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What's Your College Major Personality?

Lawyers love to argue, and nurses have patience and great people skills. Salespeople are usually talkative and energetic, and accountants like analyzing numbers. That's because an individual's personality, likes and dislikes, and distinctive qualities and traits are often related to his or her career field. In fact, it's best when who you are is closely aligned with what you do.

"Career success is connected to matching abilities and interests to the task," affirms Dr. William Revelle, a Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) professor who specializes in personality research. "Studies have shown that job success is connected to personality traits."

Though you're not pounding the pavement yet, you're still faced with the decision of what to major in, which is often based on the career you'd like to pursue. If you're torn between psychobiology and photojournalism, investigating your personality can help.

"Understanding your personality and interests are part of the self--understanding vital to healthy personal development," explains Brian Finck, a career counselor at California State University, Northridge. "The choice of a college major and career is often a reflection of who you are. The better you understand yourself, the more likely you are to choose a direction that fits."

Take a Test

So you want to discover what your love for design and organization means about your personality? Try a personality test.

"A personality test and interest inventory can definitely aid students in identifying the majors they find most interesting," says Joseph Goodwin, assistant director of Ball State University's (Muncie, IN) Career Center. Personality tests help measure personal characteristics and are a great self--assessment tool.

"If used wisely, personality tests can be very helpful in the college major and career selection process," adds Finck. "They can help you discover new things about yourself or bring to light characteristics or interests that you had not given much thought to before. They can also serve to reinforce or confirm a decision regarding a particular path you had considered."

Getting Specific

Ready to put yourself to the test? Many high school and college counseling offices or career centers offer personality tests free of charge; some can also be purchased online at

The Myers--Briggs Type Indicator(r) (MBTI) was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, who were intrigued by psychologist Carl Jung's theory of personality types. They developed a test to help people understand themselves so that they could choose an occupation that matched their personality.

The MBTI asks questions about your likes and dislikes, or preferences. The test outlines eight such preferences: Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I), Sensing (S) or. Intuition (N), Thinking (T) or Feeling (F), and Judging (J) or Perceiving(P). Sixteen distinct personality profiles are then generated by four of these preferences. For example, ENFJs often become good teachers or coaches because they have strong communication skills and enjoy leading others to achieve their goals. And ISFJs might be nurses or therapists because they like caring for others.

E.K. Strong developed The Strong Interest Inventory(r) in the 1920s to help people exiting the military find suitable jobs. It has since been revised and is frequently used for educational guidance as one of the most popular personality assessment tools. The questionnaire compares how certain interests are similar to the interests of people successfully employed in specific occupations.

The Princeton Review Career Quiz has 24 questions, and starts by asking you to choose between two occupations, e.g., "Would you rather be a bookkeeper or an artist?" It then asks which scenario you prefer, for instance, "I usually like to work cautiously" or "I usually like to work fast."

The results include an interest and usual style, both defined by a color. Interest style describes the occupations and job responsibilities you'll like, as well as specific areas of interest. Usual style describes how you like to perform your work and what types of environments you work most productively in. Take the free quiz at (select College, then Majors & Careers, then Career Quiz).

Pat Croner of Westlake Village, CA--based College Match, an organization that helps students with college selection, agrees that personality plays a role in your major and your career.

"What you like or dislike says a lot about what you should do," she says. After all, if you hate model building and physics, you certainly don't want to end up standing in the middle of a messy construction site wearing a yellow hard hat as an architect.