Thinking about careers and college majors is daunting to many high school students, especially when they are asked to indicate their intended major or career interest on a college application. While the relevance of a student’s major to their professional future remains a subject of debate, the economy has many parents and students focused on college studies and concerned about job opportunities.
With so many college majors and career options to choose from, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated. As a college admissions consultant, I encourage students to focus on “self-knowledge” — identifying interests and abilities, as well as eliminating areas of study and jobs that are not a good fit.
Using self-assessment tools (many of them free), students can learn not only about themselves, but also about the college majors and careers that are compatible with their strengths, general interests and personality type.
- MyRoad, a service of the College Board, is available at no charge to all students who have taken the PSAT. MyRoad offers a personality assessment and suggests careers and majors compatible with the student’s personality and strengths.
- College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You, by Steven Antonoff, contains self-assessment tools that are popular with college counselors. College Match is a self-help book, available at Amazon.com.
- The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a service of the U.S. Government, is available without charge or obligation regardless of your interest in joining the armed services. The program is designed for high school students to measure aptitude, skills and interests and provide guidance on exploring potentially suitable careers. Interested students should ask their high school guidance counselor for more information.
- The University of Missouri Career Center offers a wealth of information (no fee) to help match a student’s interest and skills with suitable careers. The University of Missouri site provides a framework(two step process) for finding majors and careers that are a good fit based on the John Holland – six personality and work environment types – assessment. The first step is identifying one’s type (or types, some people fall into 2 or 3 categories) and the second step is exploring suitable majors and careers. Holland types are as follows:
- Realistic – practical, physical, hands-on, tool-oriented
- Investigative – analytical, intellectual, scientific, explorative
- Artistic – creative, original, independent, chaotic
- Social – cooperative, supporting, helping, healing/nurturing
- Enterprising – competitive environments, leadership, persuading
- Conventional – detail-oriented, organizing, clerical
- For those interested in the Holland Assessment, About.com offers a helpful assessment quiz adapted from a career and interest survey developed by John Holland. It is designed to encourage you to consider how your own personality traits may relate to many college degree programs. The free quiz consists of ten questions with six choices for each question. If you find that two or three choices fit your personality, you can repeat the test with alternate answers to determine a secondary personality profile.
Once you identify potential careers, Your Future: College Majors and Careers put out by the Department of Labor provides information about education typically required, expected income, and other useful data. It’s an excellent free online resource.
There are also a number of books that you may find useful, including:
- College Majors Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs: The Actual Jobs, Earnings, and Trends for Graduates of 60 College Majors
- Book of Majors 2012 (College Board Book of Majors)
- How to Choose a College Major, revised and updated edition
- Major in Success: Make College Easier, Fire Up Your Dreams, and Get a Great Job
- What Can You Do with a Major in Psychology , What Can You Do with a Major in Psychology: Real People. Real Jobs. Real Rewards (What Can You Do with a Major in…)
- What Can You Do with a Major in English: Real People, Real Jobs, Real Rewards (What Can You Do with a Major in…)
For those interested in the largest paycheck following graduation with a Bachelor’s Degree, engineering is the most lucrative major. According the CNN Money Watch, the top 15 highest-earning college degrees all have one thing in common — math skills. CNN Money Watch has a section of its website devoted to “The Best Jobs” with a focus on pay, growth prospects and meaningful work.
Author: Lynn Radlauer Lubell, Publisher of InLikeMe.com and Founder of Admission By Design, an Educational Consultancy based in Boca Raton, Florida.
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