Curriculum research is part of analyzing your career options, but many times the research we do is not enough or we are not even clear on where to start. This article is especially geared towards how to do career research, and if you keep reading, at the end of the post you will have access to one of the most important tools we use during the career counseling workshop.
What is a study plan?
First things first. The curriculum is the model or program that institutions follow to instruct and ensure the teaching-learning process in a career and also in each subject. The study plan allows you to know the sequence of subjects, as well as the requirements to obtain the degree.
Characteristics of a study plan
The curriculum includes:
- General description of the degree program
- Modality of the teaching-learning process.
- Description of the basic or common core subjects, those specific to the degree program, and electives.
- Curriculum map
- Graduate profile
- Work field
I want us to imagine for a moment, off road races. Those off-road vehicle races that take place in the desert. In Baja California they are very popular and every year we see different teams enjoying them. The most famous one is the Baja 1000, which is over 1000 miles long, starting in Ensenada, Baja California and ending in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
I did some research on the steps to prepare for the BAJA 1000, and of course, the points included equipping the vehicle for the conditions it will be subjected to, but there is one in particular that seemed key to me, and it goes like this: “knowledge of the local terrain is the key to survival”. Ivan “Ironman” Stewart, who has won the Baja 1000 3 times, in an interview commented that since the race is in a desert, racers need to familiarize themselves with the terrain, route options, identify where the jumps, ditches, ravines are and how to avoid them, and also, where the shortcuts are: “Experience is the best ally”.
What to analyze of the curriculum?
Now it is time to analyze the curriculum. You need to have a global and accurate vision of the career you have in mind. I know many people who enter the university without knowing what it is all about, and just because of the name, they choose it.
1. Global vision of the curriculum
And what is an overview of a career? You need, first, to understand what it is. In every curriculum we can see the generic description of the career. Read it, but read it analyzing every word, make sure that with that description you can understand, in general terms, what it consists of.
You also need to know how long the career lasts so you can take it into account for your professional and personal life plan. There are careers that last 4 years, others 5 and others more than 10 years (example: medicine) … you need to take into account how long you will be studying.
I have noticed that many people look at the study plan and only see the general characteristics and duration of the career, but they tend to skip the subjects. While it is not necessary that you know them by heart, take the time to read each and every one of the subjects included in the curriculum, I assure you that you can get a better idea of what you will see during the 4-5 years of career. While you are doing this analysis, it is time for you to verify that at least 70-80% is of interest to you. There will hardly be a curriculum where 100% of the subjects are completely interesting to you, but make sure that at least 70% of them are.
How can you do this? Print out the syllabus and check off those subjects that you are interested in (if you don’t know what any of them are about, guess what? you have to research it!) Once you are done, count the subjects you have palletized and divide them by the total number of subjects in the study plan. Note: If you do this analysis and realize that you have no idea what many of the subjects are about, it’s a warning that you need to learn and research even more.
Differences between universities
You might think that a career does not matter where you study because it is the same everywhere. But that’s not the case; the curriculum changes a lot depending on the program at each university. So, no matter if you already have a clear idea of the career, you need to review the curriculum of the possible universities to which you plan to apply.
Also, you should know the academic level of the different universities. Tip: don’t just go by the reputation of the institution, research the specific program of the career because not all the programs of the same university will have the same quality and recognition in the working world.
Also get to know the university environment. Approach the career coordinator to clarify all the doubts that arise during your research.
Make sure that the university also meets your expectations, examples:
- Facilities to go on exchange
- Opportunity to study other languages
- Costs and scholarships available
- Size of the institution
- Geographical location
Internet and education fairs
If you are about to graduate from high school, you have probably been asked to do research on possible careers or you have been invited to an educational fair at different universities. This may seem boring at times, but APPROACH! It’s the PERFECT time to ask all kinds of questions and the truth is that the internet is also an excellent resource for finding all kinds of information. Dive into researching the basics of the career, as well as the skills that need to be developed to be the best in that area.
Maybe you think this should have been one of the first points, but if you got this far, it confirms that you are really interested in analyzing your career options in the best way possible. It is very important that you have an idea of the possible jobs offered in the field you are interested in. Here are some suggestions:
- Reach out to the university and find out what job opportunities they offer.
- Research current job offers on the internet.
- You can do this by searching on “job boards” and investigate what job offers your city or state has related to the career you have in mind. This is to give you an idea of what you might find when you graduate. You will also be able to see the salary ranges and the activities to be performed.
- Interview people who are already in that career or who have already graduated.
- What better than someone who is already living in the “real” world to tell you what you can expect to find. My recommendation is that you ask both those who are studying and those who have already graduated so that you can get an idea of both sides. Once you have this contact, take advantage of it to verify what you can start doing before entering the university: what books to read, what courses to take, where to start looking for internships, etc.