Factors Involved in Choosing a Major:
- Am I Choosing a Major or a Career?
Not all life plans have a single or specific academic major that leads directly to them.
- Understanding the World of Work:
Sometimes just knowing what is out there and available can help.
Understanding who we really are is a lifelong process. Having a good picture of who you are presently and where you want to go is a great tool in the decision making process.
Not everybody has taken time to look at the components of decision making. By doing so you may be able to identify just where it is that you are stuck.
Understanding Major Requirements:
A close examination of the requirements of a degree may help you identify if a major is going to be congruent with your interests.
Choosing a Career and a Major
The Decision Making Process
A seven stage decision-making cycle has been described by Clarke Carney and Cinda Wells (Discover the Career Within You, Brook/Cole Publishing Company, 1995, pp. 20-24). These seven steps include:
A sense of increasing discomfort and feeling that a change/decision is becoming immanent. This feeling can be triggered by both internal or external pressures. Internal pressures are driven by our own needs or desires (i.e., "I really want to get going on my major"). External pressures represent forces outside of us that are driving the need to make a decision (i.e., "I'm running out of GE courses and need to decide on a major").
The means of identifying the important criteria we must attend to in making career related decisions. These criteria include our interests, skills/abilities, values, etc. Any vocational options that we consider in our decision making, must be weighed against how they fit with our personal needs and desires.
The process of making an informed decision necessarily includes gathering accurate, comprehensive, and relevant information. This information relates both to world of work information (i.e., job duties/tasks, training requirements for entry into the field, salary, working environments, etc.) and understanding of self as mentioned previously. This information is gathered in a variety of ways.
The assessment of "fit" between occupational criteria (i.e., tasks, environments, rewards/costs, etc.) and personal criteria (i.e., interests, abilities, values, etc.) helps to increase the chances of working in occupations that will meet our needs and desires. It should be noted that we live in a very dynamic world. Something that fits now, may not fit as well later. Also, it is unlikely that any single occupation will fulfill all of our personal desires. Some compromise may be necessary between what we want and what we can obtain.
At some point we need to decide, we need to act. The time for commitment comes when we have gathered sufficient information to make an informed choice. We may not have arrived at complete assurance or be guaranteed that the option we are considering will work out. Often we must move ahead before we receive complete assurance or confidence.
A commitment or decision will not succeed without a plan for how to proceed. This plan includes what we will do, when we will do it, and how we will secure the necessary resources to carry out our decision. A good plan should minimize surprises and anticipate difficulties and give us greater confidence when difficulties are encountered. But no plan will account for all contingencies, therefore, we will likely encounter some things we did not count on, which if the preceding steps have been thorough should not cause us great problems.
Reevaluating our decisions allows us to make adjustments and to see if our desired outcomes are being achieved. At a later point we may re-decide and move in a different direction. This does not mean that our earlier decision was necessarily "bad." We may have learned more or things may have changed so that a different decision is required. Change is becoming the "constant" in our day and age. We must be willing to reexamine, readjust, and remain flexible.