T Nation

Changing My Major


Right now I'm a freshmen in college, and I'm a BioChemistry major. My plan has been to get a minor in history or political science (I came in to college with alot of credits for this major anyway, so I can obtain the minor by basically taking a few lectures, like 2 or 3) and have a concentration in Pre-Dental. I'm pretty good at both Chemistry and Biology, but I'm required to take Upper level Trig (I'm taking this now and basically failing) and Calculas, two subjects I can not seem to truimph no matter how I approach it.

Also, alot of the things in Biology I find VERY uninteresting (ex:anything with botony). However, I've always had a real fasicnation and 'talent' for psychology (I don't even have to take the required gen ed for it here because I tested out of the class, even though I hardly even attended the class in High School). I feel I'm naturally talented in both the science major I have now, but could be just as equally talented in the Psych major, and I feel I'd enjoy it more overall, as I feel I'd be able to help people on a much more personal level then if I were a dentist.

My BIGGEST concern is honestly the difference in salary of a psyshiatrist as opposed to a dentist, but I feel I shouldn't SOLELY keep this major simply 'for the money'. ANyone here made a jump like this, or have experience with this type of decision? I'm young and would really appreciate some more mature views on this (can't really ask loder members of my family, considering I'm the 1st one to go to college). Thanks in advance for any advice given.


You don't have to work in the same field you major in. In fact, most people don't. Just major in whatever you find interesting. As far as I know, in most colleges, there are many different biology classes, you don't have to pick the ones that don't interest you. As for the math courses, you just have to find a way to pass them.


It sounds like he's planning on going to graduate school, in which case hed need a relevant major.

OP, if you are a freshman right now, you haven't even finished a semester yet. Obviously you don't have your heart set on dentistry, so take some electives and explore your options. Don't dismiss something just because you think you don't like it, college is the time to try new things and you'll be surprised how much you're going to change in the next few years. There's a very good chance you end up doing neither of those things. Take your basics and keep your grades up, you have a lot of time before you've got to decide.


Change majors every other year and never leave college.


I've recieved that advice before, but my fear is I'll basically 'fall behind' those who already have their goals in mind, and I know graduate schools are difficult to get into. I guess it's hard for me to test the waters without feeling like I'm wasting my time...


Both good pieces of advice. No offense OP, but you're still pretty young right now and while the thought you have already put into this important decision at your age is admirable, odds are you will change your mind MULTIPLE times before graduating. Depending on what type of school you are attending (small/large, liberal arts/state school) you may not need to declare your major for a while. Take classes you LIKE and explore for yourself. Do something you want to do because even if you can gut out undergrad/grad school in a field you don't love, no salary will be able to keep you in the profession for long.


I wouldn't let 2 classes deter you if it is something you want to do. It's called the math lab. I know plenty of people who were terrible in these classes, but took the time to do their work in the math (nerd) lab where people are there to help you...over and over.

Changing your major because of a particular pre req would be pretty sad.

My 2 cents...


Don't ever underestimate the difficulty or depth of knowledge required for college level courses based on high school experience.

In my limited experience with college, I saw a lot of kids who were definitely smart enough to do well wash out because they thought a course would be a walk and got bozaked by lack of work ethic.

Take Mallens advice, and get to work.


Three things OP:

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors and you will have to take calc 1 (some schools require calc 2 eveN) to get into med school. I believe you are referring to Psychologists, and if you actually want to work as a Psychologist and make any decent amount of money as a practicing psychologist (or a gov job at a place like the VA) you will most definitely have to get a PhD unless you want to open your own practice, in which case you can probably get by with a master's. If you open your own practice, you are basically running your own business, so what the hell, if your primary motivator is money why not cut to the chase and start a business now?

  • I don't know a lot about dental school but given the salary and competition let's just say I'm fairly certain that your challenges that lie ahead will be much greater than getting a passing grade in trig or calc.

  • As people said you can go to the math lab and just otherwise try harder to pass 2 classes. My buddy failed calc twice before he finally passed it lol, graduated and now has a job in his field. Eventually you're bound to get an easy teacher that will pass you along ;p.


I'm not saying that I wish to drop my Biochem major BECAUSE of the mathmatical prerequisite. I've taken calculas in high school, and I feel like I could really buckle down and pass it, it was just another negative aspect of the major, not at all THE deciding factor. My issue I suppose is the notion of doing something you love. I've always thought dentistry would allow me to make enough money to live a comfortable life. However, I've always wanted a job where I feel I'm truly helping people. A dentist definatly does this, but I feel like not to the extent of a pyschologist. I guess the whole college experience has me overthinking the future, when maybe I should try to enjoy my life a little more


Psychology is a tough field to go into. You will probably wind up working at a department store like the other psyc majors. You will def need at least a masters and preferably a PhD to get anywhere. You will probably help more people as a dentist IMO.

However if you are having trouble with trig, the dental route may not be for you. I guess you will have to decide how much work you are willing to put in, and if financial success is your main goal.


Never do a job just because of the money, you're going to be doing it for a long time, so being miserable just to bring down more cash sucks. Did it for 8 months in another facility for $3 more an hour and 1/2 the cost of insurance. I'm back where I was before I did that. Lesson learned the hard way.


Don't get a psychology degree unless you're planning on going to grad school at some place like UCSD where they actually integrate science into the curriculum. I actually know a couple of engineers who failed vector calculus the first time and they just retook it and passed. Math is just a language that some people have to work hard to understand. Don't puss out because you are having a hard time. This might involve you buying some recommended math textbooks that will explain things in a way that you can understand. In life you may have to fight a battle more than once to win.


If that's how you feel, get a job, internship, or even volunteer at a hospital. Better to know for sure before investing 4 yrs and a bunch of money in a degree.

And I know the veteran's administration is definitely hiring PhD psychologists at comfortable salaries, short hours, etc. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a bunch of veterans that need health care. It's not for the feint of heart though, so since you are waving back and forth I would seriously recommend volunteering somewhere to make sure that's really what you want to do. It'll save you years and tons of cash at having to switch it up later, literally.


I don't understand why you think you'll fall behind. You are required to take atleast a couple electives before you graduate, and it will probably be beneficial to you to take some easier classes now while you learn some study skills and get settled in at your school. It sounds to me like you breezed through high school and are realizing the same strategy isn't going to work at a university. And to be brutally honest, pre-calculus is not a difficult class compared to the 3000 and 4000 level classes you'll be taking later on.

I strongly suggest you take time now to explore your options.

As for psychology/pschyiatry, there is a big distinction. Psychiatrists take 4 years medical school and must complete a 4 year residency. They are licensed medical doctors and can prescribe medication. They also make a lot more money than psychologists. If this sounds like what you want to do, I would stick with BioChemistry. It is a much more reputable degree than psychology and will do a lot more to prepare you for medical school.

On the other hand, and I'm assuming you're having visions of chilling with a clipboard and listening to people whine about their problems, there is clinical psychology. You would major in Psychology (bad news in my opinion, if for whatever reason you don't go on to graduate school a psych major by itself is pretty worthless) and then need to get a PhD or PsyD.


Interior crocodile alligator.


I took botany and aced it without trying because I found it interesting, and the tests were easy lol. Some of my friends studied and took notes but hated it and failed.


Major in what you enjoy doing, as long as it has some value in the job market. It is up to you to find where you stand as far as how much the $$ is worth it to you.


Alright guys, I think I was kind of confused on the difference between psychology and pschyiatry. I think regardless, I'm going to keep my Biochem major, as even though I'm uninterested now, the classes I'll take later dealing with metabolism and things of that nature I know I enjoy. The comment on me sliding through high school was spot on, but I knew coming into college I'd have to work harder. I've done that though, I just think that my weakest link has always been math.

I have to put blame on myself mostly, but I have found out from some upper classmen that my current Trig teacher is notoriously tough and until about 3 years ago taught strictly high level calculas to math majors, so apparetly he's not for everyone. lol. But I think I'll stay in Biochem, and later on decide if maybe pschyiatry is route I'd want to go into as opposed to dentistry.

Another question, however, has anyone went down a similiar route? like gotten a Biochem degree, or maybe went into dentistry?? just curious on what thier experiences are...


Point of reference: All you need to get into medical school (I imagine it's similar for dental school) is your pre-reqs and the admissions test (DAT for dental school and MCAT for med school).

The Biology degree I took at my University to fulfill the pre-reqs included some of the most mind-numblingly boring shit, ever (plants, lame).

I'm in my application cycle for med school right now and I can tell you I probably wouldn't have done the bio major thing if I had to do it again. I would have taken my pre-reqs, an easy major, some upper level bio that's actually applicable to medicine (parasitology, neuro, endo) and smashed the MCAT(I did fine, but I could have used more time to study).

You have to walk a fine line between looking like you challenged yourself in school and still maintaining the GPA.

If you interested in almost any health related field check out these forums, huge wealth of knowledge:


If you decide to keep your major just make sure you get through some of your classes, you have a lot of other opportunities to raise your GPA with stuff you're more interested in.