What's Your Major?


Students, parents, well-meaning grandparents, aunts and uncles often place a lot of focus on college major. "What are you going to major in?" is a common question around the Thanksgiving dinner table during a student's senior year. For some students, that's an easy question- "a teacher", "a physical therapist", "a large animal vet". For others, though, this is a tough question to answer...and that is fine. By focusing on a student's interests, college can be a time to explore fields and discover careers.

There is a very impressive online resource for occupational information called O*NET, or the Occupational Information Network. O*NET was developed as part of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration's strategy to build and display critical information for job seekers and employers in a user-friendly manner. It’s a great site for teens exploring
majors and career interests and for adults looking for occupational information. Here are a few of the features I find most helpful:

  • O*NET’s Bright Outlook shows which occupations are likely to grow rapidly in the coming years. Some rapid growth jobs (expected to increase 22% or more by the year 2022) include actuaries, biomedical engineers, genetic counselors and occupational therapists. Users can also search for new and emerging fields, which include baristas (seriously, was this even a thing 10 years ago?!), bioinformatics scientists, logistics managers and wind energy engineers. All of the occupations are “clickable” and lead to additional information about each, such as tasks, education needed and wage and employment trends.
  • O*NET’s Career Clusters show occupations in the same field of work that require similar skills. This allows, for example, a student interested in Business/ Management/ Administration to see a list of many specific jobs that fall under that category.
  • MyNextMove allows users to search careers, browse industries and match interests to a career.

The information on O*NET is updated annually through the use of ongoing surveys of each occupation's worker population and occupation experts. Designed as a replacement for the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (maybe some of you parents remember this now defunct extra-large encyclopedia style book from your high school guidance counselor’s office), O*NET is a digital database that offers a more flexible system for users to locate and manipulate occupational data.