How Much Does Changing Majors in College Cost?

Changing your major can add years to your graduation timeline and rack up more tuition costs. But it can also lead you to your dream job.
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  • The average annual college tuition ranges from $9,375-$35,852, depending on institution type.
  • Changing your major can add two additional years of school and tuition.
  • Switching majors can delay your entry into the workforce and prolong student expenses.
  • If you're undecided, consider starting with community college and meeting with a career counselor.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 30% of college students change their major in their first three years of school. And 1 in 10 students changes majors more than once.

College is far from affordable these days, and any delay in graduation can add more to your final cost. There's no exact number for how much changing majors will cost you, but we can give you an idea based on the time it typically takes to complete a degree and the average cost of tuition.

What Is the Average Cost of Tuition?

To understand how much changing your major might cost, you have to look at the cost of tuition. The biggest cost-related impact that changing your major will have is on the additional semesters of college you'll have to complete and pay for.

Here are the average tuition costs at four-year institutions in the U.S. during the 2020-21 academic year, depending on the institution type:

  • $9,375 at public universities (in-state tuition)
  • $35,852 at private nonprofit universities
  • $15,442 at private for-profit schools

When considering changing your major, look at the tuition cost of each additional semester you'll have to complete.

Changing Your Major Can Add $18,000 in Tuition

How much changing a major will cost you depends on how many years of school you've already completed and how many extra classes you might need to take. The longer you wait, the more it'll cost. For example, if you change your major in your sophomore year, you can probably maintain the same timeline and tuition costs. Most sophomore students are still working on general education requirements and haven't spent much time in their major.

If you change your major in your senior year, however, you may need to add two more years of tuition, depending on how dissimilar your new major is from your old one. Based on the numbers shared above, an additional two years of tuition ranges from roughly $18,750-$71,700.

Many universities don't ask you to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year. In this case, if you decide to switch after starting your junior year, it may cost you more time and money if your new major requires a different set of prerequisites.

Delaying Your Entry Into the Workforce

If changing majors extends your graduation timeline, you're also delaying your entry into the professional workforce. That's an extended period of time where you're paying for your general cost-of-living expenses as a student.

The average yearly cost for room and board on campus during the 2020-21 school year was $11,737 at public schools and $13,476 at private institutions. If you opt for off-campus living, the average annual cost can vary widely depending on the location.

Additionally, the sooner you enter the workforce, the sooner you can begin earning a professional salary. Those extra years of earning can benefit your long-term financial health.

What to Do if You Don't Know What to Major In

If you're not sure what you want to major in, you may be hesitant to commit to a major only to change it down the road. You can take a few steps to figure out your major or lessen the impact of remaining undecided.

  • Start with community college. Community college is a great way to save money and continue your education if you're not sure what career you want to pursue. You can complete your general education requirements by earning an associate degree, giving yourself more time to decide on a major.
  • Intern and job shadow. Explore internships in fields that interest you. You can learn a lot about what a job will entail from an internship or job shadow. Also, getting a paid internship can help keep you afloat while figuring out what you want to do.
  • Choose a major you already have prerequisites for. If you decide to change your major, consider ones where you've already completed some prerequisites and required classes. This means you won't need to take as many new classes.
  • Try a broad major. You can also consider picking a popular major with broad career applications. Even if you aren't sure what you want to do, a more general degree can give you more options when you graduate, as compared to a specialized major. For example, a communication degree versus a degree in supply chain management.
  • Meet with a career counselor. A career counselor can give you skills and career aptitude tests, connect you with professionals in fields you're interested in, and provide you with resources to make an informed career decision.