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Planning Your Future
Puzzled about your future? Making choices about your major, career, or graduate school is an important part of your experience at Cal. To help you piece everything together, use the Frontline's career planning resources. Select a Decision Scenario that most closely represents what's on your mind, or select a Planning Resource.
Decision ScenariosSelect one of the following questions to get some ideas about steps you can take toward making a decision or solidifying your plans.
(a) What should I major in?
Selecting a major does not mean you will limit the career choices available to you after graduation. If you choose a major that you intrinsically enjoy, you are more likely to excel academically, you will be more motivated in the classes you take, and when it is time to start looking for a job or applying to graduate school you will be able to explain with enthusiasm why you chose your major and what you gained from doing so
(1) Planning Resources
More When choosing a major it is beneficial to understand your strengths and your interests. Consider taking one or more of the self-assessment instruments offered by the Career Center. Also, ask yourself the following questions for important clues:
• When I go into a bookstore, am I drawn to a particular section? When I read newspapers or magazines, which articles do I always turn to?
• Which classes do I enjoy the most? Which classes do I actively participate in?
• Am I drawn into discussions outside of class with my peers, graduate students or professors in a particular department?
• In looking through the course catalog, do I find myself wanting to enroll in electives in a particular department?
(2) Take Action
Use one or more of the Planning Resources described above to learn about a major you might declare. Ask yourself the following questions for each of the majors you are considering:
• Does the required coursework in this major complement my interests and abilities?
• Are there required prerequisite courses that I really do not want to take?
• How much freedom will I have to take elective courses?
• Does this major require a lot of writing, a thesis, quantitative skills, or foreign language courses?
• If I already have defined my career goal, does this major complement or prepare me for that career?
• Does the major allow me to pursue an area of emphasis?
• Are there other important considerations for me?
(b) Which careers go with my major?
A popular belief among college students is that your major is suited for one particular career or a very limited number of career options. In reality, the career you decide to pursue after graduation is not necessarily dictated by your undergraduate major.
It is true that some careers will require specific knowledge or skills that you will obtain by taking certain classes. For example, if you want to become a Certified Public Accountant, there are a number of accounting courses you will need to complete. However, with most majors or areas of study, you will learn a broad range skills that can transfer to a wide variety of careers.
The transition from academic pursuits to career pursuits is a process that may involve several steps, and there are multiple resources to aid you in making good decisions. For more information on how your major may complement certain careers, see how each of the planning resources below can help.
(c) What are the best career options for me?
You might pursue a career based on your major, or you might pursue one based on passions or interests outside of your field of study. Whichever the case, making a good choice about a career essentially depends on three things:
1. Improving your awareness and understanding of your interests, skills, and motivations
2. Learning what kinds of jobs, employers, and career fields exist that fit with your interests, abilities and values
3. Making a decision that matches what you want and what opportunities are available to you
Your successful match may result in identifying a rewarding career path, seeking (and landing!) a job, or pursuing further training, including internships, certifications, or graduate school. The following Career Center planning resources can point you in the right direction as you shape your own set of criteria for evaluating the options that are ideal for you.
(d) How can I best prepare for the career I'm considering?
There is almost always more than one plausible path to your career destination. If you asked five people in your targeted career field how they got there, chances are you would hear five different stories. Nevertheless, if you have a specific career goal it is a good idea to plan the steps you could take to get there.
Before you can come up with a solid plan, you need to know some things about your intended occupation, such as
• Required and recommended education, certification or licensure
• Required and recommended experience or training
• Skills needed for success in the occupation
(e) How can I decide which graduate or professional degree to pursue?
Pursuing a graduate or professional degree is a decision you should make in light of your overall career and life goals. To help you determine whether obtaining an advanced degree is the best option for you at this point in time, the Career Center offers several planning resources to guide you through the decision-making process.
(f) What can I do if I take time off before I go to graduate or professional school?
Deciding to wait a few years before applying to graduate or professional school is a viable option. The wait might be the best thing to do if you:
• Are unsure of which graduate program to pursue
• Have concerns about finances
• Would like to strengthen your qualifications before applying
• Need a break from school
• Would like to see what the field is really like before committing to more education
Being away from the world of education for awhile can often strengthen your interest in graduate or professional school. You will have the added benefit of connecting your real life experiences to a graduate program. This enthusiasm and focus translates into a more competitive application when the time comes to apply.