Tools for Choosing Your Major & Career

By: Rachel

The path to choosing a major is one that looks different for everyone. It seems we’re asked countless times over the years, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of us are sticking with the same answer we gave in 1st grade, while others have new ideas every day. Before we get to that career, many of us have to decide which major to pursue first.

To share a brief summary of my own experience, I decided what fields I wanted to study in college the summer before my senior year of high school. I had a few different ideas over the years, but they were slowly weeded out as I came to know more about myself. I always had a love for the written word, but I didn’t really want to go into creative writing, and I wasn’t sure what options that left for me. Out of nowhere, grant writing started to come up in conversations with my aunts and uncles, teachers, and other professionals. While I didn’t know a whole lot about it, it sounded like the type of writing I was interested in.

I had a friend who majored in Professional Writing, and one day the idea came to me to pursue a similar major along with a general background in business. I thought this would lend me a wide scope of occupational opportunities while still being areas I was excited to learn about and work in. My pairing was both strategic and driven by my passions; you can read more about that here.

After this idea came to me, I did more research into job outlook and what I could expect. I took a career class spring of my senior year of high school that forced me to conduct informational interviews and research through sources like O*NET OnLine and the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided through the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). I remained open to the fact that I might decide to change my majors once I got into college, but the things I learned through my research affirmed my decision. I want to take a moment to highlight the sources I found particularly helpful as well as a few others offered through our office.

Image: open notebook on wood desktop with pens
Text: Tools for choosing your major and career
  • Your network: I never would have even known grant writing existed if it weren’t for the people in my life. Reach out to those around you, especially professionals. It’s important to keep in mind that one person’s opinion/view is just that: one person’s view, but those working in the field have a unique perspective on opportunities that exist and may be able to offer ideas of where your talents and abilities could be used best.
  • Informational interviews & Job shadowing: Informational interviews and job shadowing are additional ways to connect with professionals in a field of interest.  They can provide tips on steps you should take at this point in your life to set yourself up for success in the future, and doing an interview/job shadow can be a great way to add valuable contacts to your network.
  • What Can I Do With a Major In (all majors): There are so many different online resources out there, and I’d recommend not just relying on one. It’s a good idea to cross-reference your data, and different sites provide slightly different types of data. This resource through the University of North Carolina Wilmington is a great one for college students, because it links a major with a bunch of connected job titles as well as related major skills. This provides you with occupation titles you might not have ever heard of that you can plug into other career outlook sites for more information. The related major skills can be super helpful in determining what minor or additional major would be particularly beneficial to you in that field.
  • What Can I Do With This Major? (via University of Tennessee’s Center for Career Development): Somewhat similarly, this site takes majors and breaks them down into more specific areas. Within each area, there are bullet points of typical job duties. Reading through these might pique your interest or turn you away, thus narrowing your search. Each area also includes examples of specific employers and strategies for success in the field. These are helpful tips of steps to pursue in your education, activities, job experiences, etc. in order to build a solid foundation for that specific area.
  • BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook: Once you have pinpointed a specific job title you’d like to look into, you can use BLS to find a quick summary of median pay, typical education level expected, and job outlook, among other statistics. Across the top, you’ll find additional tabs with information on job responsibilities, how to become one, and similar job titles. One of the tabs I use most is the one that provides state/regionally specific data.
  • O*NET OnLine: One last website I’d like to highlight is O*NET, which is like the BLS Handbook in that it is organized by occupation. It is easy to use, and a quick search will provide you with a summary of tasks, skills, and knowledge commonly used on the job, as well as personality characteristics and values that lend themselves well to the field.
  • Graduate Follow-up Report: This report provides much of same information provided through these sites, such as job titles within each major, specific employers, and median salary, but it is specific to students who have graduated from UMD! We put this together every year with information from students who have graduated in the last 6 months to 1 year.
  • Assessments: Another potential source of information that will help you determine your major/career are career assessments. There are 3 major ones offered through our office as well as a few you can take for free online. These will provide information on your personality, interests, and skills which you can then match up with compatible fields. Setting up an appointment to discuss your results with a career counselor can provide further clarification.

This might seem like a lot of information to navigate, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the different routes determining your career might take. If you find yourself trying to answer the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”, my core advice would be to stay open. The inspiration for what direction to head could come from just about anywhere: your hobbies, your dreams as a child, your skillset, your heritage, a class you took, or information you found from a website. I’d encourage you to make this decision based on what you learn from a variety of sources: testimonies from professionals, statistics, and your personal attributes. More than anything, recognize that the answer to the question will never totally be finalized, and that’s part of the beauty of career development.

Best, Rachel

Of Possible Interest
Choosing a Major – all our blog posts on the topic
Career Planning – all our blog posts on the topic
Turn Your Major into a Career – our Pinterest board filled with resources & articles

Read Rachel’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Mike Tinnion

Let Us Know What You’re Doing

Calling all 2015-2016 UMD Grads (undergrad & masters)! Let us know where you’re working or continuing your education. We use this information to showcase the success of our graduates and to help current UMD students see what all they could do with their majors. And no, we don’t ask you for money…just a few minutes of your time. You can see published Graduate Follow-up Reports in action on our website. Click to graphic below to take you to filling out the quick survey.

Take GFUR

Highlights of 2013-14 Graduate Follow-up Report

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 9.11.45 AM

We are happy to announce that our latest Graduate Follow-up Report is available for perusing. Every year we contact recent UMD grads to find out what they are doing six months to one year after graduation. The report we recently finished is on the 2013-14 graduates. With 90% of the grads reporting, we can say that 97% are employed or continuing their education. We’re pretty proud of our grads. We’ve already published a number of posts related to the work that goes into creating the Graduate Follow-up Report:

We use the information housed in this report in a number of ways, including:

  • showing prospective students and their parents what is possible with a UMD education.
  • current students exploring options of positions and companies possible for their majors.
  • on-campus departments use the information for accreditation and other purposes.
  • so much more.

By Major Report

One of our favorite versions of the report that we’ve released over the past few years is the “By Major” report. In this version, you can see all the information for one major, in one place. You can find:

  • an annual comparison of data for the past 5 years (new to the “By Major” report this year!).
  • baccalaureate statistics which include how many people earned the degree; how many responded; if they are employed, continuing education, actively seeking, or not seeking; if they’re employed in Minnesota; and more.
  • how related the job is to the major (as deemed by the grad).
  • statistics on salaries, internships, and study abroad.
  • a follow-up of the major which includes where grads are working (companies and locations), position titles, and continuing education programs grads are pursuing (technical, bachelors, masters, Ph.D., & professional).

Yes, it’s an amazing amount of information and we are oh so happy to share it with you. Enjoy!

How to Use the Graduate Follow-up Report

By: Meg

We’ve talked about the Graduate Follow-up Report before. We ask UMD grads what they’re doing their first year out of college. But what does that mean to you, those who are currently in college? How can you use it?

Choosing a Major

Go ahead and take a look at what people are doing the year after they graduate. In any field, there are going to be those who find their “big kid” job right off the bat, and those who don’t. Don’t be discouraged, but take that into consideration when you’re deciding on a major. How many are going to grad school? How many are working retail? How many are doing what you want to be doing?

By Major reports

Job Search

When you’re first jumping into the job search, it can be a bit daunting. What are you even looking for? To get an idea for titles to search for, just look at recent graduates job titles. If it sounds like something you could do, go for it. If it comes up multiple times in the report, you might want to look into it. These are jobs that graduates in your major got within a year of graduating. It’s an excellent place to start.

Follow-up of majors (listing positions & organizations where people are working and also graduate & professional schools people are attending)

Follow-up of teaching majors

Internships

In some majors, internships are an integral part of the learning process. In others, they’re an important addition. You can take a look at the report for the major you’re thinking about, or already in, and the percentage that did an internship. It also tells you how many of them got a job offer! Now, if you do some sleuthing, you might be able to figure out a few employers who you could do an internship with that might be willing to hire after completion. It might just give you an idea of where you should be looking for an internship, but that’s super important too!

Internship data by major

Job Relevance

Not everybody works in their field right off the bat when they graduate. Some of them need a break, some of them are biding time before graduate school, and some are saving up for traveling. Some aren’t finding a job that fits them in their field. It’s important to remember that you’re looking at numbers, not the whole story. But you can get the general idea of how many people in your major are finding a job that they consider relevant right off the bat.

All majors; CEHSP; CLA; LSBE; SFA; SCSE; Teaching

Pay Scale

It’s not all about money, but very few of us leave college without debt. So what we make the first few years out of school is important. The follow-up report lists the low, high, mean, and median reported salaries for each major. It’s a good place to look for a ballpark figure. Then you can take a look at the kinds of jobs people are working and see if that works for you. It can also give you an idea of where to start if you find yourself negotiating salary.

Reported annual salaries

The Graduate Follow-up Report is an incredibly useful tool. Find the major you want to look into, and take some time to look into it. If you want any help navigating, or want to talk about what you find, stop by Career and Internship Services and we’ll get you started.

Read Meg’s other posts

2012-2013 Graduate Follow-up Report

In the past month, we released the newest edition of the Graduate Follow-up Report. We’re excited, as this is one of the major reports we produce each year. We use the report almost daily in our office as a way to show off what UMD grads have accomplished and also to help current students brainstorm jobs, internships, and graduate/professional schools they could pursue with their majors.

GFUR Infographic (half)

You can view the full report in all its glory on our main website.

UMD Homepage story written by External Affairs can be found here.

Previous blog posts we’ve written about the Grad Follow-up Report

Thanks to UMD External Affairs for creating the awesome infographic shown above!

Behind the Scenes: Creating the Graduate Follow-up Report

By: Hayley

“Hi! My name is Hayley and I am with Career Services at the University of Minnesota Duluth. We are conducting our annual follow-up of UMD graduates. All of the information we collect is confidential and non-identifiable. Do you have time to answer a few questions for me?”

I repeat this statement numerous times a night as I work as a Student Caller.

The first thing you need to know about the Graduate Follow-up Report is it is compiled by Career Services staff annually and contains information used by many departments on campus. It shows future and current students, and their parents, that recent grads are finding good jobs shortly after they leave UMD. After all, that is one of the main reasons you go to college, right? Another question students and parents ask is: “Will I be able to use my major when I leave UMD?” In the most recent report (2011-2012 grads), we found that 96% of the alumni who completed the survey were either employed or continuing their education. “The good news is, 78% of those employed indicated their jobs are ‘related’ or ‘somewhat related’ to their majors,” explains Janet Pribyl, Assistant Director of Career Services. “This means the majority of UMD graduates recognize they are using their education in their current positions.”

GFUR 1

Now let’s talk about how the report is created. The majority of the data is collected by Student Callers, like me. The callers are current UMD students hired by Career Services to collect the data by calling each and every alum who has not filled out the Graduate Follow-up Survey. We begin collecting the data in mid to late November and continue through the beginning of May. Recent grads are given the chance to complete the survey online and we send out multiple emails with the link to the survey. If we don’t hear from the grads, we give them a call.

The survey includes a variety of questions that ask about current job or continuing education experience, and also about other aspects of an alum’s college career. As we chat with each alum, we enter the information into an online database. These additional questions include: is your job related to your major, did you complete an internship, did you receive academic credit for the internship, did you get a job offer from your internship, did you study abroad, and did you use any of the services that Career Services offers. If a job hasn’t been found yet, we make suggestions about services to assist with the job search.

These additional questions add more detail to the final report. Sure, we could just give a percentage of the grads from 2011-2012 who found employment and continuing their education (96%), but we like to go into a little more detail than that. We calculate what percent of the grads from that year did an internship (45%), what percent of those grads were offered employment from their internship (34%) and what percent took that offer (59%). The report also includes the percentage of alum who believe their job is related or somewhat related to their major (78%), and who found employment in Minnesota (83%). We also calculate the high, low, mean and median salary for each collegiate unit and major. We also compare the data from this year’s grads to the data from previous years. For education majors the data is broken down by specialty and the percentage of those employed in teaching (77%). Additional data in the report provides is a complete list of positions and places of employment for each major. This part of the report is a great starting point for anyone looking for potential job ideas and for undergrads in search of career options.

GFUR 2

We have just recently completed all of the calculations for the 2011-2012 graduating class and the full report is posted on our website. “The results of the survey indicate 96%, nearly all, 2011-2012 UMD graduates found employment or were continuing their education within one year of graduating. This is a 3% increase from the previous year,” says Julie Westlund, Director of Career Services. “In addition, 83% of those employed are working in Minnesota.” The report is based on responses from 1,729 graduates (91% of the reported 1,901 undergraduate students granted degrees during the time frame).

As you can see, the Graduate Follow-up Report is very detailed and has a ton of helpful information. One thing you need to remember about the report is that once an alum responds and we submit the information to the system, it is non-identifiable. No one will be able to tell who had the highest or lowest salary or who is working where. The survey is simple and easy to fill out so when you graduate and start receiving emails about completing the follow up report survey, do it! Even if you are still seeking employment or applying to grad schools, fill it out. Once you have more concrete information to share, go back into the survey and update your information. Otherwise you can look forward to a couple minute phone call from one of us.

And, please don’t hang up on us…Thanks!

Full report

2012-2013 Grads: Take the Survey!