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Learn About Careers

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Try It Out

Why try out a career?

It can help you to:

  • Continue to explore and narrow down your list of potential career options.
  • Gain first-hand experience which can develop skills needed for any profession.   
  • Develop personal and professional contacts

Getting Started

  • Decide what your goal is for getting hands-on experience.
  • Match opportunities (outlined below) with your goals.
  • Learn the process for obtaining the opportunity.  A resume may be required.
  • You can always discuss ways to accomplish your goals further with a career advisor, faculty member, or personal mentor.


There are many ways to explore a career field. If you need help identifying your own opportunity, please schedule an appointment with an advisor. 


  • Definition: An observation experience where you can learn about a job by walking through the work day with a professional in the field. This can include conducting an informational interview. (Sometimes the terms shadowing and externships are used interchangeably.)
  • Duration: 1 day – 1 week
  • How to Find:  Most anyone is willing to speak to potential new professionals.  All you need to do is identify places and people of interest and make contact to introduce yourself and talk about your interest in shadowing.


  • Definition: Typically externships are more active and lengthier than shadowing experiences.  In addition to observing and informational interviewing, you may be participating in day-to-day activities and projects.  (Sometimes the terms shadowing, externships, and internships are used interchangeably.)
  • Duration: 1 week – 8 weeks
  • How to Find: There are multiple ways of setting up these opportunities.  One option is to identify places and people of interest and make contact to introduce yourself and your interest in an externship.  Another option is to search for posted externship opportunities.


  • Definition: A supervised practical training experience for students or recent graduates that can be for academic credit or paid. Unpaid internships are a controversial topic and have been an issue in several recent court cases. It’s important to understand the criteria for a position to be officially classified as an internship. Our department supports NACE standards on internships. The NACE position is that an internship must meet these criteria:
    • The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
    • The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
    • The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
    • There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework. 
    • There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
    • There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.  
    • There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
  • Duration: 8 weeks – 3 months
  • How to Find: There are many ways to identify internship opportunities.  Find out more about the process of Finding a Job or Internship.


  • Definition: Off- campus opportunities where you can contribute your knowledge and skills, give your time without pay, and simultaneously gain experience in a field of interest. 
  • Duration: 1 day – unspecified
  • How to Find: Community Service Learning is a great place for JMU students to identify volunteer opportunities.

Undergraduate Research

  • Definition: Assisting with student or faculty-initiated research to supplement what you’re learning in your classes.
  • Duration: at least 1 semester
  • How to Find: Talk to academic departments, individual professors, or your academic advisor about identifying specific research opportunities.  You may want to explore the Honors Program for additional opportunities.

Student Organizations/Peer Education

Part-Time Jobs

  • Definition: Part-time jobs can be on-campus or off-campus and are paid opportunities that provide experience in a professional setting.
  • Duration: at least 1 semester
  • How to Find: Start by visiting the Student Work Experience Center for on and off-campus job postings.