Deciding on a major
What do you think?
Before you get started, think about how you would answer the following questions.
- If money were no object, what kind of work would you love to do?
- What type of job or work environment can you envision yourself in for a long time?
- Aside from family and friends, what values are important to you in life?
Decisions, decisions, decisions
Some students are very clear about their passions and know exactly what they want to major in from the very beginning of college. The majority of students, however, are not so certain. What can help you to decide on a major?
A sea of choices
There are thousands of occupations from which to choose, many career assessments to jump start your ideas and frequent listings of top 10 careers or hottest jobs. But there is no specific test that will tell you what to be when you are older or what should be your major! Many students initially choose careers that open up job opportunities that pay very well. But it’s not all about the money.
While earning power is a consideration, it is more important to find a career that you love to do, that is right for you and that you can’t believe you are getting paid to do! Your values and what you deem important in life will ultimately play a role in your career satisfaction. Especially important for students with disabilities is to choose a major in which your strengths will be utilized on a regular basis and a major that allows you to compensate for less important skills that are not as strong. These considerations will maximize your chances for success.
What is a major?
A major is an area of study that allows you to build knowledge and skills around a specific subject or specialty area. To earn a degree in a particular major, each college requires certain courses and course credits and may provide choices for predetermined electives. These established programs are often based on national or state accreditation standards in order to guarantee that graduates are proficient with identified skills and knowledge. Most majors also require general education courses such as English, science, social sciences, math, etc.
Discover your options
If you are uncertain of your major, you may enroll in college with an undeclared major and begin your general education requirements. Sometimes students discover what they want to major in by taking the required general education classes. A general education program in the humanities or liberal arts offers a great deal of variety and can also help you further identify your interests, strengths and values. A liberal arts degree, for example, can provide a solid foundation for many jobs and future career paths. Some courses include “service learning” to provide hands-on experiences for students. You may also volunteer in different organizations or businesses in which you are interested to get a further idea of your career direction. Some businesses even prefer to hire individuals with a liberal arts degree, as it conveys competent skills in critical thinking, writing, problem solving and decision-making, and allows the company to provide its own training to the employee.
Additionally, when you get to college you can meet with a career counselor at the college career center on campus. These centers have many resources to help you with your decision-making. Your career interests and goals will develop and even change over time. The more you can specify what you want, the easier it will be to reach your goal.
Some majors require performance skills in addition to the academics or “book learning” you get in the classroom. For example, a student who wants to become a teacher may need to go into the classroom and observe a classroom in action or even teach a lesson with supervision. The student isn’t just reading about teaching strategies, he or she is actually doing it or seeing it in action.
It’s important to know if you have difficulty with learning performance skills during a required internship; you may need accommodations to acquire the new skills or be able to complete a task. Let’s say you have difficulty reading weekly written assignments provided by your site supervisor. One accommodation might be that you are given an electronic version of the instructions so you can use technology to read it aloud to you. You can understand the instructions, but you may need to access them in a different way. It’s about being creative to get the job done. But you don’t have to do it all on your own. The disability support services office on campus can talk with you about appropriate job site accommodations. The Job Accommodation Network also provides individualized workplace solutions if your disability presents a challenge to complete a required task. And lastly, your state vocational rehabilitation service has expertise in how to accommodate your disability and help you to work efficiently on the job. Think about inviting a representative from your state vocational rehabilitation service to participate in your IEP meeting.
Identify your interests
To begin identifying your potential interests, meet with your guidance counselor to discuss your interests and assessment resources available at your high school. It is recommended to take several career interest surveys and to discuss them with a career professional. Look under “Activities” to find some things you can start doing now to narrow down your choices in majors and careers.