Start Exploring

Choosing a major is a significant step in your academic and professional journey. The process can be both exciting and challenging as you explore many possibilities. Major exploration is an opportunity to discover your passions, develop your skills, and shape your future.

Cross-College Advising Service serves as the hub for the exchange of information about degree programs in every undergraduate school and college on campus. This page outlines information and resources to help you take action and start exploring the academic opportunities at UW-Madison.

Embrace the journey, seek guidance when needed, and trust that you will find a major that aligns with your unique strengths and aspirations. We will help you belong to our community, explore your college path, and become empowered to decide on a major.

Self-Awareness

As you explore potential major or career paths, it is important to know who you are and what is important to you. This greater self-awareness can help inform the decisions you make down the road. We encourage you to explore your:

  • Interests
  • Skills
  • Values
  • Purpose
  • Decision-making

To get you started, our partner office the Career Exploration Center has a list of Self-Awareness resources! 

Go to Self-Awareness Resources

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Strategic Exploration

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Exploring majors is a normal part of the college experience for many students. You are not alone!

Whether you know your intended major or are considering many options – you will have the opportunity to strategically explore.

Strategic Exploration means choosing classes that will fulfill graduation requirements (keeping you on track for a timely graduation) AND that will allow you to explore and experience many different things.

A common – and valid – concern we sometimes hear from students (and their supporters) is that if a student begins without a major in mind, will they be able to graduate in 4 years? Yes, you can!

A college education is a large financial commitment, and we understand this concern. Years of data we’ve collected and continue to collect shows that students who begin their college career with CCAS as exploring students, and meet with their assigned advisor regularly, graduate on time or sooner compared to their peers.

There are several different requirements a student must complete as part of their degree and we assist students in intentionally choosing coursework that allows them to explore an academic area of interest, while also fulfilling those requirements they need to graduate. At CCAS, our professional academic advisors are knowledgeable about all the majors and programs offered on campus.

 

Strategic Exploration can include the following:

  • Taking courses in subjects you are interested in while completing degree requirements
  • Researching information online
  • Using career exploration resources
  • Meeting with your CCAS advisor and different major advisors
  • Participating in student organizations
  • Exploring student organizations, jobs, and volunteering
diagram showing the elements of strategic exploration

Your Major Declaration Puzzle is unique to you!

We’ll help show you all the different puzzle pieces to help determine what pieces will best help you and your path. The end goal is using all these pieces together to help you feel ready to declare a major.

Explore Academic Opportunities

UW-Madison has 145 undergraduate majors and 98 certificates across eight schools and colleges. There are many ways to explore them all! As an exploring student, it is exciting to discover what you can do at UW-Madison!

Use the following resources below to explore UW-Madison’s academic opportunities. 

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What is a major?

A major is a specific area of study to specialize in while in college, and typically consists of 30-40 credits. Majors include defined core classes and electives ranging from introductory to advanced coursework.

What is a certificate?

A certificate is an optional path of study that allows students to gain skills and knowledge in a specific subject or integrate multiple subject areas. These are similar to minors at other colleges & universities. Certificates are typically between 15-24 credits.

How many credits do I need to complete a degree?

You need a minimum of 120 course credits to graduate with a bachelors degree from UW-Madison. Degrees at UW-Madison consist of the following”

  • Major coursework
  • General education courses
  • Liberal studies requirements
  • Electives

The number of credits you must complete beyond major courses depends on the school/college that houses your major. You can learn more under the Requirements for Undergraduate Degrees section of the Guide.

Go to the Guide

The Guide

The Undergraduate Guide website is the essential resource for information about each major and certificate. You can explore each major and certificate individually or by interest area. The Guide is updated regularly and has the most current information about each academic program.

Each Guide page has a detailed overview of its content, process, and requirements. The Guide gives you an understanding of each program from their department’s perspective. Reviewing each tab will provide great information to help you understand the fullness of each program. This will help you determine if the major or certificate could be a good fit for you. Each page has the following tabs:

  • Overview – An official description of the major/certificate.
  • How to Get In – What students must do to declare the major/certificate.
  • Requirements – The list of all requirements and course descriptions.
  • Learning Outcomes – What students gain from the major/certificate.
  • Four-Year Plan – A tool giving a sample outline for completing the course requirements
  • Advising and Careers – Information about its specific advising and career resources.

Majors and Certificates by Interest Sheets

Looking for a way to identify specific programs as you look through The Guide? The following sheets categorize each major and certificate by broad interest areas. We encourage you to create a list of all the ones that stand out to you and then review their Guide pages to learn more. If you are interested in taking most of the required courses, it could be a good fit! 

Limited Enrollment Programs

Some majors have limited space available and students must apply to enroll in that program. These are known as limited enrollment programs. Limited enrollment programs are competitive and have selective criteria such as: prerequisite coursework, minimum GPA requirements, auditions, and personal essays.

Direct Entry Programs (when applying to UW-Madison)

Four of these programs allow students to apply directly as part of their overall admission application to UW-Madison. These Direct Entry Programs are: Business, Engineering, Dance, and Music. If you are interested in applying for one of these programs, it is important to review the specific transfer student admission requirements below and contact the Office of Admissions with any questions. Students who are not directly admitted to these programs can be eligible to apply again when they are an enrolled student at UW-Madison. Some programs also limit the number of times that enrolled students can apply.

Business     Engineering.    Dance.    Music

All Limited Enrollment Programs (when enrolled at UW-Madison)

Many students interested in UW-Madison’s limited enrollment programs below will work with us at CCAS as they prepare to apply and explore their options. You will start making an exploration plan with your CCAS advisor during SOAR and build on that plan together over time. If you are interested in one of these programs, follow the links below to review their UW Guide pages for more information!

Majors

Updated: March 28, 2024

Check the Guide for the most up-to-date information about how to enter these programs.

Early Declaration Majors

In these programs, students are strongly encouraged to start as early as possible due to the structure of the coursework. Students pursuing one of these programs will most often declare in their first year.

If you are interested in one of these majors, we are happy to discuss your options!

Career Resources

Exploring majors may also involve exploring career options at the same time. It is important to remember that your major does not equal your career. Your major provides a foundation for your professional journey. While a major may align with certain career paths, your major also gives you transferrable skills that can apply across different jobs. Using career services empowers students to explore and experience a wide range of career opportunities, regardless of major. As you explore majors, we also encourage you to connect with career advisors to consider your long-term goals.

Exploring majors & careers? The CEC can help!

Meet with the Career Exploration Center (CEC) for support with career and major exploration! There’s a lot of information to navigate when considering your academic path and career interests. Sometimes the connection between academics and careers can feel confusing, so the CEC is here to help you strategically explore your options and identify your next steps. We know that each student has their own unique set of interests, values, and skills, and the CEC can help you incorporate those important qualities into your career journey. We hope you will connect with the CEC early and often!

Learn more about the CEC

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Topics CEC advisors can help you navigate:

  • Exploring career and major options
  • Connecting your academic interests and career goals
  • Getting involved and gaining experience
  • And much more!

The CEC offers many ways for you to explore:

  • One-on-one appointments
  • Career and major exploration events
  • Online resources and assessments
  • Open study space to use Monday–Friday

More Career Resources

Career Services at UW-Madison are organized and delivered by several units across campus and provide comprehensive career services including career advising and workshops, job postings, career fairs, on-campus interviews, and more!

Jobs are great way to gain skills and explore future career options!

Student Jobs Board

Looking for a short-term or part-time position? Visit the Student Job Board! This site includes:

  • Open job postings both on-campus and across Madison
  • Resources for exploring job opportunities and career development skills

Go to the Student Jobs Board

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Handshake

Handshake, available in MyUW, is your #1 tool for:

  • Exploring careers
  • Applying to jobs & internships
  • Scheduling on-campus interviews
  • Registering for campus career events

Learn more about Handshake