Guide Your Education
Does your major have you musing? Whether you want to declare a major, change a major, or explore careers that relate to a major, there is a lot to discover about your future. Even more than just majors, available minors, academic programs, and specialized certificates at UCSB provide an eclectic mix of options to prepare for your goals.
We've simplified this process down to a few key steps. Use this page to launch into Majors and Beyond, including common outcomes to consider along the way.
Looking to discover the essentials of exploration, no matter your major? Make sure to check out our Career Exploration page.
Get to Know Your Degree
The Value of a UC Degree
Before you begin learning about academic majors, it is important that you first understand the distinguishing characteristics of your degree. As a future candidate for jobs and graduate programs, you will likely compete with candidates who have degrees from a variety of institutions, and you may want to draw attention to the features that make your academics unique.
While you may have heard that UCSB is a top-ranked public institution in the United States, you may not know that UCSB was established as part of a state-wide plan to organize three distinct types of education in California. The California Master Plan of Higher Education was created in 1960 to develop three tiers within the state’s public education system, with each level intended to serve a unique purpose:
University of California
California State University
CA Community Colleges
The University of California (UC) is the research wing of the California educational system, with a mission to provide state-of-the-art research, alongside teaching as a concurrent goal. UC institutions are officially classified as "Research 1" or "Tier 1," which means that they primarily focus on academic research and theoretical approaches. Educational offerings empower students to produce transferable skill sets such as analytical thinking, problem solving, and oral/written communication skills that are applicable in various industries.
The California State University (CSU) is the nation’s largest and most affordable public four-year university system. Educational offerings within the CSU system are often designed to prepare graduates to directly support the state's workforce in industry, through programs in agriculture, biotechnology, business administration, hospitality management, and nursing, and various other professions.
Nearly 30% of UC graduates and 50% of California State University graduates begin their college experience at a California Community College. This system provides an academic and professional starting point for transferring to a university or for earning a degree or certificate.
The Differences Between B.A. and B.S.
Did you know that your degree is not the same thing as your major? By completing your studies in an undergraduate program at UCSB, you earn a degree (e.g., Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science) within a major area of study (e.g., sociology, biology, art).
It is useful to gain a general understanding of the educational qualifications that are required for the types of opportunities you intend to apply to in the future. Most employers and graduate schools do not indicate a preference between applicants who have a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) versus a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, however, some STEM-related opportunities do indicate a preference. Specifically, opportunities that involve rigorous laboratory work are more likely to prefer a B.S. degree, whereas graduate programs in Clinical Healthcare (e.g., Medical School, Dental School, PA School) do not have a degree preference, as long as all prerequisite coursework is fulfilled.
For certain majors that offer both a B.A. and B.S. option, the best degree to choose will vary on a case-by-case basis.
Use our Career Exploration page to get a sense of which type of degree best matches the career opportunities that interest you.
The Quarterly System of Change
Ten weeks to crash a course, plot out the most efficient route to class, and master subject material is a lot to take on. While the quarter system may feel like a never-ending rollercoaster of registration, midterms, and finals, it provides useful preparation for the ever-changing professional world in the 21st century.
Studying within the quarter system means you are educated in a fast-paced learning environment that requires a strong work ethic, similar to many workplaces. Staying on top of deadlines requires good organizational skills and planning tools, which prepares you for professional success.
The quarter system also presents you with changing conditions through new coursework, professors, TAs, classmates, lecture halls, and learning styles. All of this helps you learn how to be agile, resilient, and innovative every few months, which is critical to your career success as markets adapt to evolving technologies, consumer behaviors, regulations and policies, and disruption from new startup companies.
The Significance of GPA
GPA is an indicator of your overall academic performance. Just like other performance indicators you will encounter during your career (e.g., performance reviews, supervisor evaluations, progress reports), your GPA provides one metric to summarize your efforts, but it does not tell the whole story.
While GPA is likely on your mind as the most important thing to focus on during your studies, GPA is valued differently by every employer and graduate school. Accordingly, the amount of focus you put on your GPA should be based on your specific career goals. We highly encourage you to conduct Career Exploration research to determine the significance of GPA for the positions you desire in your future career goals.
Consider which form of your GPA tells the most useful story: your Cumulative GPA or your Major GPA. To calculate your Major GPA, enter your major courses into the College of Letters and Science GPA Calculator. Either version can be shared on your resume as long as you indicate which version you are sharing (unless one version is specifically requested in an application).
GPA in Job Searches
For most job searches, GPA is not likely to be requested in an application, however, here are some common scenarios when GPA may be closely evaluated:
- Certain on-campus positions, internship programs, scholarships, and fellowships (e.g., UCDC, some EAP programs)
- Research programs (e.g., NSF REUs)
- Federal government positions
- Positions with elite companies in the Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000
GPA in Graduate School Searches
For most graduate school searches, GPA is very likely to be requested in an application. This is especially the case with graduate programs in Clinical Healthcare (e.g., medical, PA, nursing, dentistry, pharmacology) as well as other types of professional schools.
If you are not sure whether graduate school would be suitable to your career goals, review our Grad School 101 page for starter tips.
Though we have covered some exceptions to this rule, it is often more strategic to graduate with relevant experience, a meaningful network, and strong professional communication skills gained outside of class alongside a respectable GPA, than to graduate with no investments made outside of class and a perfect GPA.
Consider your strategies in advance as you plan out your UCSB roadmap.
If you always succeed in school, you may not be preparing yourself for the most meaningful version of success. For deeper context, read the New York Times opinion article, What Straight-A Students Get Wrong by Adam Grant.