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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

step_modelHow am I supposed to know what want I to do with the rest of my life? Admittedly, choosing a major and career path is an important decision that can feel overwhelming.  It may seem like everyone around you knows what they want to do, but data suggests that two-thirds of students change their majors and only ten percent report knowing a great deal about their intended careers.  You don’t have to make this decision alone. Utilize the staff and resources at Career Services, along with your academic advisors, to make informed choices.

 S.T.E.P. Model of Career Decision-Making

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

1. Self-assess: Explore your interests, skills, personality, and values.

2. Track-down information: Research majors and careers of interest; test them.

3. Evaluate and decide: Weigh pro-cons of alternatives; make decision.4. Plan next steps: Develop an action plan to achieve career goals.

Ultimately you want to choose a major that interests you and fits with your strengths, one that provides career opportunities that excite you.  Try not to let outside pressures persuade your decision as this can lead to dissatisfaction. 

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

  • Discuss your ideas with a career counselor at Career Services and an academic advisor
  • Complete the Strong Interest Inventory online and schedule an interpretation at Career Services
  • 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.

Why might you want a minor?

Students select minors for a number of reasons. Sometimes a minor is built in to the curriculum of your major. For example, if you major in Recreation and Sport Management, you will automatically earn a minor in Business; if you major in Advertising, you need only one additional class to earn a minor in Business.  Other times, students choose a minor because they believe it adds value and helps make them more marketable to employers or graduate schools. Finally, some students simply want to pursue a secondary area of interest out of pure enjoyment.  Call (865) 974-5435 to discuss your ideas with a career counselor.

Research Majors and Careers

majorIt’s up to you to learn about the majors and careers you’re considering.  Don’t just Google! Visit 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.

Career Services assists students in finding both part-time jobs and internships. Set up a profile on the Hire-A-Vol system accessed through MyUTK and use the “One-Click Searches” to see available jobs. Make an appointment at Career Services 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 Career Services so that you present your best self to potential employers.  Finally, start early in the year to increase your chances of securing a position.

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