37 questions to help you select a major or career
By Billie Streufert 3:26 pm EST January 12, 2017
What do you want to study? What do you want to do for your career?
If you could use some help exploring your options, you’re not alone. The higher education research group Ruffalo Noel Levitz reports that 78% of students want help selecting an educational program.
Fortunately, it’s easier to clarify your goals than you might think. It begins by gathering information about yourself and your options.
Your academic advisor and campus career center are eager to support you. Plan some conversations and prepare to make the most of them by engaging in meaningful reflection and research before the discussions.
How? Take some notes as you consider the thought-provoking questions below. Then look for themes and share the new insights that emerge. This will spark a deeper dialogue, identify missing information and clarify your next steps.
- How do your favorite movies, books and television shows illuminate your interests or values?
- When have you felt a sense of pride? How do the skills you used to achieve these accomplishments relate to majors and careers?
- What jobs, hobbies, co-curricular or service opportunities have you enjoyed?
- What challenges have you overcome? How can you use these triumphs to help others?
- If money and skill were not factors, what would be your dream job?
- If you won the lottery, but still needed to work, how would you spend your time?
- What do you find yourself daydreaming about?
- What do you want to change about the world?
- What kinds of problems do you like solving?
- What topics or courses have captivated you most?
- When you picture yourself on the job in the future, are you working with data, people, things or ideas?
- What are the interests, skills and values of people in the occupations that appeal to you? (You can visit O*Net to collect and compare this information to your own characteristics.)
- What percentage of your time do you prefer to spend on a computer, with others or outdoors? What are the working conditions of the occupations you are considering?
- Is a license or credentialing exam required for this career? If so, a specific major may be needed to satisfy these requirements. View the Occupational Outlook Handbook to better understand the training you need.
- What are the popular career paths for graduates of your degree program? Browse the alumni profiles on the LinkedIn University page of your college to better understand common careers and professional trajectories.
- Is graduate school required to advance or enter this career? If so, are you motivated to pursue additional education, and what are the prerequisite requirements of these programs?
- How much money is enough? Use the salary information published by the Career One Stop to benchmark your desired standard of living against the earning potential of the occupations you are considering.
- Have you connected with faculty? Professors can share information about the requirements of majors, as well any introductory courses you can complete to sample the program.
- What overlapping courses exist between all the majors that you are considering? Enroll in these courses first to gain time to choose among your options.
- What do other students in this discipline have to say about the program? Speak with them to gain first-hand information about the major.
- Locate your university’s catalog on the Registrar’s Office website. Read the course descriptions for the classes required of the majors you are considering. Which sound most interesting?
- Do your previous grades and transcript indicate that you can succeed in the courses required for the degree program?
- Visit your campus bookstore. Flip through the textbooks for the courses required in your major. Do these topics capture your attention?
- If you are interested in more than one major, can you double major? How many electives remain after you satisfy the course requirements of the major that interests you most?
- If your preferred occupation became obsolete or does not work out, which alternatives appeal to you? Are there ways you can implement several suitable alternatives simultaneously? Parallel paths diversify your career portfolio and help you adapt to change.
- Are there ways you can combine multiple interests into an ideal option? For example, organizational psychology offers a blend of business and social science courses. Many universities also offer interdisciplinary majors that permit you to tailor your degree to your goals.
- What opportunities exist to gain experience and confirm your goals? Confirm your occupational interests by participating in undergraduate research, student organizations, service projects or internships.
- What do professionals like and dislike most about their work? Speak with others in the field to better understand the joys and challenges of the profession.
- What does a typical day look like in the occupations you are considering? If you have not done so already, shadow professionals in the work environment.
- What do others think about your decision and how do these perceptions impact your choice?
- What is your greatest challenge to pursuing your career goals? What resources are available to help you overcome this barrier? For example, if you are considering a non-traditional occupation, are there professional associations or mentors that can offer you support?
- How have you made other decisions in your life? Are there aspects of this approach that can help you with this choice?
- What are the pros and cons of your options? How are the alternatives alike and different?
- What factors are most important to you? Rank these aspects to help you assess the desirability of your options.
- What is your intuition related to your choice? This yardstick can reflect your peace of mind and confidence in your decision.
- Do you find yourself worrying about making the right choice? Are you hoping that you will be satisfied with every aspect of an occupation or guaranteed success? Are your thoughts about both the process and outcome accurate? Examining your expectations prevents you from making impulsive choices or avoiding decisions.
- Have you visited your campus career center? Remember, you do not have to embark on the journey alone. Contact them today for individual assistance.