Get insight into 10 career-related areas so you can help your son or daughter plan for a career.

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, and so forth. 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 students 6premium 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 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 for job openings. Others stress the student's overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, and other key skills or attributes. Encourage your son or daughter to make academics a high priority beginning with the 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:

  • 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);
  • 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 in the career field that he or she aspires to enter. Future employers will seek graduates with relevant, real-world 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.

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

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
  • 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 and 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 center

Students should visit the career center no later than their sophomore year. Most career centers provide individual career counseling/advising, workshops, internship assistance, and career fairs and programs—services designed 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 center can advise students about how to become strong candidates for their fields of interest.

By Marcia B. Harris and Sharon L. Jones. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

UAB News

  • Meet the Most Influential: Art Tipton, Southern Research
    ipton plans to continue SRI’s work in drug development, the defense world and clean energy, while also increasing collaboration with UAB and boosting commercialization efforts from the research that takes place at the institute.
  • UAB School of Education reaches major milestones in strategic, broad approach to transforming lives
    The School of Education looks to enhance learning outcomes, health and wellness of P-12 population, as well as of adults in Alabama and around the world.

    Deborah Voltz, EdD, Dean, School of Education, helps high school student during Innovative Learning Collaborative pilot program at Parker High School.Since establishing the initial framework of its strategic plan in 2011, the UAB School of Education has refined goals and objectives and is concentrating efforts around several areas through 2017.

    “The School of Education is working to impact human potential more broadly,” said Dean Deborah L. Voltz, Ed.D. “We recognize that there is a symbiotic relationship between health and education. This is reflected in excellence in faculty research and programs that give students the training and knowledge to enhance P-12 education and health and wellness for individuals in Alabama and around the world.”

    The school’s focus through 2017 includes strengthening enrollment, enhancing student support services, expanding online program offerings, increasing external funding, and increasing the number of educators prepared to work in high-poverty schools and in high-needs areas such as math, science, special education and English as a second language.

    “The UAB School of Education plays a very important role in improving the quality of education in Alabama, a goal to which the school is extremely dedicated,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “With Dean Voltz’s leadership, faculty, staff, students and supporters are working together in innovative ways to make a substantial impact on education in our community and beyond.”

    Innovation in teaching

    The school saw a highly successful first year with its UABTeach program, far surpassing enrollment expectations and receiving significant philanthropic support. Designed to quickly produce a new teaching force of highly qualified instructors in science, technology, engineering and math, the program allows undergraduate STEM majors to receive a subject-matter degree and certification to teach at the secondary level within a four-year graduation plan. The program enrolled 70 freshman and sophomore students last fall. It is the only program of its kind in Alabama and will graduate its first class in 2017.

    Opportunities for School of Education students also extend overseas, as UAB is the only university in the state to partner with the Peace Corps. Students looking to combine graduate school with the Peace Corps can do so as Peace Corps Master’s International students in the School of Education, with 14 PCMI master’s degree options. PCMI students complete most of their courses at UAB and spend two years overseas as volunteers working in a career related to their master’s degree.

    A new honors program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and an existing program in the Department of Human Studies give students the opportunity to collaborate with faculty to pursue their intellectual interests through research or a service project designed to address a particular societal need as it relates to their field of study.

    Other exciting new degree programs are emerging in the school. The UA System Board of Trustees recently approved a doctoral program in educational studies in diverse populations, and a master’s option in school psychometry. The school’s online degree offerings have also grown from two to five fully online programs.

    Supporting its exceptional programs is the School of Education’s Office of Student Services, which is developing innovative new initiatives to help students reach their educational goals. The office has developed a new proactive advising model to assist undergraduate students in identifying academic challenges early in their academic careers and utilizing appropriate resources to address those challenges. Additional initiatives to further enhance student services are on the horizon.

    The strength of the school’s programs is reflected in the success of its alumni. School of Education alumni have been named Alabama Teacher of the Year — the top teacher in the state — for the last three years, and one has gone on to be a finalist for the national award — one of four top teachers in the country.

    The strength of the school’s programs is reflected in the success of its alumni. School of Education alumni have been named Alabama Teacher of the Year — the top teacher in the state — for the last three years, and one has gone on to be a finalist for the national award — one of four top teachers in the country.

    Innovation in research

    In 2014, the school was awarded a seven-year, $49 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant provides funding to states to enhance services for students, parents and teachers at high-poverty middle and high schools.

    UAB serves as the hub of GEAR UP Alabama, which will impact about 10,450 students from 18 school districts and 53 schools in Alabama’s Black Belt. The program will work with a cohort of students in either sixth or seventh grade and follow them through their first year of college.

    With the help of a philanthropic gift from AT&T Alabama, the UAB Innovative Learning Collaborative launched a pilot program with Birmingham City Schools’ Parker High. UAB education students worked with 50 students from Parker High School’s Academy of Urban Educators to better engage them in the learning process and improve their writing skills. One area tested by the program is the use of tablet computers preloaded with reading and writing tools.

    A recent $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will assist the school’s early childhood special education program in preparing students, through an interdisciplinary program of study, for careers as early interventionists to improve services and results for young children with disabilities and their families throughout Alabama. The program will provide full scholarships to 14 scholars each year for five years in order to address a state shortage of highly qualified personnel in this area.

    The school is focused not only on enhancing learning outcomes for the P-12 population in Alabama and around the world, but also on improving health and wellness for people of all ages. Recently funded research in the school’s Department of Human Studies ranges from exploring family counseling-based approaches to childhood obesity and the effects of aerobic exercise training and exercise intensity in premenopausal women to exploring women’s emotional barriers to exercise.

    Innovation in service

    Keeping with the university’s mission, the School of Education continues to be active in service.

    Renovations are complete for the school’s recently established Maryann Manning Family Literary Center, and plans for its grand opening are underway. The center was established in 2014 to honor and continue the work of longtime faculty member Maryann Manning, Ed.D. The center brings together expertise from many areas of literacy to provide services for children and families throughout the state, regionally and globally.

    Planning for next year’s Girls in Science in Engineering Day is underway. GSED is a unique, free event created by two UAB students in 2011 to inspire and empower Birmingham-area middle school girls to achieve and excel in science and engineering fields. It is a day for local middle school girls to come to UAB and participate in fun science and engineering activities led by women who are professors, scientists and students from UAB and the surrounding community.

    Since 2011, the UAB Community Counseling Clinic, housed in the School of Education building, has filled a service gap for people in Jefferson County by providing low-cost mental health counseling. The center sees an average of 112 patients a year and partners with more than 60 community organizations and agencies for referrals. The clinic is run by School of Education faculty. Services are provided by advanced graduate students and supervised by doctoral-level faculty. The clinic is working to expand its outreach within the community.

    The school looks to create new partnerships and strengthen existing ones to develop innovative approaches for addressing areas of critical need locally and beyond.

  • There when it began: UAB professor recalls modest early days of Blazer football
    As UAB football supporters revel in the eventual return of the sports program, George Munchus is flooded with memories from the team's earliest days.
More Items

UAB Career & Professional Development Twitter