How Can I Match My Degree to My Career Path and Career Goals?

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Tana from Texas A&M University College Station asks:

“I am studying university studies in the College of Architecture and I need to pick two minors to study as well for my bachelor’s degree. I have no idea what I should minor in or what will help me in the future. Any suggestions? Also, what kind of jobs can I get with a university studies major?”

Thanks for your question, Tana.  Discovering what you’d like to do with your career is a process and takes some work.  If you are like most people, you’ll likely be working approximately 80,000 hours in your career.  It makes sense that your career should be well aligned with your interests, personality, values, and skills.

So, what is career planning?  It is an ongoing process that can help you manage your learning and development.  Also, career planning is an individual activity that occurs throughout one’s working life.  It includes self-discovery, self-assessment, research, and, ultimately, action.

I don’t believe there are “perfect” careers out there.  I do, however, believe you can find a career path and develop a career plan that is a good “fit”.  When you discover or have a strong idea of what you’d like to do, then you can build an academic plan that helps set the groundwork for getting your career started in your chosen field.

Below are some steps you can take to discover a career that matches your interests, values, skills, and personality, so you can then tie your academic program to your career plan.

Build Your Career Plan

Having met with thousands of college students, I’ve recognized the importance of career planning.  Unfortunately, most students don’t know what they want to do with their career and are floundering along in the classroom and then in life until they discover a career that excites them.  I recommend to all students to give some serious thought to investigate various career paths to find the one that is the best launch point to start their career.

Does it take time and energy to go through this process?  Yes, it does.  However, the student will benefit from the time spent as they’ll ultimately find the right starting point for their career.  I believe strongly that when a student discovers the right career, then they’ll enjoy their college experience to the fullest as they’ll be primarily taking courses to match what they like, and, life will just be better.

There are six steps to career planning including:

  1. Self-Assessment: Utilize various assessment tools offer through your university’s career services department.  Many institutions offer assessments like the FOCUS 2, Keirsey Temperament, MBTI, Career Coach, and many others.  Contact your career center to learn more.  There are some free assessments online through CareerOneStop that you can take to supplement what you do with your career center.
  2. Career Exploration: Make sure to visit O-Net, CareerOneStop, Career Coach, and other sites to learn more about various occupations.  Learn about what individuals do within your high interest occupations along with the wage/salary spectrum, growth trends, types of jobs, and much more.
  3. Target Your Primary Career Goal: Use your research and self-discovery to make an informed decision about your career goals.
  4. Get Prepared for Your Career: Determine the appropriate academic programs (major(s), minors, degree program) that match your targeted career.  Take courses relevant to your path and get active in your field through volunteer initiatives, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities.  Start building a network of contact in your field too.
  5. Market Yourself for Opportunity: When you are targeting internships and jobs, conduct an effective job search campaign.  Develop a winning resume, strong LinkedIn presence, and learn good interviewing skills.  Be proactive, not passive, in your search, while working hard at it (40+ hours a week).
  6. Manage Your Career: Work hard to develop an excellent reputation.  Keep track of your successes and recognize that every job is temporary so be on the lookout for the next opportunity.

Meet with Your Academic Advisor

Once you’ve started the career planning process, contact your academic advisor to discuss your career plan and interest in pursuing a specific major and supporting minors.  Your advisor will be able to help you plan your academic program.  Additionally, they will share with you the required action steps and paperwork that you’ll complete to follow your academic plan and make sure you stay on course.  It is a good idea to develop a strong rapport with your advisor as they can offer ongoing advice and support during your college experience.

Tie Academic Programs to Career Plan

Make sure to link your academic program to your career plan and career goals.  For example, if you aspire to break into graphic design, then it makes sense to choose graphic design as a major.  Maybe you want to learn a second language so you’ll be more valuable in your career?  If so, then you might major (or minor) in the language you want to learn.  You can always make changes along the way, but it is important to align your degree pursuits with your career.  When you are excited about your career path, you’ll likely enjoy the courses more and get more out of your college experience.

Contact Your Career Center for Additional Guidance

Most colleges and universities offer career preparation services to current students at no additional cost.  Simply put, students, like you, should leverage their career center as it is a valuable resource.  College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including career planning, career/personality/strength assessments, resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Your university’s career center can likely provide some further insight to help you sort through your thoughts to determine the “right” career path for you based on your interests, values, personality, and skills.  Additionally, they likely have an exclusive job board for current students and recent alumni. Tap into this resource and speak with someone soon.

Putting It All Together

There are incredible career paths out there for you, but it will take some work to discover them.  Invest the time now early in your college journey to learn where you’d like to start your career.  Once you make your “best fit” discovery, you can start the process of matching your educational plan to your career.  It will be time well spent I can promise you as you’ll likely better enjoy your college experience and be ready to launch your career upon graduation.  You’ve got this, Tana!

Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon



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About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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