The exercise of researching your career interests or what I like to call your career passion is as important as college itself.  Just like you prepared yourself for college through 12 years of schooling, homework, creative thinking and socializing, so must you put a considerable amount of energy and effort into determining alternative pathways and possible “backup” plans for careers in life in which you think you will be satisfied.  After all, what good is a specialty education in college if you do not get to use your talents and knowledge in your lifetime and in a fulfilling job?  Below, I offer some suggestions on this exercise. 

Your initial interest in science or a specific science discipline (biology, chemistry, environmental sciences, etc.) may be your first clue that this is an area that you would like to develop a career or obtain the prerequisites for a career.  Or, is it?  How did you end up here as a type of science major?  Was this your idea?  Was it an idea that came from your parents or grandparents or other relatives?  Was it something that you admired in someone that you know?  Is it something that members of your family do/have done and that is your default career choice?  Many families have a long history of physicians, dentists, attorneys, professors, researchers, etc. and there is internal pressure in some instances for you to pursue such a career.  Is it because you like watching programs like CSI, Law and Order, The District, Secrets of Forensic Science, Medical Detectives, American Justice, The F.B.I. Files, Justice Files, etc. on TV or other specific Hollywood productions?  Or is this just an area that you find interesting or fascinating based on what you have seen, heard, or read about and would like to try out?  Did you do any, that is any, research on your own in High School prior to college or take time off after High School to think about your future and as to what science in college really involves, what is really expected of you, and what careers exist for a scientist and what type of degree is required for any of these possible careers?  Have you done some homework on your own as above or talked to anyone with a science degree and a career in scientific discipline to find out more about future directions in the various areas of science careers and trends, as well as course requirements to be any type of science major?  This includes everyone as a science major, including those that are pre-medicine, pre-dental, pre-veterinarian, pre-nursing, pre-graduate school in a science discipline, etc.  What are the course requirements for a science major in general and what are they at specific colleges or universities?

All of these are critical steps, in my opinion and from my own experience with students and myself that you should challenge yourself prior to charting a path as a science major.  Science degrees are rigorous and leave little time for what are referred to as “electives”; you start in your discipline of choice the first semester of your first year with the basic courses.  In most cases if you do not complete this first semester or year in this course sequence you will likely have a five-, rather than four-year degree.  It is hard to catch up with your incoming class if you do not follow the prescribed series of courses in your major.

Fish illustrations by Joseph R. Tomelleri and used with permission.