Ted Donnelly '89

Within reason, follow your passion & your talents. Ignore the "Top 10 College Majors with Highest Salaries" type lists that you see on LinkedIn. If you like your major & are good at it, you will excel at UVA and beyond. At UVA I frequently heard, "so what are you going to do with that Foreign Affairs major anyway?" At that point I was not sure, but I knew I loved it and thought I was pretty good at it. Twenty-seven years later, life is good, I make a decent living, and I'm still loving it. Ted Donnelly Foreign Affairs (Soviet Union & Eastern Europe Concentration) '89, Chief of U.S. European Command

 Some students think that choosing a major means choosing a job. Although a handful of jobs require specific majors, most careers can be reached through countless different majors. 

Most college majors don't offer specific preparation for a single type of work. In a survey of UVA Arts and Sciences graduates, only 27% reported a direct connection between their undergraduate major and their current career.

Your choice of a major is only one factor in determining your future job prospects and career path. Your grades, electives, and skills often tell employers more about you than your major does.

What can you do to choose a major that you love? Here are a few action steps you can take:

  • Identify Your Interests: You'll excel the most in a major that interests you.
  • Explore Your Values: Reflect on topics that are important to you.
  • Acknowledge Your Abilities: Build on your strengths with just enough challenge to keep growing.
  • Know the Requirements: Review the requirements for the major to see if it fits with your timeline.
  • Clarify the Career Connection: Research career interests and their related majors.
  • Talk to People in the Know: Talk to faculty, recent graduates, and professionals.

It's important to know your options. Examine the degrees offered at the University of Virginia to start evaluating the possibilities.

Get Involved Beyond Your Major 

 Don't forget to pursue opportunities outside of your schoolwork. Your major is one of many lenses you might use to look at possible careers.  Explore UVA Career Center resources on internships, externships, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities. Actively participating in these experiences can help clarify current goals and future interests, while building skills that employers want.

Understanding Yourself and Your Options

Understanding yourself and your options is the next step in your journey. Self-knowledge includes a clear understanding of your values, interests, and skills.

Values: Guiding principles that reflect what is most important to you in life.

Interests: Topics you enjoy reading about and activities that leave you energized.

Skills: Activities you do well, either learned (e.g. playing basketball) or innate (e.g. coordination).

It is sometimes difficult to clearly state values, interests, and skills, which is why we have provided several questions to help you gain more clarity. Show your academic and career advisors the results from this step. They can help you connect your results to the many major and occupational options available to you. Review the questions below and reflect on each.

Self-Exploration Questions

  • At a bookstore, what section do you visit first?
  • What topics of coversation hold your attention?
  • If you had more free time, how would you spend it?
  • Would you rather have more free time and less money, or more money and less free time?
  • What subjects/classes do you enjoy most?
  • What type of assignments interest you?
  • What are your unique talents and abilities?
  • What is easy for you but is difficult for others?
  • You could spend hours learning about...
  • What level of achievement is important to you?
  • What do you want to accomplish professionally?
  • Where have you received recognition or awards?
  • What extracurricular activities have you enjoyed in the past?
  • What kind of club/organization are you interested in joining?
  • Who do you know that enjoys his/her work?
  • What kind of people would you like to work with?
  • What is your ideal work environment?
  • Where might you like to live (large city, rural area, etc.)?