NC state didn't have major....
Sophomore, 20 years old
"After getting assistance with career direction, I realize that the major I want is not at NC State, but I donít want to transfer to another school."
Previous Major(s):First Year College
Current/Changed Major(s): IDS (Science, Technology, and Society)
When I was a freshman, I entered State not really sure what I wanted to do. The First Year College program seemed like a good thing. It took some time, but [the] First Year College experience has helped me realize that I have strong interests in several different areas that donít fit a traditional degree program. I have enjoyed my courses in psychology and sociology but I also have interests in math and am pretty good with a computer. However, I couldnít see myself sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers for a living, and I already knew I needed to have regular people contact in whatever I did.
My advisor [in FYC] suggested two things: Talking to the Career Center and looking into the IDS [Interdisciplinary Studies] program as an option for a major. I went over to CHASS and talked to an advisor in the deanís office and found out about the different ways I could shape my IDS major. What I found out it that the IDS is not confined to just one department. One I really liked was the Science, Technology and Society program. This seemed to tap into most of my interest areas and still gave me flexibility to choose other courses. The only problem was I still couldnít see the connection with a career.
I eventually went to the career center [in Pullen Hall] and talked with the CHASS career person there. During that conversation, he asked if I had ever considered community development and non-profits. I had never heard of community development so we looked at some information sites that talked about what people do in that area. It was very interesting, and I could see connections with the STS emphasis. I had never thought about non-profits since I thought that meant really low salaries. I also found out that State has a non-profit institute and a minor in non-profit studies.
Right now, Iím moving in both of these directions and feel pretty good about where I am. Iíve also found out that careers in community development often require a graduate degree so Iím looking into the Psych departmentís Public Interest degree at some point in time.
Advice for Other Students
Talk to lots of people about how they decided on a particular major. Donít hold off making a decision too long by just taking courses, because you are wasting valuable time. Start somewhere Ė once you are in the process, there are people on campus who can help you know who to talk to and you donít feel like you are having to do this by yourself.
If I Had to do This Over Again
I would still start in the FYC program, but I would have admitted earlier that I didnít have a clue where I was going. There are a lot of people who want to help, but you have to take the first step.
The Results of my Decision
Having the flexibility to take courses in different departments has really helped. Community development looks like a good direction for me since it also has a lot of flexibility in the different ways that work is done. I discovered that there are graduate programs in community development I can actually go into later if I want to. I also didnít realize how many options there are in non-profits and that it doesnít necessarily mean low salaries. Right now Iím taking the introductory course in STS and a course in technology in society and culture.
I commend the student for taking the initiative to deal with his dilemma and to start asking for help from the people he already knows. It is helpful to realize that the selection of a major is not a decision that has to last for the next 30 years of your life. Think of the major as a foundation you will build on.
Ben found a way to honor his diverse interest areas by taking advantage of the IDS program where he could almost create his own major. This resulted in discovering some career options that have the kinds of built-in flexibility that will be important to him throughout his career. Some other observations to consider include:
- Make use of the assessments that are available (many of them are free) on the Career Center website. One in particular (SIGI Plus) has a career values section, which can help you know what you want to honor in the work that you do.
- Realize that sometimes the major itself is not always as important as the courses you choose and how you eventually represent your value to a potential employer. In some situations, however, specific majors are required and you may have to consider majors that are offered only at other colleges. Advisors and the career center can help with this decision as well.
- I would encourage Ben to do some informational interviewing to clarify career direction and choice of a major. Talking to professionals in a particular field can help you decide the best way to approach choosing a major based on their knowledge and experience. Most professionals are glad to talk with students about their work.
- Ben should include in his education opportunities for internships that can provide hands-on experience. He will gain even more insight into career options and, often, these insights can help in course selections as he moves into his junior and senior years.
- I agree with Benís suggestion to start early and as soon as you realize you donít have all the information you need. The earlier you start, the more time you have to make adjustments without having to add costly semesters to your academic program.
Check out other Student Experiences.