Resources for Career Exploration

Posted: August 29, 2022

Choosing your major, and subsequently, your career path, can be a big decision. A good place to start is in the Handshake Resource Library. Within Handshake > Career Center > Resources we host both major guides and career path resources for engineering students.

Additionally, If you’re considering your options and want to know more about the skills you will need, the occupation’s future outlook, and what opportunities are out there, we’ve got just the thing for you! In this blog, we’ll be reviewing three handy resources from the United States Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the University of Tennessee: O*NET, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and the What Can I do with This Major? tool.

What Can I Do with This Major?

Created by the University of Tennessee’s Center for Career Development, this resource breaks down any prospective major into three crucial factors: areas of the discipline, organizations that hire these professionals, and strategies for pursuing that career path. These guides are a great place to begin if you’re early in your research. They are concise, while allowing you to gain a better understanding of what a career might entail so that you can reflect on how that aligns with your own interests.

I dove into this resource’s page on Engineering and took a closer look at Environmental. Below is a sample of the information that it told me:

  • Area: Individuals with a major in Environmental Engineering may work in domains surrounding water quality, air quality, or land management, to name a few.
  • Employers: Common organizations that hire professionals with these degrees are consulting firms, construction companies, or government entities.
  • Strategy: This section outlined suggested coursework, like classes in biology or hydrology, and membership in professional organizations like the American Association for Environmental Engineers.


O*NET allows job searchers to conduct an “Occupation Quick Search” that turns up summary reports for careers you might be interested in. These reports all follow a similar flow, providing the reader with categories on tasks that encompass the job, wage and employment trends, technological skills that are needed, tools that may be utilized, and more. Pursuing a career that is right for you is all about making informed decisions – hey, they say that knowledge is power, right?

I put O*NET to the test and searched for “Industrial Engineer”. Here is an example of the kind of information that it told me:

  • Day to Day Tasks: Among other duties, Industrial Engineers must estimate operational costs, prepare designs and plans, communicate technical information to stakeholders, and prepare documentation or reports.
  • Work Styles and Values: It is important that individuals in this job have analytical thinking skills, pay attention to detail, and are adaptable. Those who value independence in their work may be a good fit for this role.
  • Employment Outlook: The projected growth of this occupation is 10% to 15%. This type of work has a “Bright Outlook, as indicated by a sun icon on the page. This means that, in the coming years, you can expect to see a large number of job openings in this profession.
  • Related Occupations: O*NET also gave me a variety of roles similar to Industrial Engineers, providing me with more options that I might be interested in.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Just like O*NET, the Occupational Outlook Handbook provides job searchers with information on potential careers of interest based on data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Along with a summary of the type of work that a profession does, it further outlines the environment that one might be in and how to pursue that particular career path.

To try it out, I searched for “Civil Engineer” in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Let’s take a look at what this turned up:

  • Career Videos: The Handbook provided me with a short video that introduced the profession, outlined common activities, and discussed how to enter the field.
  • Work Environment: According to this resource, about half of all Civil Engineers are employed by engineering services, with much of the remainder employed by some form of government entity (local, state, or federal). The Handbook discussed how people in this profession may spend a portion of their time in an office setting, creating plans, and the rest of their time on site or traveling between project locations.
  • Education and Qualifications: The Occupational Outlook Handbook also provided me with information on the education necessary to enter a role in civil engineering, such as the degrees and certifications that job seekers commonly hold.

If you’re exploring what area of study or career path might be the best fit for you, O*NET and the Occupational Outlook Handbook are great resources to better understand how your own interests might align with a particular field. Plenty of research, reflection, and consideration of your own values will help you make an informed decision that you can be confident in.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy. - Paulo Coelho