Decisions, Decisions (Choosing My Major)

By: PJay

Choosing a major is probably one of the toughest decisions to make in college. There are so many great subjects to learn about, but sadly, we just can’t study them all. It’s so unfortunate that we are so limited on the time given to us to complete our four year degree. I honestly feel lost in college very often because I always want to study everything. I can be entertained easily, and I’m always so intrigued by every new thing that pops into my life.

Since I realized that I have such little self control, I’ve developed some ways to help me make my decisions less complicated. Recently I decided to switch my major from biology to cell and molecular biology. You might think:


And honestly, you aren’t the only one to think that (I thought the same as well). But after a little bit of research on the UMD catalog page, I decided to compare the coursework of the two majors together. I learned that cell biology had a stricter outline of required courses, whereas biology was more open to the upper division course possibilities. For some people, they might enjoy that kind of flexibility more.

In addition, I also searched for what graduates do with the two different majors (information can be found on the Graduate Follow-up Report). Apparently, twice as many people graduated with a biology degree compared to a cell and molecular biology degree. However, the rate of students heading onto graduate school were about the same. Therefore, I learned that my conclusion to choose one major over the other lied upon my interest in the upper division courses, and with what I wanted to do after graduation, which is to hopefully to enter medical school.

Honestly, no major is necessarily “better” than another. At the end, what matters the most is if you are truly enjoying what you are studying. If it makes you happy, then stick with it. Everything is more meaningful in life when you have the motivation. Once you accomplish what you have been dedicating your time to, it will be worth the change in your life!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read PJay’s other posts

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Career Planning for Science Majors

Updated: June 2020

Are you one of the many students on the UMD campus with a science major? Odds are, you are. Our campus offers a vast array of science majors ranging from Biology to Computer Science to Statistics to multiple Engineering majors. We’ve put together a few resources to help you through the career planning process. Included are: what you can do with your major, upcoming career fairs, and general job/intern/grad school search information.  Have fun working on your career plan!

Science Majors

Staffing Agencies – a great resource for finding a job. These agencies specialize in helping recent graduates in the sciences find jobs in their fields.

Job & Internship Fairs

Insight From Students About Their Chosen Majors

Of Possible Interest
Career Planning, Job Search, Internships – our blog posts on these topics
Planning Your Career
Love Your Major

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What Can You do with a Major in Biology?

By: Ashley (an actual Biology major)

Ok, so you have taken the leap and declared Biology as your major. Now what? That is the question I asked myself when I arrived here at UMD as a freshman. Biology is a very broad major; there are many different paths one can take with a bachelors degree in biology, whether you want to find a career with your B.S. in Biology or pursue higher education. So, what can you do with a biological science major?

What can you do with a degree in biology?; Leaves

Here are just a few of the major areas one can go into:

Organismal Biology is the aspect of biology that deals with, well, organisms. You can choose to work with plants, animals, cells, and even bugs.  Since biology is such a broad term you could go into various fields, some including ecology, zoology, microbiology, and genetics. Organismal biology is essentially the study of the structure and function of the organism that provides a rich area for investigation and plays a central role in answering conceptual questions about both ecology and evolution. Likely places of employment are zoos, aquariums, museums, veterinary hospitals, and independent labs.

Biomedical Sciences is where a lot of the lab aspect of biology comes in. Here is where you would find yourself if you’re interested in pharmacology, pathology, cellular/molecular biology, and fields like immunology. Now a lot of careers in this field require an advanced degree after you earn your bachelors degree, but many technician, technologist, and assistant positions can be attained with a bachelors degree. Here, likely employment would be at a university, a laboratory, or a health department.

Healthcare, which is the part of biology that includes medicine and the practice of it, is a very large field in itself. This includes but is not limited to things like dentistry, optometry, physical/occupational therapy, and medical technology. In these fields, you should plan on attending medical school or some other related graduate or professional program. Places that would hire you would be hospitals, clinics, and private practice.

These are just three of the major areas one can go into with a B.S. in Biology. There are many other areas you can go into, such as biotechnology, bioinformatics, legislation/law, communication, business, and research. Yes, many of the careers that go with biology coincide with more education. More careers open up to those with masters and doctorate degrees, but that is not to say you can’t achieve a career with a bachelors degree. Like I said before, many lab assistant, technician, technologist, and research assistant positions in industry and government are attainable with a bachelors degree.

An undergraduate degree in biological sciences can also be used in nontechnical work like photography, sales, and writing. If you are still feeling iffy about where to go from here, stop into Career & Internship Services (SCC 22). If you don’t want to go at it alone, make an appointment to speak to one of our counselors. Trust me, they know what they are talking about.

Of Possible Interest:

Read Ashley’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Ren Ran

Updated: June 2020

Strong Interest Inventory in a Nutshell

By: Ashley

High school was ending; I had college tours and major decisions to make. I finally decided that UMD was the place for me, but choosing a college wasn’t the only decision I had to make, I needed a major. After talking with my family and my school counselor I finally chose to declare a major in Biology. I decided on biology because I knew that if I got my Bachelor’s degree in Biology I could do a lot of things with it, mainly I knew that with it I could help people. So the next step for me was to ask myself a few questions, and hopefully with the answers I could figure out what it was I wanted to do with my major.

The last two questions were pretty easy, I mean I know what I like, and I like people who are curious, independent and rational while still maintaining a sense of humor. I feel like the ideal environment for me would be one that is clean, organized, and quiet; a place where I could think and work independently while still contributing to an overall cause. Unlike the other two, the first question was much tougher. I had no idea what I could do with a BS in biology. But hey, I knew what I liked. Was this enough to figure out what I wanted to do in the future? Turns out, it was.

My journey to find out what I wanted to do started during Bulldog Welcome Week when I went to a presentation held by a student at Career & Internship Services with my rock group (of course this was before they hired me and I started working there). I heard they could help me with figuring out what I could do with my major, so I went and made an appointment to talk with a counselor. They were a big help, and the biggest help was an assessment I took once I started working in the office, the Strong Interest Inventory.

The Strong Interest Inventory (SII) is an assessment that compares your interests to the interests of people happily employed in a wide variety of occupations and identifies job titles related to your interests. The SII uses John Holland’s, Holland Code, which breaks interests down into 6 themes: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. The SII gives you your code that consists of 3 of the themes, indicated by: R, I, A, S, E, and C, and this code can help find a career that clicks with you. Holland’s model also shows that themes closest to one another on the model have more in common than themes that are opposite on the model.

For example, my code is ICA, so I would have more interests in the realistic themes than those that are in the enterprising theme. Holland also suggested that people are attracted to occupational environments that meet their personal needs and give them satisfaction. Knowing what makes you comfortable is helpful in figuring out a career.

The most interesting thing about the SII was how accurately it described me. Several things I look for in a comfortable environment and in people that I feel comfortable around were identified in the assessment. One of the results on my top ten occupations I would be happy doing was a Medical Technologist; they collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances. To some people, this job wouldn’t sound very fun. To me, it seemed perfect as I would work in a clean, organized environment, where I get to work independently as well as I get to help others while maintaining a sense of anonymity.

Basically, with a great job outlook and a decent median pay medical technology appealed to me right away and so far in my journey, it has been a steady goal of mine to be a med tech. My recommendation to all the students stressing and possibly freaking out is to stop into Career & Internship Services. It really is an office full of eye-openers that can help direct you towards a decision, and I strongly suggest taking the Strong Interest Inventory assessment, no pun intended, it will help you.

Information on the assessments Career & Internship Services offers.

Read Ashley’s other posts

Sources: Bolles, R.N. (2011) What Color is Your Parachute? (2011 Ed) and  Zunker, V.G. (2006) Career Counseling: A holistic approach (7th Ed)