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Help Choosing an Occupation

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Q. Job choice assistance needed. I am 19 years old and would be starting my 2nd year of college. I I am currently going through rough time trying to figure out what major in college I will pursue. I took the semester off to “find myself” and thoroughly research what I want to do. I am already done with my pre reqs and will need to make a major decision in November. I have no idea what I want to do as far as a career. Do you know of any good resources in selecting the right occupation?

Help Choosing an Occupation

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It is a mistake to think that you have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life by the age of 19. You probably believe that “everyone else knows what they want to do” and that somehow, by not declaring your major by now, there is something wrong with you. The truth is just the opposite.

There are many individuals who, at your age, thought they knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. Many completed their degree of choice, began working in their respective fields and later regretted their often hastily-thought-out-occupational decision. And now they’re stuck working in an industry they are not really interested in. You want to avoid this outcome if possible.

It can take years of exploring many various subject matters and possible occupations to know what type of work you are best suited for or most interested in. You are putting unnecessary pressure on yourself by trying to force yourself to decide right now.

It was wise to explore and thoroughly research what occupations you are interested in. You said you have begun this process and you should continue to do this. Don’t stop after just one semester or think that you need to take off another semester to complete this process. It is best to take your time and explore all of your professional interests. There are several ways to do this.

One way to do this would be to choose a liberal arts major. This would allow you to be exposed to many different courses.

Your dilemma reminds me of a show on PBS (usually aired Saturday nights at 11:30pm but check your local listings) in which four college students who were undecided about their career paths toured the United States via bus. They interviewed many individuals who work in diverse professional arenas. They interviewed journalists, CEOs, record and movie producers, politicians, and so forth and their goal was to understand how they chose to work in their respective professions and to find out what those jobs were like. You could take the approach the PBS students took to exploring vocations but do it on much smaller scale.

For instance, you could interview people who live in your town who are working in professions that you are interested in. You could do these interviews in person or over the phone. Are you interested in teaching? If so, interview a teacher. Want to know what it is like to work as a police officer? Call the police chief and inquire whether they have a program that allows citizens to spend a day with a police officer; many communities have these programs.

Many colleges have centers, programs or advisors on campus that can assist students in choosing a career path. Another idea is to read through the Occupational Outlook Handbook which provides information on what type of training and education is needed for hundreds of different occupations. You can find that resource online by clicking here.

I hope these ideas help and please remember, don’t feel pressured to choose your major or occupation immediately. There is no hurry. It can take years to know what you want to do and that is perfectly acceptable. It is conceivable that you will be working in whatever field you choose for the next 50 years. Thus it’s wise, healthy and advantageous to take your time and choose carefully.

Help Choosing an Occupation

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Help Choosing an Occupation. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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