Career Planning for A&S Students

Career Exploration Guide for Arts and Sciences Students

Career planning is important at every stage of your college career. Early career planning will allow you to select a major or minor relevant to your interests, polish your resume to get that summer job or internship, or prepare you for the graduate school or job search process. We encourage you to discuss your career interests with your advisor, faculty, staff, alumni, career counselors, or other people working in the field you want to explore.

Setting Career Goals and Gaining Relevant Experience

Some things to consider when considering a career include:

  • What are your career goals (be flexible)?
  • What are your personal and professional goals?
  • What do you need to do to achieve those goals?

Remember, high school or college may not have exposed you to all the career possibilities that you might be able to pursue. Be flexible with your goals as you may discover entirely new careers. Similarly, if you find yourself struggling in your chosen field, don't be afraid to try a different one.

What experiences may be relevant to your goals?

  • Do you need a certain major, minor, or graduate degree?
  • Do you need to gain certain experiences to achieve your goal?
  • Do you need to earn a certain GPA requirement or take certain prerequisite courses to get into graduate school?

Here are a few ways to develop your experience:

Career Exploration

Here are a few resources to get you started. You may also wish to talk to your advisor, faculty in your department, someone working in the field already, or a career counselor for more information.

Developing Your Career Skills


Skills to Develop

  • Developing your resume
  • Writing cover letters
  • Searching for jobs/graduate schools
  • Strengthening your interview skills
  • How to request an official transcript

Here are some important tips for getting recommendations.

  • Never put someone down as a reference if you haven't spoken to them about it first.  If someone is surprised by a call from an employer, they may not be able to represent you as well.
  • Ask appropriate people for references:  Try to ask people who are relevant to what you want to do. Faculty who know you well, or can speak to your work, are good references.  Someone who doesn't know you well, no matter what their title, or is a relative is generally not an ideal reference.
  • Ask them as early as possible especially if they need to write a letter for you.
  • Offer to meet in person or send a copy of your updated resume, when asking for a reference.  That way the person can get to know you better before answering any questions or writing any letters.
  • Don't worry if someone says no, or doesn't have time to write a recommendation.  It is better to know that ahead of time so that you can plan to get another reference.
  • Log into MyNU's FERPA settings and list the institutions/organizations you wish them to be able to speak too.  This will free them up to say more about your academic history and abilities.

The Following NU Resources May Assist You

College of Arts & Sciences

Departmental Resources

  • Talk to your faculty about any recommendations for resumes in your field
  • Include your resume whenever asking for a reference (gives them talking points)

Career Services (resume reviews & related services)

NU English: Getting a Life Blog

The Writing Center

Social Media Resources

  LinkedIn Groups (Career/Networking Focused Social Network)

  Branding: What does your online thumbprint say about you?

  • What are your privacy settings for social networks (Facebook/Twitter/etc…)?
  • It is hard to separate your private/work life on social networks
  • How do your online presence/comments help/hurt your career search?

Resume styles will vary widely and you will get conflicting advice

  Be sure to have a variety of people look at your resume. Each person may have a different perspective on your resume, but the more people that see it, the more suggestions you can have for improving it.

  • Get diverse opinions (faculty, career staff, friends, people working in the field, etc…)
  • Conflicting opinions are normal
  • Don’t take resume advice / criticism personally, use it to your advantage
  • Pick and choose what advice / styles work best for you

Get to know your field and how that impacts your resume

  Pick a resume format that works for you

  • A resume will be necessary for many jobs / careers
  • A Curriculum Vitae (CV) may be relevant for more academic positions / graduate schools

  Get to know the field you are pursuing

  • What are the jobs descriptions you are interested in looking for in their candidates?
  • What are the keywords relevant to your field that indicate your experience?
  • How do your skills benefit you as an applicant?

Keep your resume updated

  Update your resume as you go along, even if you are not currently job searching. It is difficult to remember everything that you do each year, so ongoing upkeep helps to make sure that your resume is ready at short notice, should an opportunity arise.

Be honest but don’t short change yourself

  You want to present an accurate presentation of yourself and your skills. However, to be concise, many students leave out important information.

  • Put down all your experiences and then pare it back to the essential and critical pieces.
  • Don’t leave out important experiences, skills (languages), involvement on campus, or other things that might set you apart from other candidates or start a conversation.

Be Consistent

  If you use a certain type of formatting in one part of your resume, make sure to use it in the other sections. When you are done, make sure that all your bullets, tabs etc…. all match up vertically. Avoid using too many fonts or too many different formatting styles, pick a couple that you think are clear and use them throughout.

Make Multiple Versions

  • If you are applying to more than one type of job make multiple resumes and highlight the relevant skills first, swap them for the other type of job.  This applies to cover letters as well.

Formatting Options

  Get to know the formatting options of the program used to write your diploma (M.S. Word, etc…). Some may include resume templates, while other sites might take your information and help convert it into preexisting resume templates.

  • Learn to adjust the tab locations
  • Learn how to adjust fonts (don’t make it too busy by using too many font styles)
  • Learn to how to insert borders and shading
  • Learn how to use headers and footers (avoid on the first page)
  • Make sure to read it over carefully (word for word) as spell-check may not catch all issues.

Printing / Electronic Submission & Key Words

  The requirements for submitting your resume in hard copy or online may vary, but it is often best to convert your resume into a PDF to make sure that it comes across cleanly to an employer/grad school.

  • For the cleanest resume, it is often best to save your resume into PDF format directly from the program you used to create the resume (MS Word, etc…). This will allow it to be searched for key words and will avoid any shifting around at the printers.
  • Scanning your resume to PDF is not advisable because it may not be as crisp. Scanning a resume doesn’t leave your text searchable by computer software.
  • Similarly, sending a word document may inadvertently change the formatting of your resume, let formatting choices show up as grammar issues, or allow for unauthorized changes.
  • Always print multiple copies of your resume using a more professional type of resume paper.
  • See the copy center on campus or purchase resume paper for this task.

Always back up your resume

  Have you ever had your computer crash, forgotten where you saved your resume, or accidentally gone swimming with your USB stick? It can happen to anyone, so make sure to back up your resume.

  • Email it to your permanent email whenever you make an major update
  • Save it to the cloud (This is a great way to keep it handy whenever you might need it)
  • Here are a few of the options. Many are free if you only use a certain amount of space: Adrive, Bitcasa, BitSync, Box, Copy, DrivePop, Dropbox, GoogleDrive, LiveDrive, Skycloud, Spider-Oak, SugarSync…

Links and resources (find more with a search engine – Google, Bing, etc…)

Networking is an essential skill for searching for jobs or finding out about graduate opportunities.

Network with A&S Faculty, Alumni, & Friends

Branding is another skill to consider when searching for jobs.  In essence, how do you present yourself to the world and are there ways that you can enhance your "brand" to help market yourself.  This is something you will develop over time, but here are a few suggestions to consider.

  • Do you have a professional email address or twitter handle (john.doe@... vs. ILuvCats@...)?
  • What does your facebook, twitter, LinkedIn profile say about you?  What are your privacy settings?  Can people see tagged photos of you?  Review your settings periodically.
  • Be yourself, but also be aware of your actions and what you, or someone else, might post publically. Avoid anything that might jeopardize your career options (DUI, felony, etc...) 
  • Consider how you may be able to use Twitter or LinkedIn to connect with professional discussions (conference back channels), network with others, or track trends in the field you wish to enter.

Searching for a Graduate School

Do the programs you are applying to require a graduate exam?  

  • Find out more about required exams (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, Miller's Analogy Test, etc.).
  • Niagara offers some testing on-campus through the Counseling Center.
  • Niagara periodically offers practice tests on campus through Kaplan.

Do the programs you are applying to require a certain GPA?

  • What GPA is required by the programs you are looking for and does it vary by school?
  • How does your GPA compare?
  • What can you do to balance out your GPA (GPA calculator, test scores, experience...)?

What are the deadlines for applying for graduate school. 

  • Some graduate schools have deadlines in December, January, February, or March, while others may have rolling admissions which accept students all year long. 
  • Are their different deadlines for early admission?

What level of degree are you applying for? What level is required to pursue your goals?

  • Certificate program
  • Master's level degree / professional degree
  • Doctorate, Ph.D., M.D., etc.

Note that some fields and some doctoral programs may have more money available to assist students through assistantships, scholarships, teaching fellowships, etc.

How many schools should I apply too?

  • How many schools have relevant programs, and how willing are you to relocate?
  • How many application fees can you afford?
  • Apply to more schools if your GPA isn't exactly where you want it too be when applying.
  • Different schools may offer different financial incentives, so it may give you more options later.

If you qualify you can take graduate courses as an undergraduate student.  

1) 4+1 B.S./M.S. program in Criminal Justice Administration (up to 3 graduate courses)

  • Must have 3.0+ GPA (major or minor in criminal justice recommended)
  • Must apply to the BS/MS program
  • Graduate courses can fit as advised electives (cannot fulfill other requirements)

2) 4+2 B.A./M.S. program in Psychology / Clinical Mental Health Counseling (up to 4 graduate courses)

  • Must have 3.3+ GPA
  • Must apply to the program in Junior year (Form)
  • Graduate courses can fit as advised electives (cannot fulfill other requirements)

3) Seniors with a 3.0+ GPA can take up to 2 extra graduate courses

  • Must be full time with at least 4 UG courses
  • Only one GR course is allowed per semester
  • Must be extra courses beyond your degree requirements (can't fulfill graduation requirements)

Prerequisite courses:

  • MBA - For anyone interested in an MBA, there are prerequisite courses at the undergraduate level that will reduce the number of graduate courses necessary to complete the degree. 
  • Education requires a language/ASL course.  A liberal arts degree is required for elementary education.  36 credits hours in certain content areas are required for Secondary Education.

If your NU GPA is high enough, it may excuse you from some of the standardized tests required for graduate admissions.