How to Choose a Major and Career

Deciding on a major or career is one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make.   The Los Angeles City College Career Center has numerous resources to guide you through a proven major and career exploration process. 

How to Choose a Major and Career Diagram

Major and Career Exploration Process

Below you will find a series of six easy steps for you to follow to help guide you to your perfect major and career.

The first step in the ​career development process is to understand how good decisions are made.  It's important to understand external factors that influence your decisions and assess the core values in your life that define what you would consider to be a satisfying career. 

The past experiences and future goals that drive you to succeed are what we call your "why" - your reasons for starting your educational journey and seeing it through to completion.​ Everyone’s “Why” is hidden in a different place and can be uncovered in many different ways. Here are the most common areas of your life to start looking:

What are your values?

  • Your values as your personal code of conduct. They are your core beliefs that guide your actions, behaviors and your interactions with the world.

What are your passions?

  • Your passions are your interests that constantly leave you wanting more. You want to spend more time experiencing them than you are currently able to do. You can’t stop thinking about them. You might even be considered somewhat of an “expert” by your friends and family.

What our your strengths?

  • Strengths encompass your natural abilities, your talents, marketable (hard) skills, people (soft) skills and other life skills. They are your natural tendencies for work. They are tasks that come easy to you and feel satisfying when you complete the.  Sometimes you wonder how anyone else could have difficultly completing them because they are so effortless for you. If you don’t have a grasp of your strengths, consider taking one of the available Career Assessments LACC has to offer. 

Self-Reflection is the practice of identifying your skills, values, interests, and preferences to determine what types of majors and careers are of interest or might be a good fit. 

Self-Reflection also involves identifying your current status as a student and human being.  For example, someone can identify as a first-generation full-time student and as a mother who works numerous jobs.  Some things to think about are: Who are you as a student?  What factors influence you as a person? What are your outside responsibilities?

There are numerous self-assessment tools that can be used to help with this process. Some of these can be self-administered, while others must be administered by an LACC Counselor who is trained and can assist you with interpreting the results.

These tools will NOT tell you what career or position is the perfect match, but they will help you gain insight about yourself so that you can articulate what is important to you, focus your job search, and assist you in evaluating options.

CLICK HERE to complete one of LACC's Recommended Career Assessments. 

CLICK HERE to make an appointment with a LACC Career Counselor.


At this step of the process you will begin to research and identify potential career options that align with your skills, interests, and abilities, while also fulfilling your values.  Resources abound that provide career exploration data such as the LACC program mappers, or any one of the many Career Assessments offered through the Career Center.

You should learn about various job titles within career fields and consider information regarding pay, job growth projections, and the educational preparation needed to enter the field.  You will find that there are many good career options available, so make a list of up to seven (7) careers that you would like to analyze further in Step 4.

Learning about Job Titles and Careers:

We suggest utilizing resources to help you research job titles, associated skills, and actual professionals that may be working in the field of your interest.  As you complete your research, write down the names of the job titles or any career information that peeks your interest.  You can even focus on the the the work environment, skills required, personality fit, or a company name. 

For example if you have an interest in animation, Disney or Marvel would be a great resource or website to look into!  What jobs or internships are they looking to fill?  Who works there in the positions that you would like to do someday?

Here are some valuable resources to help you explore various careers and job titles:

Exploring LACC Career and Academic Pathways (CAPS)

Each LACC Career and Academic Pathway contains a group of programs offered at LACC that share common themes or require common skills. To help you choose a program, you can explore information on occupations and careers associated with the program, typical wages, and the labor market demand in California. Once you select a program, you will see a map that shows the courses you need to take each semester to complete the program.

CLICK HERE to access Los Angeles City College's numerous programs along with suggested courses sequences.

This is a critical step of the process where you will compare and contrast each career.  The analysis should focus more on how the careers align with your values (from Step 1) than how they compare to one another, but considering them as a group will make it easier to decide which is the best option for this time of your life.

Review your Career Assessment Results

  • Have you met with a Career Counselor to better help you navigate your assessment results?
  • What does your Career Assessment say about you as it relates to your strengths, values, and interests? 
  • Using your Vita Navis/Super Strong results, does your RIASEC Code align with some of the job titles that you have been exploring?

Career Considerations (Values, Lifestyle, Growth, Salary)  

  • Consider whether the career aligns with your personal values and ethical beliefs. You'll likely be more fulfilled if your work is congruent with your principles.
  • Think about your preferred work environment, work-life balance, and location preferences. Some careers may require frequent travel, irregular hours, or a specific geographic location, which can impact your overall satisfaction.
  • Evaluate the potential financial outcomes of your chosen career paths. Consider factors such as starting salaries, earning potential over time, student loan debt (if applicable), and job stability.

Educational/Training Considerations

  • Determine what skills and training are required for each career option.
  • Does your career interest require a specific type of college degree or certificate?
  • Consider whether you're excited to learn and develop these skills.

Seek Guidance/Talk to Professionals

  • Consult with LACC career counselors, mentors, and family members who can offer valuable advice and different perspectives.
  • Attend career fairs, networking events, and workshops related to your potential majors. Building a network within the industries you're interested in can provide valuable connections and insights.
  • Seek out internships or cooperative education (co-op) programs that allow you to gain real-world experience in your chosen field.

Trust Your Instincts

Ultimately, trust your instincts and make a decision that aligns with your passions, values, and long-term goals. Remember that choosing a major is an important step, but it's not a lifelong commitment.

Time to decide on a major/career goal!  This is the part of the career development process where you select the best career option currently available and declare your career goal.  We recommend setting a career goal using the SMART goal setting framework to make sure your goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound.  

Remember that your choice of major is not set in stone, and many people change their majors or pursue further education after their undergraduate degree. It's important to choose a path that excites you and gives you the skills and knowledge to pursue a fulfilling career.

Using SMART Goals to help in your decision making process

SMART goals are a widely-used framework for setting clear and achievable objectives. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Applying this framework to your academic and career decisions can help you clarify your goals and develop a plan to achieve them. Here's how you can use SMART goals for making academic and career decisions:

Specific (S): Define your goals clearly and precisely. Ask yourself the following questions to make your goals specific:

    • What exactly do I want to achieve?
    • Why is this goal important to me?
    • How will I achieve this goal?

Example: "I want to earn a master's degree in Data Science to advance my career in the field of artificial intelligence and data analysis."

Measurable (M): Set criteria to measure your progress and success. This makes it easier to track your achievements and stay motivated.

    • How will I know when I've reached my goal?
    • What are the quantifiable indicators of progress?

Example: "I will consider my goal achieved when I complete the required courses for transfer to a CSU or UC school in the next 2 years."

Achievable (A): Ensure that your goal is realistic and attainable. Consider the resources, time, and effort required to achieve the goal.

    • Do I have the necessary resources (time, money, skills) to achieve this goal?
    • Is this goal realistic given my current circumstances?

Example: "Given my background in computer science and the availability of online courses and flexible scheduling, earning a degree in Data Science is achievable."

Relevant (R): Ensure that your goal aligns with your values, aspirations, and long-term objectives.

    • Does this goal align with my career aspirations and values?
    • Will achieving this goal contribute positively to my academic and career journey?

Example: "Earning a degree in Data Science is relevant to my career aspirations as I aim to work on cutting-edge AI projects that require advanced data analysis skills."

Time-bound (T): Set a realistic timeframe for achieving your goal. This adds a sense of urgency and prevents procrastination.

    • By when do I want to achieve this goal?
    • What is a reasonable deadline for completing the necessary steps?

Example: "I will complete all the required courses, thesis work, and earn my degree in Data Science from one of the CSU's or UC schools I'm applying to"

Once you decide on the end goal, it is time to make a comprehensive education plan.  Students are encouraged to meet with a counselor to create an education plan, but to also seek assistance with building plans for career/professional development and financial support. 

  1. Meet with an Academic Counselor: Schedule an appointment with an academic counselor at LACC. They can provide valuable guidance based on your goals and help you understand the academic pathways available to you. They will also inform you about any updates or changes to programs or requirements.  You can schedule an in-person or virtual counseling appointment by clicking HERE.

  2. Review General Education Requirements: If your chosen program has general education requirements, make sure you understand what courses you need to take in areas like math, English, science, and social sciences.  LACC has a comprehensive website where you can find all of the LACC GE, CSUGE, and IGETC requirements.  You can access the general education requirements for graduation and transfer by clicking HERE.

  3. Consider Transfer Goals (if applicable): If you plan to transfer to a four-year institution after completing your studies at LACC, ensure that you're aware of transfer requirements and which courses are transferable. LACC may have articulation agreements with certain universities.  We recommend using to help you get an idea of which specific major requirements may be needed for your transfer goals. 
  4. Create a Semester-by-Semester Plan: Break down your education plan into individual semesters. List the courses you intend to take in each semester, keeping in mind the recommended sequencing and any prerequisites.  Depending on your program, you may have opportunities to take elective courses or specialize in a specific area. Discuss these options with your academic counselor and consider how they align with your goals.

  5. Stay Flexible: While it's important to have a plan, remain open to adjustments. Circumstances can change, and you might need to adapt your plan accordingly. Regularly meet with your Guided Pathways counselor. to review your progress and make any necessary changes.

  6. Register for Courses: During registration periods, enroll in the courses you've planned for the upcoming semester. Be mindful of registration deadlines and any prerequisites.

  7. Monitor Your Progress: Keep track of your academic progress by regularly reviewing your education plan. Note the courses you've completed and the ones you're currently enrolled in.

  8. Seek Additional Support: LACC likely offers additional resources such as tutoring services, academic workshops, and career counseling. Take advantage of these resources to enhance your educational experience.  We recommend you visit the Special Services and Resource Page. for additional information that are available to you.

Remember that this is a general guideline, and the specific steps and processes may vary based on LACC's policies and any changes that have occurred. It's crucial to consult with the latest information from LACC's official website and connect directly with LACC Counselors for the most accurate guidance.