By Marcia B. Harris and Sharon L. Jones

1. Choosing a Career/Choosing a Major
Security vs. adventure. Accountant, Peace Corps volunteer, journalist, college professor. Ultimately, your son or daughter should make the choice. Of course, you may want to mention factors to consider, such as job market demand, salary ranges, long-range opportunities, skills required, etc. Just because an occupation is "hot" now does not mean it will be equally in demand in 10 years or that your child has the aptitude or motivation for it.

2. Choosing to Double Major/Choosing a Major and Minor
Most employers do not place a premium on a double major. It usually requires an extra one or two semesters to obtain a second major and does not particularly enhance a student's marketability. Exceptions would be a second major or a major and minor chosen for a specific career, such as English and chemistry for technical writing, or a health policy major and business minor for hospital administration. Of course, some students may choose to double major primarily for academic/intellectual purposes.

3. Grade Point Average (GPA)
Some students who get off to a rocky start eventually pull up their grades; however, this can be very difficult to do. Advanced placement credits and study abroad courses generally do not count in the computation of a student's GPA. Some employers use GPA cutoffs in considering applicants. Other employers stress the student's overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, etc. Encourage your son or daughter to make academics a high priority beginning with his or her freshman year. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it may take him or her a while to adjust to the rigorous academic demands of college.

4. Obtaining Marketable Skills
Most employers today put more emphasis on graduates' skills than on their academic majors. Encourage your son or daughter to develop strengths in at least two or three of the following areas:

• Computer skills (e.g., programming, word processing, spreadsheets, data base management, e-mail, Internet);
• Quantitative skills (e.g., accounting, statistics, economics);
• Communication skills (e.g., written and oral);
• Marketing/selling skills (e.g., sales, publicity, fundraising);
• Scientific skills (e.g., lab skills, scientific research);
• Foreign language skills (e.g., especially Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, or Russian);
• Leadership skills (e.g., supervisory, extracurricular leadership roles, teamwork/team leader).

5. Leadership Activities
Many employers rate leadership activities even more highly than GPA. Students who were very active in high school activities may be less involved in college extracurricular activities. However, employers regard high school as "ancient history" for a college senior. It is more valuable for a student to be involved in a few meaningful leadership roles on campus than to be in a "laundry list" of many campus clubs.

 6. Experience
You may want your son or daughter to work in his or her hometown every summer. However, the experience gained as a lifeguard or ice cream shop counter clerk does not compare to that which comes from an internship (paid or unpaid) in the career field that he or she aspires to enter. Future employers will seek graduates with relevant, realworld work experience. Some students have little to write about on a resume if their summers were spent in school, traveling, or working at low-level jobs. We strongly suggest that students seek career-related experience for their sophomore and junior summers even if they must live away from home or accept an unpaid internship. Students needing financial support can combine an unpaid internship with a paid job such as waiter/waitress, etc.

7. Graduating Early, Graduating Late
Some students graduate early through advanced placement credits, heavy course loads, and summer school courses. The advantages are lower educational expenses and the ability to start employment or graduate school earlier. The disadvantages may include the sacrifice of academic honors, work experience, and extracurricular and volunteer activities that may contribute to a student's maturity level and qualifications. Other students graduate late due to light course loads, academic difficulties, changing majors, poor academic advising, lack of direction, or reluctance to leave the cocoon of the college environment. Advantages to late graduation include the ability to improve grades with light class loads, extra time to change majors, the ability to take additional electives to improve marketability, and extra time to gain more career-related or leadership experience. Disadvantages to late graduation are increased college costs and possible disapproval of employers and graduate schools.

8. Planning for Graduate/Professional School
About 88 percent of the nation's college freshmen indicated in a recent survey that they plan to go to graduate or professional school, yet only about 24 percent do so within a year of completing their bachelor's degree. Students aspiring to graduate or professional school should: Be clear about the reasons they want to go on for further education; research the qualifications required for admission and be realistic about their chances of acceptance; and always have a "Plan B" or back-up plan in case they are not accepted. Students should discuss their interest in graduate or professional school well before their senior year with their academic adviser; the college's graduate or professional school adviser (e.g., the pre-law or pre-med adviser); and a college career adviser to obtain advice and guidance from three different perspectives.

9. Taking Time Off
Many students want to take time off after college graduation from college before attending graduate school or taking a career-related job. Future employers will want to know how the student has spent the intervening time. Do activities during this period demonstrate relevance to future career goals and/or a good work ethic? While short-term travel may be personally broadening, it does not increase a student's marketability to employers unless it is seen as career related. Therefore, the time off may result in a longer job search. For example, management trainee programs, which often begin shortly after graduation and hire large numbers of new graduates, may be filled by the time your child is ready to begin a job search.

10. Using the College Career Services Office
Students should begin using their campus career office no later than their sophomore year. Virtually all career offices provide individual career counseling/advising, career planning workshops, internship assistance, and career fairs and programs-these services are specifically for underclassmen. Your son or daughter should seek help early with choosing a career and preparing for it. Competition for good jobs, particularly in certain fields, is stiff. The career office can advise students about how to become a strong candidate for their field of interest.


JobWeb.com—Career development and job-search advice for new college graduates.
Copyright © National Association of Colleges and Employers
62 Highland Avenue • Bethlehem, PA 18017-9085

UAB News

  • Research says ‘play value’ gap exists between playgrounds in affluent and nonaffluent communities
    Play is an important part of child development, and a UAB student research project shows that disparities exist between play spaces depending on where one lives.

    Parks with low play value have physical and social barriers for play activities. These include limited open areas with closely mown grass for open play, and lack of security fencing. Such park environments serve only limited play purpose, with static rather than dynamic features of play equipment, and do not support children’s daily requirements for physical activity. Parks with low play value often lack environmental biodiversity features or loose play materials for manipulation.The play value of parks, playgrounds and open play spaces is higher in affluent communities than in nonaffluent communities, according to research from occupational therapy students in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Health Professions.

    The findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, suggest that the disparity in play spaces can affect the physical and psychological health benefits that children receive from play.

    Play value refers to the usability of any environmental features or play areas as a setting for play, generating diverse play opportunities and experiences that suit various children’s needs, motivations and abilities.

    “Children learn through play, and studies have shown that access to safe, well-designed parks provides health benefits to children,” said Gavin Jenkins, Ph.D., OTR/L, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy who mentored the student research project. “Understanding the quality of play environments will help communities ensure that all children have access to imaginative, stimulating play environments.”

    The four UAB OT students, Amy Maher, Emily Rose, Kristina Gregory and Megan Cotton, studied six parks in Mountain Brook, Alabama, and five parks in Irondale, Alabama. According to the most recent United States Census Bureau American Community Survey, the median annual income for Mountain Brook ($131,281) is more than double that of Irondale ($50,157), which is below the U.S. average. 

    The students, paired in teams of two, conducted independent evaluations of each play park using the Playable Space Quality Assessment Tool, or PSQAT. The PSQAT provides scores based on location, play value, and care and maintenance. Mountain Brook’s median scores were nearly 50 percent higher in play value (61.00 vs. 43.50) and care and maintenance (76.43 vs. 53.57) and almost double Irondale’s location score (82.14 vs. 47.14).

    “The children who were actively using the Mountain Brook play spaces appeared to have all needs available, such as clean restrooms, accessibility to play structures and spaces, and cleared walking surfaces,” Maher said. “There was also a noticeable sense of safety as police or maintenance was present while the children engaged with other children in their play environments.”

    The student authors say parks with high play value draw children and young people to visit, and also provide opportunities for a variety of play activities, including allowing children to adapt park elements for their own play purposes and support free exploration.The student authors say parks with high play value draw children and young people to visit, and also provide opportunities for a variety of play activities, including allowing children to adapt park elements for their own play purposes and support free exploration. These characteristics of parks entice children and young people to return time and again for repeat visits.

    On the other hand, parks with low play value have physical and social barriers for play activities. These include limited open areas with closely mown grass for open play, and lack of security fencing. Such park environments serve only limited play purpose, with static rather than dynamic features of play equipment, and do not support children’s daily requirements for physical activity. Parks with low play value often lack environmental biodiversity features or loose play materials for manipulation, the authors suggest.

    “Studies like this could be used to help communities determine how well they are doing, but perhaps more importantly help them to prioritize the improvements needed to their sites,” Jenkins said. “This study provides a further window into the challenges of providing suitable play environments and opportunities for children and young people who live in low-income neighborhoods.”

    “Improving parks and playgrounds would encourage families to use the play spaces, and that in-turn would give children more access to active play, which is central to child development and social, emotional, cognitive and physical well-being,” Maher said.

    The students’ research was part of their final research project supported by their Occupations of Infants, Children and Adolescents class in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program. As part of the program, the students learn the importance of play, stages of play, functions of play, and more, for their careers as OTs.

    In the conclusion of this study, the students noted that their research provided them “a further window into the challenges of providing suitable play environments and opportunities for children and young people who live in low-income neighborhoods.”

  • UAB faculty recognized nationally for biomedical research
    Sorge honored as a young leader in the field of pain research and neuroscience by national organization.

    Robert Sorge, Ph.D., was named one of seven Rita Allen Foundation Scholars for 2015. Sorge is an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    The Rita Allen Foundation Scholars program supports basic biomedical research in the fields of cancer, immunology and neuroscience. Scholars are early-stage investigators and leaders in their respective fields who are advancing our understanding of the human condition.

    Sorge’s research is primarily in the field of neuroscience, specifically focused on pain. His lab explores the interplay between addiction and pain, as well as the role of the immune system in pain sensitivity. As a scholar in pain research, Sorge will be granted $50,000 per year for up to three years to support his work.

    The Rita Allen Foundation Scholars program has supported more than 140 scientists since 1976. The program embraces innovative research with above-average risk and groundbreaking possibilities. Scholars have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize in Medicine, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

    “By investing in outstanding biomedical scientists at the early stages of their careers, we are providing resources to these scholars to pioneer new approaches and discoveries,” said Elizabeth Christopherson, president and chief executive officer of the Rita Allen Foundation. “Researching basic biological questions is essential to improving human health and alleviating suffering caused by cancer, chronic pain, mental illness and other maladies.”

    Sorge joins a prestigious class of scholars, with other recipients representing Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University and others.

  • Collat School of Business to help CPAs earn continuing education credits
    Area CPAs can earn CPE credits at summer seminars hosted by UAB.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business is offering two daylong seminars July 30 and Sept. 18 at The Club to help working professionals stay current on accounting and auditing changes. CPAs who complete the seminars will be able to earn up to 16 hours of Continuing Professional Education credit.

    Steve Grice, Ph.D., CPA, the Botts Professor of Accounting and director of the Master of Accountancy program at Troy University, will provide the keynote address Thursday, July 30. Grice previously served as a professor of accounting at UAB and was director of its Master of Accounting program. He has written more than 40 journal articles and provided technical consultation to various CPA firms. He currently serves as the Scholar-in-Residence for Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC.

    Quinton Booker, Ph.D., CPA, professor and chairman of the Department of Accounting at Jackson State University, will provide the keynote address Friday, Sept. 18. Booker is a member of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s Center for the Public Trust. He served as a member of the Mississippi State Board of Public Accountancy from 1992 to 2002, and recently completed a three-year term on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ board of directors.

    Individuals can attend either session for $275, or for a discounted rate of $225 for those in groups of three or more. The fee covers the sessions and materials, as well as continental breakfast, lunch and refreshments.

    Learn more and register online.

More Items

UAB Career & Professional Development Twitter