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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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"What To Do, What To Do...?"

With graduation less than a month away, it's time for many seniors to delve into their futures. While some students can say with conviction what their future holds, some are still left with many questions. Although some degrees may not lead to a clear-cut career path, many curriculums leave students with a broad set of skills that can be utilized in a number of various occupations.

Chemistry and Physics

Students graduating with a degree in chemistry or physics may have a more focused area of study, yet there are still a number of options for those with specific degrees in the hard sciences.

"People have gone [to graduate school] for forensic chemistry, some have gone to medical school or pharmacy school, and, of course, some have gone to graduate studies for chemistry," said Dr. Luis A. Colon, the chair of the chemistry department. "I would advise them to go to grad school if they can because that would increase the opportunity of the graduates. Of course everybody doesn't want to [go to graduate school]; they can go enhance their abilities, they can go get certified in teaching, others might want to pursue a career in the industry and might benefit from having a couple credits in management."

According to Dr. Francis Gasparini, the chair of the physics department, students who graduate with physics degrees can work for companies with technical capabilities, often be hired as engineers, or can go into teaching. Graduate school is also an option.

"You have lots of opportunities; think very carefully about which direction to go," Gasparini said. "People graduate [with physics degrees] and have high-paying jobs in any field. When you are a generalist you can do a lot of things. Be patient and you will rise to the top, that's what happens."

Colon echoed similar concerns about the economy slowing down and its effect on the job market, stating that some go into teaching or environmental labs.

According to the chemistry department's website, chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, fertilizer, food, metallurgical materials, oil and paper companies also frequently hire chemists, which opens up the options for these students. Additionally, local, state, and federal governments often hire chemists to perform research, especially in the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Armed Forces, and the State Department.

According to the physics department's website, students with physics degrees can go into a wide variety of jobs, such as medicine, publishing technical books, journals, or software, consulting for the government or military, teaching, or work in construction, engineering, agriculture, and aerospace ventures. Additionally, graduates may end up working with energy, fuel, transportation, computers, or laser technology, along with numerous other options.

"We have people who are faculty at various universities, people at the National Science Foundation, people at NASA, and people at big companies like IBM," Gasparini said. "There are graduates all over the place."


Similarly, many communication majors may have difficulty determining an appropriate path after graduation. Many graduate schools and companies offer programs or internships that hone the raw skills acquired in communication classes. However, it is usually up to the individual to find his or her niche and actively pursue it in order to gain the necessary experience to advance.

"I advise students to do internships and work, pay their dues after graduation, and start on the ground floor somewhere, even as a post-graduate intern somewhere in a field s/he seeks to have a career," said Thomas Hugh Feeley, associate professor and chair of the department of communication, in an email. "The good thing about a COM degree is you can do anything – the bad thing is you can do nothing. It is incumbent on the student to earn some experience, gain skills, and network in an area of interest."

Melissa Zeitz graduated from UB in 2001 with a BA in communication and found that delving into a job in her preferred area of work, human resources, was the stepping stone to her current career.

"During my senior year I had to take a human resources class to fulfill my communication degree [requirements], and that is what led me to want a career in HR. I did not do it as a concentration because I didn't want to have to go any additional semesters. So, after I graduated, I took an HR assist position with Apple One. That position led to a more experienced HR position at GEICO," Zeitz said in an email.

Zeitz currently works primarily with new hires at GEICO, ensuring paperwork is complete, scheduling drug tests, conducting background checks, and enrolling them into the payroll system. She also coordinates interviews and conducts telephone interviews.

Feeley has taught communication courses to undergraduates for 15 years and has watched his students go into a variety of different careers. A majority of the jobs could be classified into what he would consider "public communication," whether it's in marketing, promotions, or public relations.

"Some students do more technical and ‘skilled' work in advertising or journalism with greater specialization," Feeley said in an email. "For example, one of my former students is [an] associate editor of The Buffalo News and another works in Manhattan for an advertising firm."


Oftentimes students graduating with English degrees are unsure about the next step. However, the slightly ambiguous path may serve to be an advantage in a diverse job market; many students find themselves well-positioned to enter a wide variety of fields.

"Try to find work that you love, and work that you feel is important in the world, whether public opinion regards it as important or not. That is what is most likely to make you happy and that is also the work you are likely to do best," said Cristanne Miller, chair of the English department, in an email. "I think English majors are very well-positioned to do work that matters across a wide range of employment opportunities, including but not at all limited to teaching."

Many employers find the wide range of skills fostered by an English degree curriculum, such as thinking analytically and writing and speaking well, difficult to train to new applicants. Those with English degrees seem to be especially primed for jobs that require such skills.

"CEOs of banks and major businesses have repeatedly said to me that they like hiring English majors... About a month ago, UB alumnus Ken Fuchs, senior vice president and litigation counsel of Prudential Equity Group, LLC, repeated more or less the same thing to me," Miller said in an email. "The English major is one of the most flexible at the university because its training focuses on these skills that are increasingly prized in the workplace because they can less often be assumed – as well as on teaching the traditions of British, American (and to some extent, world) literature, the cultural contexts of those traditions, and their relation to other media."

Political science

As yet another degree that has a number of different career options upon graduation, students graduating with a degree in political science have to wade through the pool of interests in order to find what suits them best. According to its website, the political science department strives to provide students with an understanding of government and politics as well as extensive analytical and communication skills.

Some common jobs are in the fields of law, international organizations, electoral politics, campaign management, and polling, among many others. However, according to Dr. James E. Campbell, the chair of the department, the economy is not very conducive to finding jobs of any variety since the recession hit.

"I think you just have to not be discouraged. I think the job market is always tough to break into in good economic times, so I think the idea is to keep looking and make sure you're organized and presentable and have an idea about what you can offer the employer and stick to it," Campbell said. "When I went out on the market, it was the same kind of situation – it's tough to find the first job but you just have to stick to it. It's good to set reasonable expectations; sometimes it takes starting out at less than your optimum job and working up from there. It's always easier to move to one job from another than not having a job at all."


According to the psychology department's website, the psychology curriculum arms students with four critical skills. People skills, such as communicating with and relating to other individuals, analytical skills, writing skills, and research skills, such as using statistics, tables, and graphs to analyze problems and communicate relevant findings.

The broad liberal arts background opens students up to a number of varying vocations, but it is critical to develop these skills further via internships, part-time or summer jobs, or volunteer experiences.

"I plan to use both degrees to continue my work and interest in helping others," said Peter Williams, a senior psychology and interdisciplinary studies double major. "Many of the courses I have taken during my undergraduate career were extremely influential in my decision to pursue a graduate degree. In the fall of 2011 I plan to attend graduate school at UB for mental health counseling."

School of Management

With a total of 3,066 undergraduate students currently enrolled and over 32,000 alumni, UB's School of Management (SOM) houses some of the more popular majors on campus.

According to the SOM website, "The undergraduate degree programs in the School of Management are designed to prepare students for eventual managerial roles in both the private and the not-for-profit sectors…The program of study in management gives particular attention to understanding the business firm in society; the management functions of planning and control; the behavior of organizations; the tools of modern management, including accounting, economics and statistics; and the ways in which managers perform such functions as production, marketing, finance and industrial relations."

"The curriculum for students in the School of Management is beneficial as it is designed to give students a wide range of exposure to different aspects of business," said Josh Sommer, a student in the School of Management, in an email. "As a business administration major, concentrating in finance and marketing, I feel I have gained valuable knowledge and developed critical skills that will allow me to be successful as I enter the business world."

Ryan Linden, a senior accounting major in the SOM, will be starting work for KPMG LLP, a U.S. audit, tax and advisory services firm that operates from 87 offices across the nation, in the fall of 2011 in New York City.

"The accounting program at UB prepared me extremely well for the next step. The strength of our program also attracts the attention of the big four accounting firms as well as the regional firms, and therefore we have a strong recruitment base which I was able to capitalize on," Linden said in an email.


Graduating with a degree in sociology opens students up to a number of career options, as their backgrounds may equip them with a number of valuable transferrable skills. According to the UB careers website, "many transferable skills such as analytical, organizational, research, interpersonal, computer, leadership, teamwork, and oral/written communication are associated with the sociology degree."

The website asserts that an undergraduate degree is sufficient for many entry-level positions in the field, but a graduate degree may be beneficial in a more competitive environment. Internships and volunteer experiences are especially useful in getting involved, as gaining experience with the specific population with which the student would like to work is important.

According to Kelly Crean, the undergraduate program coordinator for the sociology department, students may find jobs as probation officers; employment, admissions, family, addiction, school or rehabilitation counselors; human resources specialists, or police officers; among many other possible careers.

For instance, Eric Walker, the director of organizing for People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo, graduated from UB with a sociology degree. PUSH is an organization that strives to make affordable housing available in Buffalo.

Additional reporting by Veronica Ritter, Keren Baruch, James Bowe, Rebecca Bratek, and Hannah Barnes.





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