Following self-assessment and values clarification, there are a few more steps to choosing a major. You may have a better idea of which direction you would like to head, but there may still be too many choices to pick from! Talking to professors, faculty advisors, mentors, Rensselaer alumni and your fellow students is often the preferred method to learn more about academic majors and courses.
But remember...only you can decide what major is right for you; don’t expect your advisor or a career counselor to make the decision for you.
Have fun reading course descriptions within academic departments, and track patterns in keywords that always seem to stand out. For example, do you always tend to look for courses that have programming in the description? Or perhaps you look for courses that allow your creativity to flow and that seem “fun?”
College is a great time to experiment, to take risks and indulge individual interests that you may have been forced to ignore in high school. Take the time to explore majors of interest before declaring your major sophomore year.
There are a few different ways to begin to narrow potential occupations. First, one of the best ways to learn more about specific career paths is to talk to people in those careers. This is what we call informational interviewing, allowing the student to “interview” a professional (typically a Rensselaer alumnus/alumna or employer) to gather information on different job descriptions, related education and training, and relevant career advancement.
Second, pursuing a summer job, internship, or co-op is highly recommended for those students seeking to gain work experience while learning more about the world of work. Often the best way to identify fields of interest is by ruling out occupations that aren’t appealing. Sometimes what an occupation appears to be on paper or on a TV show (think CSI, ER) is not always what it seems … this is where you come in!
Taking time to research and explore occupational titles and career paths can be exciting. In addition to the books in the CCPD lounge, there are also some great online resources to investigate career fields:
- Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), U.S. Department of Labor www.bls.gov/oco/
- Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (for science and engineering disciplines) www.careercornerstone.org/
Reading, talking and doing are three key words to keep in mind when spending time thinking about both major and career options. And don’t forget to speak with a CCPD career counselor along the way … we are here to help!