So Many Choices (part II): Choosing a Major and Career

Today, we continue our series on selecting the right college, specifically the role and importance of college majors. There are over four thousand colleges in the United States and most high school seniors will only apply to between five and ten of them. Choosing the right college is a huge decision that can shape a student’s academic and professional future. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen students forced to transfer colleges because they changed their major/career to something completely unrelated to the one they started with.

Trigger warning: For those struggling to choose a career or major (or whose students are), please keep in mind there is more than one pathway up a mountain. Is it ideal for a student to have their career and major chosen by 9th grade so that they can custom-tailor their high school classes and involvement to set themselves up for success? Of course! Is it realistic? Heck no!
Students are unique and will find their own best path to the top. This guide is just that- a guide; it’s not an Ikea instruction manual to be followed precisely lest your shelf collapse as soon as you place the first book on it. In this article, I’ll discuss ways parents can assist their children in finding their purpose, as well as the right major to fulfill that purpose.

1. Majors and Minors:

The selection of careers and academic paths to achieve them are the cornerstone of a student’s academic journey. Parents can help students navigate this decision by encouraging them to assess their strengths, interests and the potential job market for them. The sweet spot is where a student can do what they love, what they are good at, what the world needs, and what they can be paid for simultaneously. The spot where all these things come together is known as Ikigai in Japanese and I talk more about that here.

Most families have a pretty good idea of what their student is good at and what they love (the green and yellow circles). Where they tend to struggle is figuring out where those passions overlap with jobs that pay well (the peach and aqua circles). Fortunately, there are a couple of great websites that have immense amounts of data into just that!

1. O*NET Online –

The O*NET Online system by the U.S. Department of Labor is your gateway to the most comprehensive job title database on the internet. Simply enter your desired job title in the Occupation Quick Search, and voila! A treasure trove of related job titles with detailed reports awaits you. Look out for the sun icon indicating a bright outlook and the leaf for sustainability alignment.

   Unique Features:
   – Extensive inventory of job titles, each linked to a dedicated web page filled with details.
   – The Interest Profiler, an interactive feature acting as your career zone compass.
   – My Next Move offers tailored browsing options based on your career knowledge.
Limitations: While fantastic for common titles, O*NET may not be as handy for less conventional jobs or entrepreneurial ventures. Still, it’s an excellent starting point!

2. CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop lives up to its name, offering a plethora of career resources. From videos to articles, FAQs, assessments, quizzes, and more, it’s your one-stop shop for career planning tools.

   Unique Feature:
   – The “Find Local Help” tab guides you to resources for jobs, apprenticeships, training, and education based on your zip code.
   – A “career clusters” section helps distinguish between closely related job types.
   Limitations: Brace yourself – CareerOneStop is vast. Set aside some dedicated time, take notes, and bookmark like a pro to make the most of this resource.

Once a student has identified some potential careers, parents can play a major role in helping them to explore the options with more depth by encouraging self-reflection, exploring extracurriculars, and seeking mentorship from industry professionals. These include opportunities to see a career in-person through:

Research Opportunities:

For certain fields, research opportunities can enhance a student’s academic experience and future career prospects. Parents can guide students in exploring colleges that offer robust research programs, faculty mentorship, and access to cutting-edge resources. Lot’s of colleges offer summer programs for high school students (and even younger) to participate in research. This looks especially good on college resumes!

Internship/Co-op Availability:

Practical experience through internships or co-op programs is invaluable for students transitioning from academia to the professional world. Parents can help by researching the availability of such opportunities at prospective colleges, ensuring that students gain hands-on experience relevant to their chosen field. May high schools, school districts and Chambers of Commerce have lists of opportunities that students can apply to during the school year or during the summers. Keep in mind, that these may be restricted to older students due to labor law requirements in your state.

Certifications or Specialties:

Identifying any additional qualifications needed for a chosen career is crucial. Parents can guide students in researching the certifications or specialties required in their desired field, ensuring that the colleges under consideration offer relevant programs and support for obtaining these qualifications. For example, high school students can pursue Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) certifications and use them to gain meaningful employment at local hospitals. This is a great way to learn if a career in health care is the right one before you commit to a college or major.

While it’s not required to have a career and major chosen before you start applying to colleges, man it sure helps. My sincere hope is that today’s article will give parents and students a way to better understand that relationship and a starting point for beginning that exploration. As always, CCA is here to assist with customized advise. Reach out today and let us know how we can help!

Keep Reading:
So Many Choices (part III): 5 Ways Complete Advising Helps Students Choose a Major and Career

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