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Wayne State College
Counseling Center
Student Center, Rm. 103
1111 Main St.
Wayne, NE 68787

(402) 375-7321 -or- 375-7557
Fax: 402.375.7058



Career Planning & Exploration: Choosing or Changing Your Major




BulletCollege students tend to start a session with their advisor with the question, "What should I major in?" or "What can I do with a major in so-and-so?" But good advisors know that you can't really start with those questions. You have to put them aside until you first find out about "What do I want to be? What do I really want out of my life? What kind of person am I so far? Where do I really want to go with myself?"


BulletPerhaps the primary reason students choose what later turns out to be the wrong major is that so many concentrate exclusively on selecting for a specific "job," as if each job required a certain major. Additionally, students often choose their majors unwisely because they lack sufficient information about themselves, potential courses of study, jobs and the job market, and above all about how to combine their education with their career goals. WSC's Advising Center staff offers career planning assistance designed to help with these questions and to teach the student how to research, set goals, and obtain information concerning careers.


BulletWSC Advisors can help you focus on the broader career planning question of "What do I want to do?" This can lead you to explore yourself and career fields that provide opportunities for you to achieve what you want, not only from your college major, but from life as well. In attempting to answer what you want to do, you'll find that the choice of an academic major takes on new meaning. You are no longer concerned with the prescribed route of specific majors. The search becomes one of finding the best academic program for your chosen career goals.




BulletGraduating from college is the beginning of life as a professional, and from there you will continue to grow and develop. However, who we are as a professional is only one part of who we are as a person. Your choice of a major should take in to account these questions: "What can this major contribute to my needs and development as a person? Will it offer me an opportunity to sort out my values or gain a broader view of the world? Will it help me to understand things I'm curious about in terms of people or society in general?"


BulletIf you foresee graduate school as the next step, consider a major that provides a good background for the professional areas you hope to enter in graduate school. For example, history provides a foundation for graduate study in law, library science, and urban planning. Sociology or psychology may prepare you for a graduate program in social work or mental health counseling. This approach is fine as long as you can count on being accepted into graduate school. If you can't, undergraduate degrees in history, sociology, and psychology require a more "creative marketing" approach when job hunting. You have to sell yourself, your accomplishments, and your education as a package, not just your education.


BulletA third strategy is to develop a marketable combination of liberal arts major and a technical major, minor or course work concentration. Major or minor in some field you love without worrying about career practicalities. Then carry a second major or minor that is marketable and provides a key to get you hired. You need not love the second major, but it should be something you feel you can do reasonably well in and would enjoy doing for a few years. It never makes sense to go into a field for which you know you are unsuited. Usually there are a variety of marketable majors available to complement the field you have chosen. Some common marketable combinations are psychology and marketing; economics and accounting; and English and computer science.

— There are advantages and disadvantages to double majoring. On the positive side, you may find that you are able to get into classes more readily. Having a double major may communicate academic perseverance to employers. Having a double major may strengthen your candidacy for jobs. However, you can communicate your second concentration to employers without formally declaring a second major. Remember that you are doubling your requirements which allows you less curriculum flexibility, less opportunity to take career-related electives, and perhaps less time to explore experiential options.

BulletA fourth option is to more or less downplay the issue of choosing a major. Earning a degree in a specific major is the recommended path, but sometimes this is not possible. If this is the case, you should focus on selecting courses that develop specific skills. Choosing an Interdisciplinary Studies Program is an option for persons with reasonably clear career goals but the school does not offer a specific major that they are looking for. For example, a person wanting to pursue a career in public relations in a school that doesn't offer that major would want to put together a program that included course work in English (writing), Business (labor negotiations and advertising), Communication Arts (public speaking) and other departments. What you major in will be of less concern to employers than the fact that you have taken courses in all areas related to public relations.




BulletStudents need adequate information about all that a college has to offer, and they need to know the requirements of the different programs of study. Just reading the catalog isn't enough, and for the majority, exposure to a few subjects in high school simply won't serve to introduce or to interpret the college curriculum, which is a smorgasbord of specialization by comparison. Before you can make a realistic decision about your major, you must take an informed look at all the possibilities. Follow this link to view information on "What can I do with a major in?" (under construction, please check back later)


BulletThe questions below should be considered when you evaluate a major. Departmental advisors and departmental handouts for prospective majors available through departmental offices should be the most help with any questions that are not answered in the course catalogue.


BulletDo you know:

— What preparatory courses are required?
— What's the minimum grade point average for acceptance into the
     major? (if applicable)
— How many courses in the major are required?
— Are the course offerings sequential or non-sequential?
— Where there are required courses, could they pose scheduling
— Are the exams multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, or essays?
— How much freedom is there for elective courses, for flexibility
     and creativity, and individual projects?
— How many credits are needed in order to graduate in that major?
— Who is the departmental advisor?
— What are graduates of the department doing now?

BulletGo visit the departments you are considering and ask for any information packets that they might have for prospective majors. Talk with current students who have selected the major you are considering and perhaps sit in on a few classes to help you determine what a particular major may entail. If practicable, take introductory classes in the major. If you change your mind about the major, these classes can still be used as electives.




BulletBy following the recommendations provided here and working hard to answer the right questions about yourself, it will be much easier for you to plan your college curriculum so that you can study what you enjoy learning about, what you can do successfully, and what will serve as groundwork for the future you want for yourself.


BulletWayne State College's Career Services Office and the Counseling Center have a library which has a wide range of publications containing information about career fields, the job market, and the relationship between majors and careers. Staff are available to help you find what you need.


BulletTake advantage of the career groups and career counselors that are available at Wayne State College. They can help you to think through your interests, values, and skills in relation to careers.


Return to Career Planning & Exploration



Ron Vick, MA, LPC
Counselor / Academic Advisor
Int'l Student Advisor



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