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Exploring Majors

Whether students enter Carson-Newman University with a declared major or begin their studies as undeclared, many will change majors at least once before they earn their degree. With so many possibilities available and a lifetime of work ahead, the Student Success Center and Career Development office encourages all students to invest time into planning to achieve academic and career success.

Step 1: Identify the Decision to be Made

Before you begin gathering information, it is important that you have a clear understanding of what it is you are trying to decide. Some decisions you might be facing could include:

  • What will I choose for an academic major? How will a major relate to a career?
  • What do I want to do after graduation? Do I want to go to graduate school?


Step 2: Know Yourself (Self Assessment)

Before you begin exploring majors and careers which will prove satisfying, you must first develop a true understanding of yourself: your skills, interests, values, and personality characteristics. The following are questions you may want to consider:


  • What are my strengths and weaknesses? What are my natural talents?
  • What skills do I need to acquire?


  • What brings me joy? How do I spend most of my time? What makes me happy?
  • What activities have I enjoyed the most? What energizes me? What classes do I like?


  • What is important to me in a career? What characteristics must be present in my ideal job?
  • In what ways must I be challenged and rewarded?
  • What is most important to me in life? What type of career is needed to achieve these values?


  • What personal qualities do I possess that will help me in the classroom, in a career, etc.?
  • How will my personal style influence my career choice?
  • Do I prefer to work alone or with others? Do I prefer working with people, data, or things?

We encourage deciding C-N students to meet with a Student Success representative to further explore these dimensions and how they relate to your academic and career plans. The FOCUS 2 online career planning program is available on this website for current students and alumni and is an excellent assessment tool.

Students can also consider enrolling in ID 201 Major and Career Exploration. This 1 Hour course is specifically designed to help deciding students move toward a well-informed decision about their major and career through the utilization of assessments, such as those offered by Focus 2 and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the process of thoughtful, thorough research.


Step 3: Begin Identifying Options (Initial Major and Career Exploration)

To continue gathering information and researching careers, you will need to start identifying options. The following are questions you might consider:

  • At this point in time, what majors and career paths am I considering?
  • What majors at C-N do I want to investigate?
  • Begin taking introductory classes in majors of interest.
  • Can I write a list of possible major and career options?
  • Consider the matches from self-assessment tools such as those provided by FOCUS 2 or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.


Step 4: Gather Information and Data (Further Major and Career Exploration)

When you complete the first three steps, you should have a list of majors and/or careers that you plan to explore and research in more depth.

  • Examine the information and resources you already have.
  • Seek out and utilize new information.
  • Volunteer in organizations of potential career interest.
  • Conduct informational interviews with faculty and professionals in majors or fields of interest.


Step 5: Evaluate Options

When you complete your career research, you are now ready to evaluate each of the options you have identified:

  • Identify the pros and cons of each major or career.
  • Explore how each major or career relates to your interests, skills, and values.
  • Project the probable future consequences of each major or career choice.
  • Job shadow a professional in a position of interest.


Step 6: Select One of the Options

Based on the information you have gathered and analyzed, you may now be able to choose one of the options.

  • Do I have enough information for each option to make an informed decision?
  • Should I conduct any further research?


Step 7: Make a Plan and Implement the Decision

  • When you choose one of the options, you can begin developing a plan of action.
  • What information or resources do I need to follow through on my decision?
  • Do I know where to go to declare a major? (Answer: The Student Success Center, 2nd Floor - Library)
  • What are the obstacles to implementing my decision and how can I overcome them?

If you have not yet made a choice, you can meet with someone in Career Development to assist as you continue your self-assessment and investigation of majors and careers.


Some Final Thoughts about Career Decision-Making

Some students first decide on their major, then explore what career to pursue with it. Other students determine a career choice first, then identify what major will lead to it. Career decision-making is a process which includes some standard steps, but it is also an individual process. So, either path which works for you is fine.

Monitoring your decision is a positive, on-going “final” step to assess whether you are achieving your goals. Reevaluating your decisions allows you to make adjustments as needed to meet your desired outcomes. This does not mean that your initial decision was "wrong." You may have learned more about yourself or participated in new or different experiences so that a different decision is required. We all must be willing to re-examine and readjust. Re-evaluation may lead to slight changes in your career choices or total revisions.


REMEMBER Carson-Newman Career Development and the Student Success team are available for assistance with all your career development and planning needs.

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