Choosing a Major

Studying

Whether students enter Northwest with a declared major or in general college, many will change majors before a degree is granted. With so many possibilities available and a lifetime of work ahead, the Career Center encourages all students to invest time in planning to achieve academic and career success. Here is a way for you to get organized and develop a successful career plan, where “successful” refers to getting a job that is genuinely a good fit for you.

What is a Major?
A major is a declaration on the focus of study. It is giving you a basic preparation to work in the field of study. It determines that courses that you take and which program of study you follow during your college career.

Guide to Choosing a Major
No matter if you don’t know your major, need to change your major, or confirm your choice, this is the place to begin. Feel free to print this handout to walk you through the process of choosing a major.

Career Counseling
You can meet with a Career Counselor to discuss your major and career options. Make an appointment. We are open Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm.

Where to Begin? ASSESS YOURSELF
The process of choosing a major or career often begins with self-assessment. Consider taking one or more of the assessments below to learn more about your Interests, Personality, Skills & Abilities, and Values. After taking one or more assessments, meet with a career counselor to discuss your results and generate ideas for majors and careers to research. Keep in mind that no single test can tell you “what you should be” and that successful career planning may require more than one appointment.

  • Strong Interest Inventory® - This is available on the internet and takes about 30 minutes to complete. After completing the inventory you will need to schedule a follow-up appointment to receive your results. To request the username/password and to make an appointment for the interpretation call 562-3954 or email smayo@northwestms.edu .
  • Choices-Interest Profiler- The Choices-Interest Profiler is available on the internet and takes about 20 minutes to complete. This inventory categorizes your interests into six typical work environments. It provides results immediately and allows you the option to explore potential options at that time. You are encouraged to create a portfolio to save your results and come back to at a later time. From this site you can also identify work values, basic skills and research careers. To request the username/password and to make an appointment for the interpretation call 562-3954 or email smayo@northwestms.edu.
  • Values Inventory Worksheet - In addition to considering interests, skills, and personality, students should consider their values when choosing a major or career. Work values are characteristics about jobs and work environments such as salary, amount of independence, required hours, etc. People tend to feel most satisfied when their work satisfies their values. Print and complete the checklist to help prioritize YOUR values. There is no right or wrong answer. As you research potential majors and careers, consider whether or not they fit your values.
  • Skills Checklist – At the college level and beyond, it’s difficult to objectively measure your skills through a test. Completing the attached checklist will allow you to self-rate your skills and abilities. As you research careers of interests, consider the required skills and whether or not these are skills you feel you possess or could develop. Other ways to identify your skills include reflection on your personal accomplishments, classroom performance in various subjects, previous jobs or volunteer positions held, and feedback you receive from others.

Once you have evaluated your interests, values, and skills, how do you put all that information together? Your interests and values will likely point you to certain industries, companies or job functions. Knowledge of your skills will help you determine if those industries, organizations, and job opportunities are likely to offer your work you can skillfully do or learning to do and will enjoy doing.

Self-assessment is a lifelong practice, one that most people will return to again and again over the course of their professional careers. As you gain work experience and your skills grow, your interests and values are likely to shift; you can return to this to help you move confidently into new areas of work and career.

What next? EXPLORATION
After learning more about where your interests are, you can use that information to explore majors and careers. When making your decision it is important to know factors such as what someone does in that career, wages, education requirements and the future outlook.

  • What Can I Do With This Major? Use this link to learn about more than 75 majors and how they lead to various career fields.
  • Majors and Careers by Interest - Explore majors and careers at Northwest that match your interests. This site is especially helpful for those students who know their results from the Strong Interest Inventory or Choices-Interest Profiler
  • Explore opportunities to gain relevant work experience, for example: internships and summer jobs. Get involved in student professional organization and extracurricular activities such as campus organizations, a class project, or volunteer.
  • Learning how to build your network and cultivate mentors. Conduct informational interviews with people in fields that interest you and keep the information because you might need to talk with a contact again.
  • O*Net – occupational information on hundreds of jobs.
  • Virtual Job Shadow - This is an engaging career exploration tool for students and job seekers. Through online videos, Virtual Job Shadow provides a behind-the-scenes look at life on the job.

Time to Decide!

  • Create an action plan
  • Determine your career goal
  • Determine the time frame to reach your goal
  • Have a back-up plan

If you plan of transferring, be sure to meet all admission requirements to the school you plan to attend. Check on this during your freshman year to begin any necessary preparation. Don’t wait until the last minute!

  • Many students feel pressure to make a choice, just remember make the most realistic and best choice for YOU!
  • Use a step-by-step decision making process.
  • Clarify the decision. What needs to be decided?
  • Identify your options. Narrow down your list of options to those you consider most viable.
  • Consider pros and cons. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • Choose among the options. This is the point in the process where you must assume the most responsibility; a choice must be made and you are the only one who can make it.
  • Take some action. How are you going to implement the decision?
  • Review your decision. Continue to gather information after a decision is made and revise your decision as necessary.

Adapted from Gary Lynn Harr’s book, Career Guide: Road Maps to Meaning in the World of Work, 1995.

If you still need some help deciding, the Career Center offers the following class:

Career Exploration: LLS 1321