A Man of Many Majors

Timothy Marino Chemical, Industrial and Systems, Major, Study, Tim, Viterbi Life Leave a Comment

Hey guys,

I have a major update for all of you: I have, once again, switched my major. This past week, I officially switched my engineering discipline from Chemical (Petroleum) Engineering to Industrial and Systems (Operations) Engineering with a minor in Petroleum Engineering. For those of you that know my storied history of switching majors within Viterbi, I realize this probably comes as very little surprise. It’s true: I’ve switched my major three times throughout my first two years at USC, amassing a grand total of four engineering majors. From my initial application to present-day, I’ve switched from Biomedical to Computer Science and Business to Chemical to Industrial and Systems – and before you ask: yes, I do intend to stick with this one. Considering my extensive experience with switching majors within Viterbi, I aim to use this blog to answer the two main questions that incoming students frequently ask with respect to shifting majors.

1. Is it hard to switch majors?

Though the fact that I have done it three times in a two-year period should be enough of an answer to this question, I am here to explicitly tell you that it certainly is not. Upon your admission to Viterbi, you are free to switch among the majors as you choose. In fact, the first time I switched disciplines (from Biomedical to Computer Science/Business) was at admitted students’ orientation, months before classes had even started my freshman year. Each time I’ve expressed a desire to transfer between engineering majors, it’s been as simple as scheduling an appointment with my advisor, rescheduling my classes and designing a new course plan.

2. Is it difficult to graduate on time if you switch majors?

This one depends on when you’re switching and what you’re switching to and from. In my personal experience, it appeared as though switching at any point during freshman year does not typically come at the expense of time. Typically, this year is filled with first-year calculus classes, general-education courses and the first couple classes for your Viterbi major (which, it should be noted, typically transfer credit between disciplines). It’s likely true, however, that as each semester progresses after freshman year, it becomes more likely that you will have to make alternative arrangements (such as taking Summer courses) to get back on track. With that said, there are certainly disciplines that are more compatible to switching, such as Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, which have more technical overlap, and in turn, more courses that would carry credit to both majors. By contrast, switching from Computer Science to Environmental Engineering, for instance, may have less common prerequisites that count towards both degrees, which naturally is more likely to set you further behind. In my experience of switching to Chemical Engineering in the second semester of my freshman year, I was looking at squeezing in one extra summer course in order to graduate on time for Chemical Engineering with a Petroleum Emphasis, which was likely a product of the substantial differences in the prerequisites of CS and Chemical Engineering. However, upon my recent switch to Industrial and Systems Engineering, nearly every single course I’ve taken to date in both Chemical Engineering and CS has fulfilled a prerequisite and has counted for credit, allowing me to easily graduate on time and even tack on an additional Petroleum Engineering minor.

In summary, switching majors within Viterbi is not only very easy to do, but also is practical to do without sacrificing time and energy. Considering how difficult it is to know precisely what you want to do after graduating high school – and believe me, I certainly did not – this provides a good deal of flexibility in your schedule to explore different interests and truly find your calling.

Sorry for the writing-heavy post (I’ll have more exciting blogs going forward), but I hope this helps! If you have any other questions on switching majors or scheduling classes in general, do not hesitate to leave a comment below.

Fight on,


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