Frequently Asked Questions

Majors FAQs

  1. What majors are available?
  2. I'm not sure what to major in, is that okay?
  3. Does my major determine my career?
  4. When do I need to make a decision about my major at NIU?
  5. Where can I get help choosing my major?
  6. What courses should I take while I am “deciding”?
  7. What are the advantages of starting in college as a “deciding” student?
  8. What does it mean to “double major”?
  9. What is a minor?
  10. Should I add minors to my major?
  11. What is the difference between a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts?

1. What majors are available?
NIU offers 55 academic majors, 59 minors, 64 emphases, and 8 pre-professional programs - more than 100 programs of study! See the Undergraduate Catalog for more details. See a list of NIU majors.

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2. I'm not sure what to major in, is that okay?
Yes, being undecided about your major is very common for new students. In fact, according to ACT, 65 -- 80% of college students will change their major at least once! If you are unsure of what you want to major in please take advantage of the many outstanding academic programs and resources at NIU. Advisors in the Academic Advising Center can help you explore your options; that is a primary function of our office! The Academic Advising Center hosts the Exploring Majors Fair each Fall semester which is a great resource for students exploring!

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3. Does my major determine my career?
Your choice of major is only one step in determining a career path; it does not determine the rest of your life. There is no one "right" major or career for you. In fact, the average person may change careers several times during a lifetime.

Many students at NIU either change their original major or enrich their chosen major with another major, minor, teacher certification, and/or co-curricular experience.

Employers are not always interested in a specific major, but will be interested in the experiences and skills you might bring to the organization as well as your academic record.

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4. When do I need to make a decision about my major at NIU ?
A formal declaration of major is required by the end of the semester in which 60 semester hours of credit will have been earned. This typically occurs at the end of the sophomore year. It is recommended, however, that you set a goal to choose your major by mid-April of your freshman year. That is when you will be registering for your sophomore fall semester classes.

Some students do not make their major decision until after their freshman year. Changing your major and/or declaring your major later than freshman year can affect the length of time it takes for you to graduate. This depends very much on what courses you have taken and the curriculum requirements of the major you choose. Thus, while you may be able to have more time, it is best to decide by the end of your freshmen year.

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5. Where can I get help choosing my major?
On the Northern Illinois University campus, you will find many services and resources available to help you throughout your major exploration process. There are academic advisors, career counselors, professors, job/internship fairs, libraries, and major/career related workshops. Remember, it is fine to be a “deciding” student, but begin an active search for your major as soon as possible.

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6. What courses should I take while I am “deciding”?
”Deciding” students should take courses from three categories: introductory courses in majors of potential interest, general education courses that are broadly applicable to the requirements of many majors, and elective courses that are specifically designed for “deciding” students such as CAHC 211, Career Planning. Your academic advisor in the Academic Advising Center will help you select the right courses, assist you in understanding your general education requirements and help you explore all areas of interest.

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7. What are the advantages of starting college as a “deciding” student?
If you complete a thorough exploration and decision-making process during your first year in college, starting out as a “deciding” major will increase the probability that you will make a good choice of major. Also, many “deciding” students graduate with more breadth in their degrees because they complete double majors or add minors to their majors as a result of their exploration. Finally, “deciding” students learn how to research options, evaluate alternatives, and make decisions, and this can be a valuable lesson learned in college.

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8. What does it mean to “double major”?
A double major may require more semester hours than the 120-semester-hour minimum required for graduation. A student may fulfill the requirements for two separate majors while earning one baccalaureate degree. The student must request entrance into the second major from the appropriate academic department. If the requirements for both majors are fulfilled, both will be indicated on the academic record. For more information about this policy consult the Undergraduate Catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

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9. What is a minor?
A minor is a limited course of study in a designated subject area that requires less course work than a major. A student may not take a minor offered by the department of his or her major unless this is specifically permitted in the description of the minor. To find out which minors are available consult the Undergraduate Catalog or speak with an Academic Advisor.

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10 . Should I add minors to my major?
Yes! And, in most cases, you can! A minor usually requires completion of 6 to 7 courses (18-21 credits) in a field of study. One advantage of adding a minor to your academic program is that you can study in multiple academic fields. Also, a degree program that includes minors is much stronger as a credential for graduate school or job application, and expands potential career opportunities as well.

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11. What is the difference between a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts?
Candidates for the Bachelor of Arts degree must demonstrate competence in a foreign language equivalent to that attained in two years of college instruction. In some cases this requirement can be met by coursework completed in high school. For more information about this policy consult the Undergraduate Catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

Requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree vary according to major and/or college. For information about individual requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree, consult the Undergraduate Catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

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