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Career opportunities available in ag

Oklahoma

Oklahoma State University's Amy Gazaway is well aware that some students know the exact career path they want to take upon graduation, while others have no clue, while still other students know the career field they want to pursue but are not sure of actual job possibilities in that area.

This is where Gazaway, career development coordinator for the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, comes into play.

In addition to providing students with one-on-one career guidance, Gazaway teaches a one-hour elective course called "Career Exploration in Agriculture and Natural Resources," which serves as a career guide for agriculture students at OSU.

"Students often don't know what their opportunities are," Gazaway said. "This course is designed to help them figure out what opportunities are out there and connect them with their personal abilities and preferences."

The course is broken into three sections. The first section studies the virtual career guide offered at www.agforlife.com, which reveals many of the opportunities that an agriculture graduate has after college.

The second portion of the class is designed to get students to identify and label their interests, skills and values. It is a self-assessment process allowing students to filter career options that are compatible to their personal qualities.

"A lot of times they will know what they are interested in or good at but they have a hard time describing it and connecting it to career possibilities," Gazaway said.

A three-week period towards the end of the semester reviews U. S. Department of Agriculture projections for upcoming years. The report covers what career paths are in demand, the number of jobs available in certain areas and other important information regarding the workforce.

The final week of the course is an open forum. Students can focus on any career-related questions such as how to look for an internship or hone their interviewing skills. The class is geared toward second-semester freshman and sophomores who are looking for answers to how they can apply their degree in agriculture or natural resources toward their future.

"Many don't realize that there are so many opportunities in agriculture and natural resources," Gazaway said. "Students can have 'blinders' on when they come into college."

For example, television has an effect on what students' career path may be. Gazaway said many students are interested in becoming crime scene investigators, in part, due to the success of the C.S.I. television franchises.

"That's what students know. They know what their parents are doing. They know what their friends' parents are doing. They know the jobs in their community and they know the jobs they see on TV," said Gazaway. "When they get here, they realize that there are all of these other possibilities."

The feedback received by Gazaway through evaluation sheets and one-on-one discussions with students has been positive since the course's inception four years ago.

"I think it gives the students some confidence in what they are studying and in their futures," she said. "I see some excitement that is generated amongst the students."

In addition, the course helps Gazaway expose students to degree options for other majors within the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, thus allowing students to 'break out' of self-promoted preconceptions or solidify their original choices, as appropriate to each individual student.

"It's not so much what you can do with your degree but rather discovering what you want to do with it," she said.



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