Declaring a Pathway
If you aren't ready to declare a major, you will select a Pathway that best matches your academic interests. Pathways group similar majors together so that students have the opportunity to explore majors. Review the Pathway description and majors on the Pathway pages that interest you most.
Once you choose a Pathway, you will be assigned an advisor who will help you to evaluate your skills, interests, values and abilities, and determine how they align with the many majors available at PSU.
Selecting a major should be a thoughtful process. Your advisor can help you with this, but you can also take these steps on your own:
An important first step is to know your skills, interests, and values. There are many ways to do this:
- Take a career assessment. Check out the University Career Center calendar for a current schedule of Career & Major Exploration workshops or make a career counseling appointment to discuss if an assessment is right for you.
- Take a career exploration class. UNST 195, Career Exploration, is a five-week, one-credit hour course designed to help students choose majors and careers. If you are co-admitted or have not yet enrolled at Portland State, check out our transfer guide for equivalent classes offered at community colleges in the Portland Metro area.
Exploring your options can happen in a variety of ways. Try any of the following:
- Know your options for majors. PSU offers more than a hundred different programs. Pathways group similar majors together, so it may be easier to review them grouped into those themes.
- Take introductory courses in the academic areas that interest you. This is one of the best ways to explore a potential major. Enrolling in these courses also provides an opportunity to talk with faculty about the particular field of study. If you decide after taking a course that this major is not for you, the course will still apply towards your degree, whether it fulfills a specific requirement (e.g., BA or BS) or as an elective. Your advisor can help you understand the applicability of your courses.
- Test out different career fields. Observing the day-to-day operations can help you discern whether a field is a good fit. Do job shadows or look for part-time jobs or internships in the career fields that are of interest. Career counselors can help you find these opportunities.
An informed decision will help you to feel more confident about your choice. There is no "right" major, but there is a major that complements your skills, values, and interests.
- Do your research. Talk to students and faculty in the majors you are considering. What do they like/not like about it?
- Learn about career opportunities. Realize that most career fields do not require a specific major. Although there are exceptions (e.g. accounting, mechanical engineering), for most fields the relationship between your major and your career is not as direct. Check out the What Can I Do With a Degree In...? pages to see the variety of choices of careers for all PSU majors.
- Evaluate the pros and cons with an advisor. Is time-to-degree a factor for you? Does the major require courses that are challenging for you?
Declaring/Changing Your Major
Once you have made a decision, declare your major! If after a period of time you realize this is not as good of a match as you thought, re-assess and explore again.
You must declare a major by the time you reach 90 credits, or within your first term if you transferred to PSU with 90 or more credits. After that point, the exploratory option in each Pathway will no longer be available; however, you can still change your major.
If you have 90 or more credits, talk with your advisor before changing your major to discuss your options and possible implications. Be aware that federal financial aid has time and credit restrictions; a change in major could impact your aid eligibility.
Selective Admission Programs
Note that some majors have selective requirements:
- Majors in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as Special Education, Social Work, and Child, Youth and Family Studies require a separate application to the department before students are allowed to enroll in upper-division coursework in the major. Social Work accepts students once a year in March; Special Education admits once a year on May 1.
- Architecture and Graphic Design require a portfolio review after completing 100/200 level courses in the major. Portfolio review takes place once a year.
- Music majors must audition at the time of declaring the major and pass an Upper Division Examination in order to enroll in upper-division music courses.
- Art Practice does not require a portfolio, but transfer students should consult a Design, Creativity & Performance advisor, and may be asked to submit examples of work for placement purposes.
- Creative Writing majors must submit a statement of purpose and writing sample.
- Business majors must "opt-in" to the major in order to take 200-level BA courses.