Choosing a Major and Career as an LGBTQ Student

By Jesse Reidy
University of Washington class of 2023 and Campus Pride 2021 Summer Intern

When they arrive at a new college or university, all students have a similar goal. Everyone wants to make the most of their time on campus. This could mean choosing the right major, making new friends, or, often, finding a place in a huge campus community.

For LGBTQ students, finding a community can be even more stressful than for their cisgender, heterosexual peers. The questions begin before one even steps foot on campus. Can I be out safely? Will I be accepted by my roommate? Where can I find other people like me? 

Complicating things further, a student’s choice of major can heavily influence their experience throughout college. And, for better or for worse, some departments have certain stereotypes. Do LGBTQ students choose certain majors more than their straight peers? 

A 2017 study out of San Francisco State University found that, out of a sample of 11 gay male students, all but one chose an arts or humanities major. The students in the study acknowledged that other departments did not have a homophobic reputation. However, the openly-gay students sought out environments they knew to be actively accepting of queer expression. 

Clearly a student’s major can shape the community they’re a part of in college. Are LGBTQ students drawn to certain majors for this reason?

“At the time, no,” says Jerry, a doctoral student at George Washington University, of his experience choosing a major as an LGBTQ undergrad student. Jerry studied Psychology and Social Work, and says his LGBTQ identity may not have influenced his choice, but it  “did keep me there after I arrived. I was able to make friends and create a community.”

Campus Pride, a nationwide advocacy organization for college students, has found similar results. In a 2018 survey,  42% of students reported that they were pursuing an arts- or social science-related major. For anyone who has attended college, these results are unsurprising. 

“My identity as a member of the LGBT+ community did not necessarily influence the process of choosing my major program, but it did pique my interest in taking as many LGBT+ related courses as I could,” says Simone, a recent graduate in Mass Communications from Towson University. LGBTQ studies and history classes fall firmly into social sciences, so it makes sense that LGBTQ students are drawn to these areas.

At the same time, a full quarter of students did state that their major was in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). While these fields may be traditionally conservative, it makes sense that responses are varied – after all, LGBTQ people are amazingly diverse, and that includes our interests and career paths. But are the career choices of queer students shifting over time?

Jerry thinks so. He says that “I think we are starting to venture out of our “norms” and select career goals that are more inline with our passion.”

It certainly seems that way. As LGBTQ visibility increases, the focus on representation in tradtionally white, cisgender, straight, male fields is also growing. Students are having discussions about representation that might not have taken place even a few short years ago.

“One moment I will remember is how one student I talked to mentioned how prejudiced people will make jokes, saying one day there will be a gay, trans, disabled, autistic character and how Hollywood forces diversity, but for them, they actually were ALL of those things,” says Luke, a senior Communication, Media, & Rhetoric and Human Services student at the University of Minnesota Morris. 

Luke says this experience reminded him how important positive representation of marginalized groups can be. When LGBTQ students are able to be out in their chosen major, they can help create a more welcoming environment for all students. 

It may appear as if LGBTQ students are choosing different majors over time. It’s important to remember that queer students, like all students, have incredibly diverse interests and goals. The shift in major choice probably coincides with larger trends. More likely, students are more comfortable being out at school, no matter what they’re studying.

Simone describes the importance of out role models at school. When classes, majors and schools as a whole are more diverse, everyone benefits. 

“Representation matters, and when someone who may be apprehensive to study something because they don’t see anyone similar to them in the field sees that person doing exactly what they hope to do someday, it’s encouraging.”

Ultimately the choice of a major and then a career is personal. For LGBTQ young people, the choice is often more complicated and more challenging. This fall, the Campus Pride Career Connect online platform launches to help college students find their passion and future career path.  The goal is to break down barriers and connect students early with LGBTQ and allied employees as mentors for job prep and career readiness.  Learn more at

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