Careers and majors: What should I choose?

So, you’re coming to the Capstone; congratulations! Learning awaits you, and career opportunities glimmer off in the distance at the end of your academic journey. But how do you get there? Here are our answers to common questions asked by incoming students.

“I know the career I want, but which major should I choose?”

Research the industry.

  • Visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook to read about jobs in order to choose a major that will build a good foundation based on skills to be utilized.
  • Watch professionals discuss their industries on CandidCareer.com/Alabama.
  • Participate in job-shadowing opportunities with professionals whose jobs you admire; ask what the pros majored in, or what they wish they had chosen as a major based on their perspectives now.

Become a well-rounded student.

  • Look for ways outside the classroom to enrich your education through experiential learning. See the Career Center for ways you can achieve this.
  • Talk with faculty and students to learn details about classes and projects.
  • Develop skills that are valued by employers regardless of academic background, such as the NACE Career-Readiness Competencies: career management, application and information technology, professionalism/work ethic,oral/written communication skills, teamwork/collaboration, critical think/problem-solving, global/intercultural fluency, and leadership.
  • Visit the Career Center; make an appointment in Handshake (ua.joinhandshake.com) to talk with a consultant about all the opportunities available to you.

Compare majors of interest.

Once you’ve narrowed down a list of potential majors, compare them to decipher:

  • Which majors have the most classes of interest to you? See catalog.ua.edu to read the descriptions of the courses you’ll need to take. Verify that you are interested in the majority of what you will be studying.
  • Which majors do you feel would be best for your GPA based on your academic abilities?
  • Which majors appeal most to your learning style (theory or application-based)?
  • Which majors offer the most career paths that are of interest you?

“I know my major, but what career field should I target?”

Explore ways to apply your major.

  • See What Can I Do With This Major? under our Explore tab for additional ideas on how your intended major can be applied.
  • Conduct job-shadowing appointments with professionals whose job you admire; learn about what a typical day entails and imagine yourself in the setting.
  • Talk to faculty in your department to hear what recent alumni are doing now, and to see if the faculty have recommendations of careers to consider based on your performance in the classroom.
  • Explore the Occupational Outlook Handbook, CandidCareer, and O*NET to learn about what different jobs entail; consider growth rate, typical tasks, education requirements, salary, and more. Find these under Career Center Resources.
  • Participate in internships, volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs, etc., to get an idea of what to expect in a certain field, with little or short-term commitment.
  • Pay close attention to the activities, classes, and jobs you enjoy; take cues from those experiences and try to find positions to do work that is similar.
  • Become a well-rounded student. Develop skills that are valued by employers regardless of academic background, such as the NACE Career-Readiness Competencies: career management, application and information technology, professionalism/work ethic, oral/written communication skills, teamwork/collaboration, critical thinking/problem- solving, global/intercultural fluency, and leadership.
  • Research education requirements for the field(s) you’re considering. Are you willing to attend graduate or professional school after you finish your bachelor’s degree? Would you rather select a field where a bachelor’s is the norm/requirement? Ponder these points.
  • Visit the Career Center; make an appointment in Handshake (ua.joinhandshake.com) to talk with a consultant about all the opportunities available to you.

“I have no idea about majors or careers; what are my options?”

Begin with self-reflection.

In order to make informed choices about majors and careers, students need to evaluate themselves first. No single “career test” can determine what path you should pursue, although the Career Center offers inventories that can help you identify careers related to your interests, personality type, values, and skills.

Interests: What do you enjoy doing? What subjects do you like to study?

Personality: What energizes you? What environment suits your learning and work styles? Do you prefer hands-on learning or studying books and listening in lectures?

Values: What’s important to you? What motivates you to take action? What are you looking for in a major?

Skills: In what activities do you excel? What are your natural abilities? In which subjects do you make the best grades?

Know your options.

  • Look at a list of all UA majors. Cross off ones you know you would not consider, but do not eliminate any simply because you don’t know enough about them.
  • Ask your academic advisor about HES 250, a career-planning course designed to help you explore major and career options, as well as help with professional development.
  • Gather more information about majors through the UA catalog and by visiting departmental websites.
  • Talk with friends and roommates about what they’re considering pursuing in order to hear ideas you may also find interesting.
  • Remember that you’re making progress as long as you’re actively exploring options.
  • Visit the Career Center; make an appointment through Handshake by visiting ua.joinhandshake.com to talk with a consultant about opportunities available to you.