Career & Major Exploration
Choosing your major can be challenging and even scary, but realize that you are not alone in making a decision about which major is best for you. Keep in mind that your choice of major does not determine your career path. Just like students change majors, graduates change careers. In fact, the following celebrities are good examples of this:
- Before playing a Harvard law student in “Legally Blonde,” Reese Witherspoon majored in English Literature.
- “Charlie’s Angels” star Lucy Liu graduated with a major in Asian Languages and Cultures.
- Denzel Washington went to college with the intent of pursuing a career in journalism.
- Matthew McConaughey originally planned to become a criminal defense attorney.
These celebrities are not the only ones changing their career pathways. Many people change careers several times over the course of their lives. In other words, don’t fret about feeling alone in your major and career search.
Career Services is here to help you explore majors and consider possible career paths. We can provide assistance through various formats. One of these is a course called Major Exploration and Career Choices (SLS 2990), which affords you the opportunity to explore majors, careers, and yourself over the course of a semester.
At Career Services, we advocate using some of the following approaches to help you determine what major might be best for you:
Values, interests, personality, and skills (VIPS) identification
- By discussing your VIPS with a career coach, you can examine strengths, weaknesses, constants, attractors, and dislikes, all of which can help you move forward in career development.
- Knowing your VIPS can also help you appropriately manage decision-making barriers.
- Please visit the Career Development Model to learn more about your VIPS.
Career assessment/inventory debriefing
- Taking career assessments can allow you to explore opportunities and different types of careers that may be available. Sometimes you learn about new and exciting career opportunities by taking a career assessment.
- Wandering map creation: Many factors (such as family, interests, culture, skills, chance, events, etc.) lead to majors and careers. Wandering maps are tools that you can use to review your past experiences and connect themes and experiences to help explore your future possibilities. In addition, you can create a wandering map to draw connections between career paths you are currently and have previously considered.
Informational website reviews
- It is helpful for you to look at different career types to understand more about salaries, employment opportunities, and the job tasks.
- Some private and government-based websites that are available for exploring these opportunities include the following: Myplan, Occupational Outlook Handbook, O*Net, NACE Cost-of-Living Calculator
Engagement through experiential learning
- Experiential learning provides you with the opportunity to gain valuable exposure to different fields and industries while also meeting employers and community members and even building skills.
- Some common types of experiential learning that are helpful for career exploration are volunteering and job shadowing.
- Also, setting up an informational interview with someone involved in a career you are interested in pursuing allows you to hear about the positive and less positive aspects you might encounter working in that role yourself one day.
Professional and student organization involvement
- Getting involved and taking risks is an important and powerful means of discovering interest areas. Opportunities for this type of exploration abound at UWF: Student Organizations, Leadership and Service, Student Government Association, Campus Activity Board, Fraternity and Sorority Life
SMART Goal setting
- Drafting career-related goals using the SMART Goals technique can provide you with some concrete steps to take to move forward and not become stagnant in your professional journey. You always want your goals to be: Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely
- Still, flexibility is important when goal setting. Unplanned and random events occur, and since absolute prediction of our career lives is not possible, we want to remember to be flexible in adapting to these unplanned events. In other words, remember to make room for unexpected opportunities that might change your goals or your life.
Career Development Model use
- The Career Development Model serves as a checklist that you can use to determine where you are in your progression toward the career of your dreams.
Still anxious about major and career selection? Check out the myths and truths below!
My major will determine what I do for the rest of my life.
- Many students procrastinate when it comes to selecting a major. One of the reasons offered for procrastinating is that they feel like they are making a lifelong decision that they might regret forever if it is not the “right” one. However, the career path of most college graduates is not like walking a straight line from major to career. Similar to students changing majors, graduates change careers. There are individuals with engineering degrees who decide to become lawyers and lawyers who decide to become professors.
- Studies have shown that even within ten years from the time of graduation, most people are not working in careers directly related to their undergraduate majors. Also, there are many individuals who work in nontraditional employment environments for their majors and really enjoy their jobs.
- Also, jobs and position descriptions change all the time. The important thing to consider when you are seeking a degree is the attainment of transferable skills. These specific skillsets, taught in almost all majors, are desirable to employers in many different fields and industries. These include communication, computer literacy, critical thinking, and more. In fact, you can see that employers who feature their jobs in JasonQuest look for multiple or all majors rather than selecting preferred majors.
- Finally, you could very easily have several different jobs over the course of your lifespan. This is different than what life was like in earlier time periods in history when folks would keep one job throughout an entire lifetime. Interestingly, current research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that individuals, on average, will change jobs about nine times between the ages of 18 and 35. Some individuals change jobs as many as 15 times during this age range. Included in this pool of individuals are many people who change career direction entirely.
- So breathe a sigh of relief and take away some pressure because there is no one “right” major.
The best way to decide on a major is to take courses in that field.
- Taking courses in a particular field is not a recommended approach to determine a major. Sometimes courses look dissimilar to what a person would find when working in the field. For instance, courses may be theoretical while the career itself is more technical.
- Also, using this approach to deciding on a major can cost a person time, money, and effort and may only lead to eliminating certain major options rather than deciding on one to pursue.
- Instead of this inefficient and time-consuming method of attempting to choose a major, a student might consider reviewing textbooks, reading through course syllabi, and speaking to professors about the possibility of sitting in on a few relevant classes in courses that may look like what the students would be doing in practice.
- Additional methods of understanding more about and choosing a major can be discussed with a Career Coach in Career Services.
Selecting one major means I’m giving up all other options.
- Actually, there are ways for students to combine interests in more than one major. For example, some students complete concurrent majors (often called “double majors”) or sequential majors.
- UWF also offers many different minors and certificate programs, which can often be completed in little or no extra time or credits.
- Because most master’s degrees do not require an undergraduate degree in the same field of study, students will sometimes choose to pursue graduate degrees in different areas. For example, a student who earns a bachelor's degree in Art might go on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree. Or a student with an undergraduate degree in History might go on to earn a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate or a master's degree in Computer Science.
- In other words, instead of forcing yourself to go down one major path, consider choosing two or more paths.