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The Career Key By Lawrence K. Jones, Ph.D., NCC
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Learn More about College Major Environments

When choosing a college major or training program, there are a number of factors to consider -- such as course requirements and whether it is career- or Liberal Arts-oriented.

Here, we focus on the Holland “personality-major match” because it is so important.

If you haven’t already, be sure to read,

To make a good choice, you want to learn about the academic environments of the majors that interest you, to see how well they fit you -- so you can weigh the pros and cons of each.

Ideally, you want to investigate the major at the school where it is offered because the environments may vary somewhat from college to college.

Ask yourself,

  1. How well does the environment of a major fit the way it is described by the Holland Theory, The Holland College Major Environments?

    For example, if you were researching a major in Chemistry, how well does its environment (Investigative) fit the description of the Holland Investigative environment?

  2. How well does this environment fit my personality – my interests, abilities, and values?

  3. How compatible are the professors’ personality to mine? The personality of the students in the major?

    To help you in thinking about this, use Holland’s RIASEC personality types.

  4. How compatible are the professors’
  • Teaching methods,
  • Course requirements, and
  • Classroom atmosphere

to what I prefer?

You will see how they differ, for instance, if you compare the Investigative with the Enterprising environments.

Similarly, compare the Realistic with the Social environments, or the Artistic with the Conventional.


  1. What student attitudes and behaviour are rewarded? Political views? Are there ones that are discouraged or not rewarded?

To answer questions like these, we recommend that you,

  • Interview the professors, students, and graduates in the major. Most people are happy to talk about this. You can use the techniques of “Information Interviewing” to do this. It’s a valuable skill to learn;

  • Read catalogues and course syllabi. They will help you understand the goals and requirements of the major;

  • Sit in on classes (with permission, of course). This will give you an opportunity to observe teaching methods, classroom atmosphere, what is rewarded and learned, the abilities and interests that are strengthened; and

  • “Shadow” students. Major shadowing is like “job shadowing”, you follow and observe a student as he or she attends classes in the major, studies, attends department activities, and meets other students in the major.

All of these activities require some self-discipline and an analytical approach. It’s a good idea to write down what you want to learn beforehand and, then, what you learned afterwards.

And, finally, it’s important to make a good decision. We highly recommend that you follow the four steps described in Choose a College Major or Training Program. They are based on the latest scientific research and counselling’s best practices.

 

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Education Options
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  College Major or Training Program
  Personality-College Major Match - Why It is Important
  The Holland College Major Environments
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  Liberal Arts, Humanities & General Studies Majors

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