visit the departmental website for any major whose curriculum summary looks interesting to you.
  • For further help in refining your search, make an appointment with an adviser in the L&S Office of Undergraduate Advising.
  • After you have shortened your list and have a manageable number of majors, investigate further. Visit departmental offices, talk to people, and look for any available print materials that might not be available online.
  • Make parallel lists of prerequisite courses for each major you are still considering. You will probably have narrowed the list to four or five majors. Frequently, these majors will have similar or overlapping prerequisite courses. Use these lists to select courses for future terms.
  • For majors you are seriously interested in, sit in on an upper division course (for more than a single session) to get a sense of the direction of the major.
  • Attend departmental undergraduate association events and pick up the undergraduate association newsletters when available.