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Catherine RogersChoosing a Major

Deciding on a path of study involves several aspects

by Catherine Rogers

When deciding on your potential field of study, you are wise to consider several factors. Job outlook, program length, potential salary, and location of positions are all issues to study at length. But don’t overlook some subtle aspects, such as your life’s priorities and what you enjoy doing.

When I attended college the first time, I debated between two distinctively different majors: education and fashion merchandising. Because of the overabundance of teachers in the early 1980’s, my family discouraged the education field. I eventually chose to major in business, but never felt that it was a good fit. I did, however, take a fashion merchandising and a journalism class as electives.

My first job out of college was as an assistant store manager for a women’s clothing store chain, which lasted only slightly longer than a summer position. From there, I moved on to a position in data processing for an accounting firm. However, within three years, I found myself back in college to obtain a teaching certification. It seems that was where I was headed all along.

Now many years out of college the second time around, I have taught business and computer classes for over ten years. Currently I coordinate non-credit career development courses for a university, and I also teach classes in proofreading and computer applications on an adjunct basis. I find teaching a very rewarding profession and also enjoy volunteering as a class reader at a local elementary school.

So, how can you make the right decision the first time? Where should you turn for guidance on how to choose a major? Fortunately, many valuable resources
exist, including books, Web sites, and people you know.

Reference Books and Websites
One particular book, Guide to College Majors from the Princeton Review, provides pertinent details about 300 different careers, including information on courses and
job options. Another book, The College Board Book of Majors, provides professional guidance on what types of students succeed in a particular career, as
well as the trends for that field. This book also points out which colleges offer specific majors. This might come in handy if you choose to study in a field that is not widely available.

JobWeb, a Web site hosted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, contains a Career Library with articles organized into fourteen categories. Under “Majors & Careers,” over twenty helpful articles are available, including some that focus on specific fields--from consulting to aviation to sales. Other more general articles contain information on career misconceptions, steps to follow to choose a major, and how assessment tests can help you decide what you’re best at and what you value.

How to Choose a Major in College is a quick-reference page on how to choose a major based on both practical and personal aspects. Major Resource Kits provide an alphabetical listing of majors offering information on career paths and sample job titles, and What Can I Do with a Major In gives career options and tips. My Plan provides a directory of majors and salaries for related professions.

Talking to People You Know
When talking to people you know, consider that most any one who has been to college has a story about how he or she chose a major. Many of those experiences are likely to be of some value to you. Melissa Cate majored in education with a concentration in recreational therapy at the University of Tennessee. Her advice? “Volunteer in the field you are interested in. Make sure this is something that you want to do before investing your money in the major.” She also suggests researching the job prospects and potential for advancement for any field you are contemplating.

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