Choosing and Declaring a Major
When a student goes to the Career Development office with questions about which major is best for him or her, the staff most often has that student complete Career Exploration Assessments. This takes less than an hour for the vast majority of students and includes ten short inventories in which students self-reveal the following information:
- Career and educational goals
- Academic strengths
- Work experience and accomplishments
- Career planning status
- Personal development needs (skill-wise)
- Work interests
- Leisure interests
The Career Development staff helps students narrow in on an occupational interest prior to selecting a specific major because, for most occupations, there are multiple majors that can lead to any given career option. They have many resources to research specific career options to find out what types of skill sets are needed for particular careers, the outlook for those careers, salary ranges, and the type of work that is done in these various careers. This helps a student decide if a particular career is of interest to them. The student can then select a major of interest that will lead to their career of interest. According to Laurie Judge, Director of Career Development, it's much harder for a student who is struggling to complete a degree in a specific major to then try to determine what type of career (and specific job) to move into with that major (sort of putting the cart before the horse). Research shows (as well as does a certain degree of common sense) students who are actively engaged in their program of study are much more likely to stay with it and graduate.
For a student trying to determine his or her major, the next step after completing the Career Exploration Assessments is for the student to attend a workshop or make an appointment with a career counselor to fully review the results of their assessments. One thing that usually comes from this process is the common interest areas which lend themselves to particular programs of study (majors) - themes, if you will. Once some options come to the surface, students look at the AU course catalogue to see what types of classes are offered within the majors of interest. Career Development staff members recommend students also visit faculty within the major of interest at this point to get more specific information related to "fit". It's not uncommon for a student to then take an introductory level course within a major to further identify whether that major is a good fit for them.
Parents can check out what types of tools are available to their students by going to the Career Development website (which is soon to be revamped and much more interactive for our students and alums). The website has many resources related to career planning - specifically, there is a general guide which can give parents an idea as to what their students should be thinking about during each of their four years at AU to better plan and prepare for their careers after graduation. There is information about writing resumes and cover letters, preparing for interviews, networking to build key contacts, internships, and much more. There are also short video clips that highlight this information.