Major & Career Exploration

Choosing your own adventure

Deciding on a major or career can feel overwhelming. Use the suggestions on this page anytime while you are a College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) student -- from your first year through graduation and beyond.

Although the information on this page is presented as steps or phases, we encourage you to start where and when you need to. Come back to this page whenever you want during your career journey. While you are a student, you can connect with a career coach for customized help.

What are you exploring?

The process of deciding which major is right for you is linked to your career possibilities. As you explore, you will find information about “careers,” “occupations” and “jobs.” It's helpful to know what these terms mean.

  • A major is an academic program that you focus on. Most CEHD majors prepare you for specific careers.
  • An occupation is a certain set of work activities, skills and knowledge that is done on an ongoing basis.
  • A job is when you work in an occupation at a specific organization.
  • A career is your experience or vision/aspirations related to a group of related jobs/occupations. Your career includes education, past jobs, community involvement, and hobbies that demonstrate self-development. Most people will have a few careers -- they work in a few types of occupations at different times in their lives.

Exploration of Identity in the Workplace

Here’s an example of how this might connect for a CEHD alum:
Lee’s major was Business and Marketing Education. After graduation, Lee got hired at a company in Duluth with the job title of Marketing Specialist. Lee’s occupation is that of a Marketing Research Analyst. Lee’s career includes their internships and jobs over the years in marketing, social media and project management. Lee’s career also includes participation in professional groups, and volunteer work helping a nonprofit organization with its social media campaigns.

What is your current career? What is your career vision or desired career? Think about how your education, student activities and other experiences can fit together over time to create your first career.

5 phases of career development

Deciding on a major and exploring occupations is part of your career journey. Everyone’s career development includes steps or phases. The phases here are all part of the Career Development Cycle. This cycle can help you visualize the “bigger picture” when it comes to deciding on a major and career.

You might not go through these phases in order. You are likely to revisit them at different times in your career journey, like deciding to go to graduate school or changing jobs.

  • Know Yourself
  • Explore Possibilities
  • Engage
  • Make Decisions
  • Set Goals

No matter where you start (or where you are stuck), our Career Services staff is here to support you at any point in your career development process.

Know yourself

Exploring majors and careers often starts with reflecting on your identity or your "sense of self." Your identity is complex. Reflect on the questions below to begin understanding yourself and your career journey.

Questions for identity reflection:

  • What did you learn about work and careers from the people you grew up with?
  • What topics and ideas spark your curiosity?
  • How do you define success?

Remember, our career coaches are here to help you explore these and other reflection questions.

You can also learn more about your values, personality, interests and skills by taking a quick career assessment. Understanding these things can help you in several ways, including writing a resume and cover letter, interviewing, and exploring and preparing for graduate school.

We're here to help you find your path to a career

Writing your resume | Careers by degree | Career fair tips Career assessment tools | Landing a great internship | Finding a job

Explore possibilities

You have a lot of possibilities when choosing a major or career. Consider choosing a major that interests you and will prepare you for a career that you like. Think about what type of work fits your “sense of self” and your life plans.

What is important to you? When researching careers and occupations, think about:

  • Access -- What is required to start this occupation (license, graduate degree, work experience, etc.)? How many job openings are there where you want to live?
  • Job Quality -- Is this occupation high or low paying? Do these jobs usually offer benefits? What are the work conditions and typical shift hours?
  • Pay -- What are the average wages for entry-level jobs in your region? What is the earning potential for people with a few years of experience?
  • Related Occupations -- What other jobs use similar skills? What higher level jobs does this lead to?

Find out how to use websites to research occupations related to your major. Then click on one or more of the websites here to find details about hundreds of occupations:

Explore majors that match your career interests:

Create a short list of careers or majors you want to learn more about. Continue to ask questions and get more information about your career vision. Make an appointment with a career coach to talk about career research and how it applies to your major and career journey.


There are many ways to gain experience outside of the classroom. Student groups, community involvement and internships are just a few examples of ways you can engage and learn about opportunities.

As a student at the University of Minnesota, there are many opportunities available to you. Saying "yes!" to a new or interesting opportunity is one of the best ways to test out your career interests, learn through experience, gain leadership skills and make connections.

  • Student engagement activities (university-wide) -- Join student groups related to your major or personal interests.
  • CEHD Undergraduate Student Board -- Gain leadership skills and work with students and leaders at our college.
  • Volunteering and service learning -- Look for short-term or ongoing opportunities to engage in your community and gain experience in your career field.
  • Study abroad -- Find an international experience to broaden your worldview.
  • Informational interviewing -- Meet with experienced professionals to get information about a career or job you are interested in.
  • Internships -- Learn specific skills, knowledge, and connect with others while gaining real-world experience.
  • Job search -- Think about working in a job related to your major while in school.
  • Networking -- Connect with employers, alumni and others working in your career field.

Make decisions

Give yourself time to know yourself, explore possibilities and engage. Then, connect the knowledge you’ve gained about your “sense of self” and occupations to make decisions about your major and career possibilities.

Reflect on these questions and talk with a CEHD Career Coach to help you in your exploration and decision-making processes:

  • What experiences have helped me to learn about my “sense of self” including my values, strengths, skills, and interests? How do these experiences fit with my career vision?
  • How confident do I feel in my major and career possibilities after taking action to “Know Yourself,” Explore Possibilities,” and “Engage?”
  • Does my career vision feel out of reach? Why? What can I do to move forward in my career journey?
  • What information (if any) do I need before making my decision? Who can help me with these decisions?

Resources to help you make decisions

Set goals

Prepare for your career journey. Your career may take you to many places. It will be unique and exciting. It may also feel challenging at times. This is normal in the changing nature of careers and work.

You can identify action items and goals to help you prepare for your career journey. Our career coaches are here to help you at each stage of your exploration. Talk with us to develop individualized action items and career goals.

Find tips for setting goals:

After you declare your major and choose your first career, you can make plans for after you graduate.

  • Job search - CEHD specific information on resume or CV and cover letters, conducting your search, interviewing, and negotiating salary.
  • Preparing for graduate school - Steps to take before applying to graduate school.