Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Choosing a college major you’ll love
By: Messiah College Career and Professional Development Center
Choosing a college major is important, and there’s often anxiety about making the “right” decision. Understanding the relationship between major and career options is critical. In some cases, career fields demand a specific academic path. For example, engineers are expected to have an engineering degree; nurses, a nursing degree; accountants, an accounting degree; and so on. In most cases, however, the relationship is not so clear cut. A major opens the doorway to many career possibilities, but it’s up to you to make the most of your experience both in and out of the classroom.
Ultimately, your academic major is just one factor in determining your future career path and job prospects. Other factors include: breadth and diversity of coursework; out-of-classroom activities; skills acquired through related experiences such as internships; and personal fit with your natural talents and abilities.
To pick a major you’ll love:
The most foundational step in choosing a major is a thorough assessment of your strengths, interests, abilities and values. Consider what you have enjoyed from past experiences–school subjects, hobbies, activities and so on. Then, go one step further and ask yourself what it was about those activities that was energizing for you. Try and get as specific as you can. Did they allow you to interact with people? Use your creativity or work with your hands? Often, this is a more difficult task than anticipated!
Know your options.
There are many options as far as majors go, so it is important to do your research before choosing one. Above all else, choose a major that best aligns with your interests, strengths and abilities. Below are some suggestions for gathering more information.
Courses related to major(s) of interest – Carefully read through the full list of majors offered. Identify the majors which are of interest to you or that you might like to know more about. Eliminate the majors you would definitely not want to pursue due to lack of fit with interests and abilities. Be open to majors you may have never heard of or considered. Notice any themes? Patterns? Now, take time to read through the course requirements and descriptions for those majors you liked. How do they measure against one another based on what you know about yourself?
Career resources by major – Wondering what career paths are more often associated with the majors you’re considering? The career page on each major's webpage will give you this information, in addition to employment and graduate school statistics of Messiah alumni in any given major.
Academic departments/faculty members – First, check out the website(s) of departments that house the majors you’re considering. Make an appointment to talk with a faculty member who teaches in that department–they are eager to talk with you! What suggestions do they have? What do they see as the strengths of the major?
Upper class students – Get an insider’s perspective by consulting a junior or senior in the major. Why did they choose the major? What do they like or dislike about it? What do they hope to do after graduation? Ask for referrals from faculty members in the academic department.
Information interviews and job shadowing – One of the best ways to explore a career field of interest is to speak with and observe someone currently working in that field. Find out what majors, if any, are strongly preferred in a given field, as well as any other qualifications. If you’ve tapped your personal network and you are still having a difficult time identifying someone, let us help you. Connect with Messiah alumni by joining the Messiah College Professional Network on LinkedIn. If you have questions or need assistance, talk with a career coach in the Career and Professional Development Center.
Exploratory courses – Even after you’ve done all the suggested research, it’s often helpful to sit in on a class or take an introductory-level class within a major you’re considering to see if it’s really something you would enjoy. Talk with your advisor or a career coach about how to do this.
Remember that your major is one piece of the package. What you do with your time as a college student is up to you. Make the most of the complete experience by applying knowledge gained from the classroom in practical, relevant settings – student clubs and organizations, service learning and volunteer work, athletics, study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, and more. Experience is what sets college graduates apart in the job search process. Here are some other things to keep in mind:
Value of a liberal arts education – Not so excited about taking general education requirements? The reality is that there is lifelong, practical value in a liberal arts education. Not only does it prepare you to be a well-rounded and global citizen, it also provides an opportunity to develop perspectives, skills and abilities that are highly sought by employers and today’s dynamic workplace.
Transferable skills – Virtually all employers want to hire someone with certain skills such as communication, problem solving, teamwork, organization, etc. There are many ways–and majors–to help you develop skills in these areas. Most always, a college major is not enough in and of itself to get you hired. Job candidates must be prepared to articulate and demonstrate the skills and experiences they have to offer. Talk with a career coach about setting goals to gain marketable and professional experience to complement what you will learn in the classroom.
Messiah College’s Career and Professional Development Center has incredible resources that can help you find a major and career path best fit for your strengths and areas of interest. Please visit the link here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more helpful information!