Many students struggle with deciding on a major or career path. Luckily, the Transfer and Career Center has many resources to help you. In the center we have books on how to choose your major, changing careers, self-discovery and the career exploration process, articles on current trends in careers, and much more.
College of Marin counselors teach career exploration courses every semester - COUN 130: Career Life Skills Planning and COUN 133: Career Exploration. These courses are a great opportunity for students to gain a better understanding of who they are, what they would like to do , and explore the multitude of options available.
See below for informational handouts and helpful websites to get you started:
Transfer and Career Center favorites:
A Virtual Career Center for California Community College students.
My Next Move
An interactive tool for job seekers and students to learn more about their career options.
Find jobs that match your interests and strengths and find out what it takes to get that job.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Occupational information compiled by US Department of Labor.
California Occupational Guides
Occupational information compiled by Employment Development Department.
Interactive tool for career information and research
Offering a resume builder, cover letter builder, interview practice, and thank you letter builder
Great free personality assessment. Be sure to take the assessment when you are in a neutral mood, go with your initial gut instinct when answering, and stay away from neutral answers whenever possible.. If you would like a full Myers Briggs assessment, enroll in Counseling 130 Career and Life Skills Planning or Counseling 133 Career Exploraiton. Your $40 material fee for those classes is for the Myers Briggs assessment.
Other Helpful Websites:
Sponsored by the US Department of Labor, this site has tools to help job seekers, students, businesses, and professionals.
UC Berkeley Career Center
Valuable information on career exploration, networking, informational interviews, job search techniques and internships.
San Francisco State University Student Involvement and Career Center
Valuable information on majors and careers and job seeking skills.
Allows students to easily assess their core soft skills and motivations, and immediately discover what job profiles fit their personality best- for free!
Career exploration tool for high school and community college students developed by CA Community Colleges, Department of Education and State of California.
Do you have realistic expectations of your dream job? Find out!
Explore Health Careers
Interested in working in health care? Begin researching your many different options with this site.
An organization that holds monthly meetings hosting a panel of experts from varying fields offering advice, resources, and encouragement to job seekers and those looking to clarify their career goals.
Education is a lifelong process, not a goal or an end point. Choosing a major is one part of that process, but it is not the process itself, nor is it the end of the process. Try to accept the idea that there may not be just one perfect undergraduate major for you. There may be several that are equally appropriate, or there may be no single major that can fulfill all of your needs. The best that you can do is to make your decision based on as much relevant and accurate information as you can obtain. To do so, consider the following:
1. What are your interests?
- Think of things you enjoy.
- What activities do you like to participate in?
- What do you enjoy watching on TV or reading, studying, or talking about?
- What hobbies do you actively pursue? Do you enjoy group activities, or do you prefer working alone? Do you enjoy outdoor activities or being indoors?
- Are you interested in science fiction, science fact, or neither? What courses did you enjoy most in high school?
- When you think about a career, what do you think you would enjoy doing or being?
- What kinds of activities are you not interested in, and why?
- Would you be interested in the work required for a particular major?
- Need more help in identifying your interests? Enroll in a Counseling course like COUN 130 Career Life Skills Planning or COUN 133 Career Exploration. You can also stop by the Transfer and Career Center to browse through the many resources there.
2. What are your abilities?
Try to take an objective look at your past performance in scholastic as well as in non-scholastic work.
- What are your projections for success in certain academic areas?
- How have others judged your performance in the past?
- Have your won scholastic honors or awards for excellence in art, music, sports, or other performance areas?
- Do you seem to have a natural talent for helping other people, working with numbers, influencing others, solving problems, using your hands, or organizing activities?
- How strong are your study skills?
- Do you have the ability to be successful in the work required in a particular major?
3. What are your values?
Think about the values and principles that are guiding your life.
- Are your decisions and choices influenced by certain religious, philosophical, moral, or ethical beliefs and teachings?
- Do you consider service to others to be an important part of your personal philosophy?
- Is a broad undergraduate education more important to you than a more narrowly-focused program, or is the opposite true?
- Do you value financial security above all else?
- Will your values match the requirements and outcomes of a potential major or career?
4. What are your options?
What if you don’t know where to start in choosing a major because you don’t know what majors are out there to choose from? The following can help with that:
- Never heard of Agronomy and Crop Science? Want to know what Computer Forensics is about? How about Metallurgical Engineering or Gerontology? Explore the Book of Majors in the Transfer and Career Center as well as other resources to explore the myriad of options available.
- Or, if you know what field you are interested in (like biology), but are having trouble determining a specific major within it (like microbiology or zoology), the resources in the center can also be of help.
- Want a major that prepares you for a specific career? Appeals to your intellectual interests? Allows you to do research? Showcases your talents?
- Do you feel very passionate about a subject, but feel there is no major to support it? Perhaps a student-designed major might work for you. Research potential transfer institutions that allow their students to create their own major.
- Can’t decide between two different majors? Perhaps a double major or a major and a minor might appeal to you. Keep in mind, this often times increases a student’s time to degree completion.
5. What are your motivations?
Ask yourself why you might be considering a particular major.
- Do your strongest motivations come from your interests, your abilities, your values, or from some other factors?
- Are outside pressures (from family, peers, or the job market) shaping and influencing your decisions?
- Are you thinking about choosing a major because you believe it will be easy, or because it is what somebody else said you “should” do, or because you think you could ensure a good job and earn a high salary?
- Would your motivation be strong enough to allow you to succeed in a major even if other factors seemed to direct you away from that major?
6. What are the realities?
Consider what situations in your life may have a strong and overriding influence on your choice of major.
- Do your interests, abilities, values, and motivations conflict with each other, or are they in agreement? Sometimes students are veryinterested in a major but find that they do not have the abilities to handle the academic demands of the required courses. On the other hand, some students have considerable abilities in a particular area but do not have any real interest in studying that topic. And sometimes students have both interests and abilities in an area but feel that the realities of the job market make it not worth the investment of time and money.
- What other realities might you face in choosing your major? Will you be able to meet pre-major requirements on time, particularly in impacted programs?
- How much extra time will it take to graduate if you have already completed a significant number of credits that cannot be applied to a major? Meet with a counselor to discuss this.
- Can you afford to finance a four or five year degree? Consider these and other outside factors that may make a significant difference to you.
7. Make it worth the investment
Students can spend a lot of time and money pursuing their educational goals. You want all that work to pay off. Make sure your choice will be one you are happy with.
- Do informational interviews
- Research employment opportunities and prospects
- Can you imagine studying or working in that field for 10+ years?
- Look for related employment or internship opportunities to help you try out the major
- Take introductory courses to be sure you enjoy it
- Research related majors. Is there maybe one that suits you better?
Students often begin their exploration of majors with preconceived ideas about the best ways to go about choosing a major and about what impact that choice will have. Unfortunately, many of these ideas are misconceptions that can deter real progress.
Listed below are some of the most common misconceptions about choosing a major and an explanation of how they can cloud your educational vision.
The best way to find out about majors is to take courses.
Taking an introductory course is one way to learn about a particular major, but it may not be the best way, especially if you are just beginning the exploration process. Here are some reasons why:
- If you take a course just to learn more about a major and then decide against that major, you will have eliminated one major but you will not have selected one. Deciding on majors by eliminating them one course at a time is inefficient and time-consuming.
- Most universities are more concerned with the pre-major requirements rather than general education. They want to see that you have a knack for the major before accepting you into their program.
- You can often learn a great deal about a course and a major just by browsing through the required textbooks, reading the course syllabi, or sitting in on a few class meetings before deciding whether or not to take a course in that major.
I’ll just get my General Education out of the way first.
General Education requirements are not the same for every major. Here are just a few examples:
- Different schools will likely have different pre major and/or general education requirements for the same major. For a local example, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business details very specific general education courses they want students to have complete prior to transfer while SFSU prefers transfer students majoring in business to complete either the CSU General Education Breadth pattern or IGETC.
- For students majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, general education can be tricky and following IGETC will not be the best path. Because these tend to be high unit majors, the general education requirements are minimal, and often specific. To not prolong your studies at a community college prior to transfer, a student interested in STEM will have to plan general education courses very carefully.
You can see that while you are exploring majors, you should select your General Education Courses very carefully, especially if you are interested in a high unit major. Your counselor should be able to assist you in this selection process.
Picking a major and a career are the same thing.
When students talk about choosing a major, they often mean choosing a career (and vice-versa). Although these two choices can go hand-in-hand, choosing one does not automatically mean you have chosen the other. Here are just a few examples:
- Some people assume that students who major in the arts, humanities, or social sciences are either not qualified for any jobs (“What can you do with a degree in philosophy?”) or qualified only for careers in those specific areas. Actually, students who earn undergraduate degrees in theatre, history, psychology, and similar majors find jobs in business, research, human resources, teaching, the military, and a variety of other occupations.
- Many students who decide on a career in law automatically assume that they should major in pre-law, political science, or administration of justice. The reality is that a student can choose any major and still be accepted into law school. A student in the College of Agricultural Sciences, for example, might be planning a career in environmental law, while a student majoring in a business might be interested in corporate law.
Choosing a major does not limit you to only one career choice; choosing a career does not limit you to only one major.
Choosing one major means giving up all the others.
There are a variety of ways for students to combine their interests in more than one major. It is possible, for example, for students to complete simultaneous degrees, or to have a double major. Most Universities also offer many different minors which often can be completed in little or no extra time or credits. Many schools also offer interdisciplinary studies, or student-designed majors, wherein students are able to create their own major with faculty approval.
Sometimes students who investigate the requirements for combining majors/degrees decide instead to complete just one undergraduate degree and then go on for a master’s degree. Post-baccalaureate degrees do not have to be in the same area as undergraduate degrees. A student who earns a bachelor’s degree in music, for example, might go on to earn a master’s degree in business administration. A student with an undergraduate degree in mathematics, on the other hand, might go on to earn a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate or a master’s degree in computer science.
Other ways to combine interests in several different majors is to double major, have a minor, or choose a school that allows students to design their own major.
The major I pick now will determine my lifelong career.
Studies have shown that within ten years after graduation most people are working in careers that are not directly connected to their undergraduate majors.
Just as some students change their minds about their majors, some graduates change their minds about their careers. There are physician, for example, who decide to become lawyers and lawyers who decide to become physicians. These are obviously unusual examples. More commonly, however, people change their jobs while remaining in a related occupational area (a teacher, for example, might become a principal or a superintendent within in a school district, or an engineer might move into a management position in an engineering firm).
Jobs also change over time, whether people want them to or not. Many jobs that exist today will be performed in very different ways five years from now or may even be obsolete by then. New types of jobs are emerging every year, and most of us have no way of knowing what those jobs will be or what type of education will be needed in order to qualify for them. Consequently, the current emphasis in career planning at the undergraduate level is on the development of general, transferable skills (writing, speaking, computer, problem-solving, team-building) that employers want and that graduates will need in order to adjust to rapidly changing careers.
People change; careers change. The connection between the major that you select now and the career that you will find yourself in ten years from now is likely to be very thin indeed.