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Discovering Your Major

Now that you are starting college, one of the first questions you're probably considering is "What am I going to major in?" You have undoubtedly been asked this question a number of times already by family and friends. Perhaps you have an idea of what you would like to pursue, maybe you are just starting to think about what you may want to do, or maybe you are somewhere in between. We want you to know you are not alone in this process. Your academic advisor and career counselors are here to help you every step of the way.

 

Because of all the rapid change in our society, half the jobs that will develop in your lifetime don't even exist yet. Therefore, college is not just about preparing you for a job, or even a career. It is about preparing you for life, to become a lifelong learner who knows how to gain the knowledge and skills that are needed for new challenges. So relax. Your choice of major, and even your choice of career, will not lock you in for life.

It's a Question of Fit

So what is "fit" all about? Exactly what are the pieces that must fit together for a satisfying major and career? There are really only two factors: who you are and what you do.

 

Know Yourself

It all starts with you. Any search for a good fit begins with a good look inside yourself. You have been wired from early in life to love certain things, to thrive in particular environments, and to respond naturally and easily to specific opportunities. What brings you joy? What energizes you? What gets you up in the morning? These are helpful clues for the right fit.

 

Meet a Need

If the first piece of the major-career puzzle is knowing who you are, the second piece is connecting that to what you do - how you can meet a need in the work world. Look back over the jobs you've had, hobbies you've enjoyed and memorable volunteer work. See any patterns? On your best days, what were you doing? Some environments can give you a greater sense of purpose in life. Those that reflect your values are more likely to engage you. So how do you discover the kinds of environments that cause you to flourish? Your previous experiences offer a clue, as well as what you do while in college.

Research Before Selecting

Sometimes students declare a major without spending much time getting to know themselves and researching the major thoroughly; instead, they rely on advice from family and friends and may choose a major that doesn't align to their personal interests. If you know who you are and have an understanding of your strengths, skills, interests and passions, you have a greater potential to make academic decisions that have personal meaning.

Getting Started

Not sure what you like, what your strengths are, or what values you want your career to address? These are a few inventories to consider taking that will help you gain better insight on your interests and what types of environments you would enjoy. They are available through our Career Discoveries Office.

  

Focus

  • helps you clarify your values and interests, explore majors and career fields

 

Strong Interest Inventory

  • gives insight into your interests to help you ultimately choose a major or career

 

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

  • indicates differing preferences in how you perceive the world and make decisions

 

Are you curious about different types of careers that exist today and what is required to enter a field? If so, these are two valuable tools from the U.S. Department of Labor that will provide you with information on hundreds of career titles that can help you explore various types of work.

 

Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) - view the Handbook

  • detailed information for 575 career titles
  • gives nature of work, job outlook, earnings, training and education needed
  • revised every two years

Occupational Information Network (ONet) - view ONET OnLine

  • occupational definitions for 974 vocations
  • gives occupational requirements and worker attributes
  • continually updated

For some students it's easier to list what you don't like. That's one way to start the discovery process of determining what major and career path might be a good fit for who your are. The process of elimination is a strategy! It's a way to narrow down the list of options available to you so you can focus on those of the most interest.

Consider the Career Planning Course

EDG 2000 - Career Planning and Professional Success

Do you prefer a systematic process for discovering your best fit major and career path? If so, enroll in the Career Planning course as an elective. This course is taught by career counselors and is designed to assist you in identifying your career interests, personality strengths, values and skills. With this knowledge you are better able to identify majors and careers that fit you the best.

Visit the Department Offering the Major

Some departments offer internal information sessions about their majors. You can contact your academic advisor or department of interest to receive more information. 

 

Another option is to reach out to the chair person or faculty member in the department to ask about the types of fields you can pursue with a background in that major. The faculty are a valuable resource when it comes to the types of skills you learn in their major and how those skills can be translated into the world of work.

From Major to Career

Many majors are not explicitly geared towards a specific career. This does not mean you will not be able to find a good entry-level position when you graduate. In fact, data shows that most employers look for broad competencies like teamwork, communication and global perspectives in their new hires. In today's job market, it is best to have a mix of breadth (exposure to a variety of knowledge), depth (within your major and minor), and boundary-crossing competencies (such as systems knowledge or technical skills). Students with these three are considered ideal employees because they possess both the soft skills that allow them to collaborate and technical skills that allow them to innovate.