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Exploration

Academic & Career Exploration

In this section, you will learn about:

  • What resources are available to you when deciding on a major or career.
  • What you need to do to declare a major.
  • What you need to do to find an internship or job.

Important Contacts:

Choosing and Changing Majors

How do I know if a major or career is right for me? Admittedly, choosing a major and career path is an important decision. It may seem like everyone around you knows what they want to do, but data suggests one third of students will change their major at least once and one fifth of students change their college within UT. You don’t have to make this decision alone. Utilize the staff and resources at the Center for Career Development, along with your academic advisors, to make informed choices consistent with your interests, skills, and values.

The Career Decision Making Process

Whether you’re choosing a major for the first time or changing your major, a helpful way to consider your decision is through the following process.

  1. Self-Assess: Reflect on your interests, skills, and values. You may want to take a career assessment, such as the Strong Interest Inventory, and discuss your results with a career counselor.
  2. Explore: After identifying some areas of interest, learn more about them by using resources available through the Center for Career Development, as well as your own independent web research.
  3. Experience: Gaining experience will look different for each student. Some more intensive ways to gain experience include: study abroad, internships, part-time jobs. Some less time intensive experiential opportunities include: job shadowing, informational interviews, or VolTreks (planned visits to employers).
  4. Transition: Reflect on what you learned about yourself and your major/career field of interest during steps one-three. If this major/career feels like a great fit, then determine your next steps to gain more experience. If you’re still unsure, return to an earlier step in the process and/or discuss your decision-making process with a career counselor or academic advisor.

Actions you can take to help choose a major/career:

  • Discuss your ideas with a career counselor in the Center for Career Development and an academic advisor
  • Complete the Strong Interest Inventory online and schedule an interpretation with a career counselor
  • Enroll in Exploring Majors and Careers class (Counselor Education 205)
  • Reflect on past successes in classes and activities
  • Meet with a Student Success Center academic coach for help with goal setting and to create academic goals
  • Take elective and introductory courses of interest or sit-in on upper level classes to observe
  • Talk to students and faculty in majors under consideration
  • Conduct informational interviews or arrange shadowing experiences
  • Join campus activities and organizations including professional associations
  • Test interests through volunteering, part-time jobs, internships or research positions
  •  Browse textbooks at the bookstore to find ones of interest

What about changing your major?

At some point you may decide the major you chose is no longer a good fit for your interests or abilities. Many students find themselves in this position. Start by discussing your concerns with a career counselor. Changing majors does not necessarily mean it will take you longer to graduate, and it may lead you toward a more satisfying career path. Similarly, if you discover a new career path, speak to a career counselor about whether a change of major is necessary (you might be able to get the experience you need without changing your major!). To schedule an appointment with a career counselor, visit Handshake on career.utk.edu or call (865) 974-5435.

Research Majors and Careers

What Can I Do With This Major?It’s up to you to learn about the majors and careers you’re considering.  Don’t just Google! Visit career.utk.edu to access a wide variety of major and industry information.

  • Connect majors to careers on the What Can I Do With This Major? site. Use the links at the bottom of each major to research career information such as salary, supply/demand, and key responsibilities.
  • Review course descriptions and start a portfolio of majors and classes on the Catalog. Visit Majors A-Z to learn the milestones for your major.
  • Watch videos on professionals in the work force through Candid Career or other sites.

Don’t just rely on the Internet or books to research majors and careers. People are a great resource as well. Conduct informational interviews with professionals in jobs of interests.  Use your network (parents’ friends, friends’ parents, former teachers, supervisors, and the like) to find contacts to interview. Create a LinkedIn profile and connect with UT alumni.  Ask people what they like about their jobs and for advice for college students.

Getting Experience

Majors don’t equal careers and one major can lead to numerous careers. Employers consider students’ skills and experiences as much as their majors.  That’s why it’s critical for you to get involved outside the classroom.  Part-time jobs, volunteerism, service learning, leadership roles, campus activities, research positions and internships are all excellent ways to gain experience.  Look for opportunities around campus through offices like the Center for Leadership and ServiceThe Office of Undergraduate ResearchThe Center for Student Engagement and others.

Students who interned have more job offers and higher starting salaries upon graduation than peers who don’t intern.  Sixty-five percent of employers offer full-time jobs to their interns. Graduate and professional schools also value related experience in applicants.

After your major is solidified, plan to complete one or more internships. Internships are paid or unpaid work experiences that relate to your major or intended career path.   Some majors require them; others offer course credit for them.  They provide you the opportunity to gain relevant skills, test interests and start building a network of contacts.

Center for Career Development assists students in finding both part-time jobs and internships through Handshake. Students sign on using your Net ID as the username and your UT password for the password field. Please check your profile for accuracy. Complete all profile sections and upload your resume to begin searching for full time jobs, part time jobs, or internships.

Make an appointment at Center for Career Development with your College Consultant for one-on-one assistance.  Attend job fairs held on campus to find part-time jobs and internships. Write a strong resume and get it critiqued at Center for Career Development so that you present your best self to potential employers.  Finally, start early in the year to increase your chances of securing a position.