Choosing Your Major
The Perfect Major
“What should I major in?” and “what are my career options with this major?” are common questions among students. The truth is, there are many answers. There is no perfect major for most career fields, though obviously certain majors do lend themselves more easily to certain fields.
A thoughtfully executed liberal arts education will equip you with the foundational knowledge and skills to pursue your career goals, and to flexibly adapt to changes in industries, technologies, and job requirements over time.
To learn more about common paths pursued by those who major in specific areas, try the website What can I do with this major?
Making Your Selection
Rather than selecting a major based entirely on a possible career path, students should study what they love, asking:
- What do I enjoy learning about?
- What makes me tick?
- In which classes do I excel?
Career Services can help explore these questions and determine which career paths incorporate what students enjoy most about their academic studies.
Testing Career Options
The academic experience in college is one way that students prepare for careers, but equally as important are students’ extracurricular experiences. Pursuing opportunities like those outlined below can help students gain leadership experience, develop targeted skills, and begin building valuable professional networks.
Student clubs can be fun social opportunities, but they also provide unique opportunities to engage in fields of interest.
Colgate Career Services advises students to join at least one organization related to an industry of interest. Membership and leadership within such an organization will allow you to grow professionally, developing résumé-building skills and experiences.
Colgate is home to hundreds of clubs and organizations as diverse as the oldest college weekly newspaper in the country, and Women in Computer Science.
Volunteering in the community is another way to build valuable skills, networks, and experiences. Exposure to diverse people and experiences is an important part of preparing for “the real world.” These experiences also help students come to understand their own values and interests.
In addition to earning a bit of money, a part-time job while is a great way to explore industries. Students may pursue opportunities that relate to their field of interest. For example, if students considering a careers in education may consider part-time work at a daycare.
Even when performing relatively low-end tasks, like checking out books at the library or swiping cards at the gym, it can be an opportunity to observe the environment. Students might begin to understand what it takes to run a fitness facility, or to maintain a functioning library.
To maximize the experience, students should ask questions and offer to work on new and different tasks around the workplace.
An internship is an option for students to productively utilize the summer months. No two internships are alike, and may be paid or unpaid, full- or part-time, etc. Nevertheless, most opportunities will allow interns to acquire essential practical skills while exposing them to the world of work.
Internships are increasingly critical experiences for students to add to their résumés before graduating. They:
- Provides a competitive edge in the job market
- Expose introduce students to industries, helping them to make career decisions
- Start the processes of building a network of professionals and references
- May clarify and hone career objectives, and they may even inform future decisions in coursework and course selection.
- Develop professional and personal skills
- May lead to full-time job offers
Studying off campus and abroad may be an adventure, but it can also be an incredible skill- and résumé-building experience. Studying abroad offers unique opportunities to develop skills and experiences that will help students later market themselves as:
- Cross-culturally sensitive and aware
- Globally minded
Experiences during an off-campus semester can also help students to hone interpersonal and communication skills, and traits such as confidence, dependability, and maturity.
Students should also bear in mind that there are many incredible career opportunities available while studying abroad. Working in an internship, networking with or shadowing professionals, conducting informational interviews, or even volunteering can all be valuable experiences that pay dividends in skills, perspectives, and experiences to draw on in finding a career path, and throughout one’s career.
Informational interviews are opportunities for students to ask others for career and industry advice. These interviews are not about finding employment, but are focused on learning more about careers, educational trajectories, and employers.
Informational interviews provide students with an insider’s perspective into an industry or particular organization. Such an interview may help a student understand more about:
- Career preparation and opportunities for specialization
- The work culture and day-to-day experience of a profession
- How a career does or does not match one’s personality, interests, skills, strengths, and weaknesses
Informational interviews are also useful in building one’s professional network and honing interpersonal and interviewing skills.