In addition to the great and highly entertaining advice Vienna has given you above, I would like to dispel some common misconceptions about choosing a major and subsequent career. It's very much in the same vein as what she's said, but it takes a slightly different approach. I had to pay for this nifty nugget of knowledge with a dear amount of time, torment, and tuition money, but I'm willing to give it to you for free, just because you asked. What a bargain, eh?
Here are three things we'd like to believe about picking a major:
- There is a right major for me.
- I'll know it when I stumble upon it.
- I'll only stumble upon it by taking all of the classes and reading all of the pamphlets in the Career Counseling office.
—NOW FOR A BRIEF PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT—
None of these myths are true.
Don't get me wrong. Some people definitely feel like they have a single right major, and they know right away that it is the single right major upon taking a class in that field. They have a clearly defined sense of direction from the moment they enter college, stick to their goal with the single-minded intensity of a hobbit in pursuit of food, and land in a career they love shortly after graduating. Hooray for them.
For the rest of us bunglers, however, The Perfect Major seems kind of like Love at First Sight—it's a nice idea, but jeeze louise, it's sure never been that easy for us. We know that such a model is unlikely. But we keep hoping that somehow it'll turn out that way.
I spent a long time in the same pickle you're in now, thinking that if I learned enough about all the majors and careers I was marginally interested in, I would eventually be able to determine which of my options was The Perfect Major. I took classes on geology, residential landscape design, economics, wilderness management, history, political science, and astronomy. I enjoyed them all, but I couldn't bring myself to choose—how could I possibly decide which one would make me happiest in the long run? So I read more pamphlets, took more classes, and agonized day and night about what my future would look like.
When I eventually settled on political science, it wasn't because I had finally worked out the equation I'd been searching for. I hadn't completed my research, carefully tallied the pros and cons, weighed my personality against various career choices, or prayed particularly hard about it. I wasn't even sure that I really loved it, at least not the way I had always anticipating loving my field. I pretty much declared the major on a whim after the forum in which Condoleeza Rice told us why she was glad she'd studied politics.1 (Did I harbor secret dreams of becoming secretary of state? Heck, no. I had no idea whether or how my major would feed into a career.)
I've realized since then—to my extreme chagrin—that I probably would have been just as happy in landscape management, history, or physics as I was in political science. (Well, okay, maybe not physics.) And that's not because polisci made me unhappy. I loved almost all of the classes I took in that department and feel like my ability to understand and interpret the world has multiplied manifold. But that would have been the case for just about any other major I considered. Ultimately, despite all the time I wasted in my search, political science was never The Perfect Major.
The Truth About Picking a Major
(and you should write this down because this is the ABSOLUTE, IRREFUTABLE, UNASSAILABLE, UNIVERSAL truth and if you argue with me you're just flat out wrong.)
The truth is, you will probably be just as happy and fulfilled in PD Bio as you would in food science. Or any other of the fields you're considering.
My observation is that most people—and I don't say all people because my absolutes usually come back to bite me in the butt—can select a general area of interest (like health science for you), eliminate the careers or majors they know they don't want, and then randomly jab their pencil at a list of options and end up being about as happy as the person who (like me) wastes countless time and effort trying to identify The Perfect Major. It's because happiness in a major or a job comes less from a perfect corollary between subject material and personality and more from hard work, intellectual fulfillment, a sense that you're contributing something, and the excitement of learning new things.
I'm NOT SAYING that the what-to-major-in decision is an unimportant one. Pick something that you're interested in, of course, and it if it takes you a few classes to define those interests, there's nothing wrong with that. But realize that it's probably not a matter of life or death, or even of happiness and unhappiness. Remember that Vienna's great diagrams above are absolutely right: our decisions usually don't limit us in the ways we think they do, and their possible consequences are usually way more complicated than we have the power to predict.
You shouldn't worry about getting familiar enough with a major or career path that you come to a point where you know it's The Perfect One. Because it's not actually possible. Just pour your energy into feeling excited about and fulfilled in whatever you end up choosing, and I think you'll still be happy.
1The video I linked to above isn't the actual forum address. I wish it were, but there are no extant recordings available to the public. It's just a video that tells, in a more abbreviated form than she recounted it during the forum, about how she ended up playing a duet with Yo-Yo Ma because she changed her undergraduate major from piano performance to political science.