Choosing a Major Based on your Personality

How will you pick your major? Will you pick the one most likely to make you rich? Will the pick the one most likely to make you laugh and dance all the way to work?

You can pursue one of the highest paying careers, but will you succeed at it? Perhaps not if it doesn't fit your personality. If pursuit of money was the only factor, everyone would be an obstetrician.

You can pursue a major that fits your style but leads to a job that statistically pays poorly. You could be awesome. Early childhood education, for example, is near the bottom of the list but experts in the field sell books, fill auditoriums and work every day with joy. They can make money, too.

What the Experts Say

According to The Career Key, a major that fits your personality will bring you greater success. You'll be more likely to earn higher grades, stick with your major, graduate on time and be satisfied with your career.

Trying to force your square peg into a round hole may only lead to dissatisfaction and dropping out. You'll also find yourself surrounded by people you don't get along with. They'll seem foreign to you because they're in the right place and you're not.

People of similar minds tend to gravitate toward similar pursuits. Analytical types finds themselves studying math together and working in labs. Dreamers find themselves in the same art studios and design careers.

Personality Types

In 1997, John L Holland published Making Vocational Choices. He studied the relationship between personality styles and careers. He divided people into six main types:

Realistic – They like to work with things they can see and touch. They excel with tools, machines, animals and plants. Careers that fit them best are nursing, teaching, building and agriculture.

Investigative – They enjoy mathematics and scientific challenges. They prefer not to influence, persuade or lead people. The best jobs for them involve research, analysis and intellectual pursuits.

Artistic – They excel at dance, music, creative writing, drama and other crafts. Highly structured and repetitive activities turn them off. They view themselves as original and independent.

Social – They like to help people but do not like working with tools or machines. Good jobs for them are counseling, teaching and nursing. They like to solve social and community problems.

Enterprising -  These people are energetic, ambitious and gregarious. They see opportunity and seek to change their environment. They make good managers, salespeople and leaders.

Conventional – They like structured and orderly tasks. They work well with numbers, machines, statistics and records. They make plans and follow through.

One individual is not simply one personality type. Everyone is a mix of styles with perhaps one dominant trait. A Realistic person will likely be part Conventional and Investigative. 

Yet it's not unusually for a person to have conflicting types within them. A Social type may have a contrasting Realistic side.

What is My Personality, Anyway?

Versions of Holland-style personality tests can be found across the web, including this free version. To learn more about your personality and strengths you can also try our Majors Matcher test, or Career Match which is based on Holland's research. 

After gaining some insight into your personality, start making lists.

In the first list, write careers that fit your personality. Use information from the resources you've used, or your own intuition. Then list the best paying careers according to sources you trust and your own experience. Now see what appears on both lists.

Keep in mind that at this stage in life there's no possible way you could know all the careers out there. Right now you've only been exposed to the careers of those around you. In today's technological age the possibilities for making a living are almost endless. 

While having a lot of options is good, it makes it even more important to get to know yourself well. Once you know your passions, interests and skills, you'll be well-equipped to discovering a way to make money.

You can be rich and unhappy. You can be respected, have a great title, have a prestigious curriculum vitae and still be miserable. You can pursue a lofty career and fail because you hate it.

Or you can put your feet on a road that suits you and excel. Knowing yourself is the beginning.