Career Planning

A Harvard education is the springboard to an enormous range of possible careers.  Some careers may require that you complete advanced studies in a graduate or professional program, while giving you complete flexibility in choosing your concentration.  For some – e.g., certain careers in STEM fields – you may need to pursue related STEM concentrations in college.  The skills you develop in any of Harvard’s 49 concentrations will prepare you to embark on many other kinds of careers.

 Career planning in college requires

  • thinking deeply about what interests you and why
    • be open to the possibility that your interests may change – even dramatically – in college
  • knowing your options
    • research different career paths
    • pursue internship or other hands-on learning opportunities
  • forming connections with people (faculty, staff, fellow students) who can mentor and support you, and help you meet your goals

 It’s never too early to think about your future, but your first task – as a Harvard college student – is to find that area of study, and the specific concentration, that you’re most excited to pursue.

 To learn about careers and career pathways, or to search for jobs or internship opportunities, visit the Office of Career Services (OCS).

Frequently Asked About Careers

Harvard does not offer vocational training or pre-career career concentrations or tracks.  Instead, students have the option of completing prerequisite coursework prior to enrolling in post-graduate programs of study (e.g., medical school for students interested in health professions) or of exploring possible career interests through elective or concentration coursework (e.g., courses pertaining to the law and its applications for students interested legal professions). 

For information on what the alumni of Harvard’s 49 concentrations have gone on to do post-graduation, check out concentration pages on the concentrations website or the 49 Book.  And speak with concentration advisers (contact information for whom also appears on the concentrations website and in the 49 Book.)

I want to be...

a health professional

There are many different kinds of careers in medicine or health.  Examples include the varieties of human medicine (MD degree, allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine), public and global health, dental medicine, veterinary medicine, and nursing, and such allied fields as optometry, pharmacy, and physical therapy.             

Advising

Pre-health advising lives in the Office of Career Services

OCS pre-health advisers offer drop-in advising hours and a variety of pre-health related workshops and events throughout the year.  To schedule a one-on-one meeting with a pre-health adviser, log onto Crimson Careers.

Requirements

In order to be eligible for medical school, applicants must have completed a number of pre-med requirements (mostly in the sciences and math).  Students who wish to complete these requirements during college typically start in freshman year with the life sciences and math.  Pre-med requirements can also be completed in whole or in part after college.  Many students, especially those who come late to a decision about pursuing medicine, go this route.  There is no ‘pre-med concentration’ at Harvard, and no specific field of study that medical schools expect undergraduates to pursue.  Medical schools are looking for evidence of excellence and dedication.  So, be sure to concentrate in a field – any field – that truly inspires you. 

Applicants will also need to have taken the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test).

Medical schools typically also want applicants to have had some sort of clinical experience.

Applying to Medical School

Applying to medical school is a time- and labor-intensive process.  In addition to OCS pre-health advising, specialist pre-medical tutors in every undergraduate House support students through this process.  Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors: be sure to connect with your House pre-med tutors.

Other Health Careers

Click here for information on dental medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, public and global health, and veterinary medicine, or on becoming a physician assistant. 

a lawyer

There are many different kinds of careers in law, spanning fields as varied as business, government, human and civil rights, international relations, medicine, law enforcement, politics, entertainment, sports, the arts, jurisprudence and academia.  In recent years, the job market for graduates of law school has been especially competitive.  If you are considering a career in law it is important that you know both the range of options that are available to you as well as the challenges that may await you in the job market.  (Note: a law degree is outstanding preparation for a wide range of non-legal careers as well.)

Advising

Primary pre-law advising is done by pre-law advisers in the Office of Career Services and by specialist tutors in the undergraduate Houses.  In addition, the Office of Career Services offers a number of pre-law advising events throughout the year.

Requirements

There are no course pre-requisites for law school.  Students interested in law school are encouraged to pursue any Harvard concentration they wish.  Certain concentrations may align with your long-term interests in the law (e.g., Government if you’re interested in the intersection of the law and politics or international relations), and you may give them special consideration, but every concentration will provide you with a solid grounding in the essential skills – critical thinking and analysis, and oral and written communication – that law schools look for, and that careers in the law require.   

To be eligible for admission to law school, applicants need to have taken the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).

Law schools will also take your extracurriculars into consideration.

Applying to Law School

There are two ways to apply to law schools:

  • Through the CAS (Credential Assembly Service)  a centralized and standardized online application portal.
  • Directly to individual schools by means either of their own online applications or of paper applications they provide to you on request.

To help plan for this process, if you are a sophomore, junior, or senior, be sure to connect with pre-law tutors in your House.  If you are a junior or senior, be sure to attend one of the Office of Career Service’s Law School 101 sessions in fall term, and then meet one-on-one with an OCS pre-law adviser (to schedule an advising meeting, log onto Crimson Careers).

an academic

Are you passionate about a particular field of study? Have professors or other mentor of yours encouraged you to pursue graduate studies? Do you aspire to a career in teaching and research? If your answer to any or all of these questions is a resounding “Yes!” then the academic path may be for you.

Advising

Pursuing an academic career typically requires years of additional schooling after college including the completion of a Ph.D. Faculty and other departmental advisers are the most important sources of advice and mentoring on how to prepare for graduate study and a career in your chosen field.  The sooner you connect with them, the better.  Another reason this is so important: your mentors will be invested in your success, and will provide you with the strong recommendation letters you will need as an applicant to grad school.

The Office of Career Services also offers advice and guidance on academic careers.

To schedule a one-on-one meeting with a pre-grad adviser, log onto Crimson Careers.

Requirements

Requirements for grad school vary both by school and by field.  In general, successful completion of any Harvard concentration will prepare you for advanced study of its field.  It may also prepare you for advanced study of a kindred field.  Some graduate programs may expect you to have completed a senior thesis, others may not.  Regardless, you are strongly encouraged to pursue a thesis if you’re seriously considering academia.  Why?  Because doing so will put your interest in research and teaching to the test.  If you love the thesis process, that’s a good sign that your choice of an academic path is a wise one.  In addition, doing a thesis will strengthen your candidacy for graduate programs.

To be eligible for admission to certain graduate programs, applicants may need to have taken certain standardized tests, e.g., the GRE general test or a GRE subject test.

Applying to Grad School

Every grad school has its own application process and requirements.  The Office of Career services has lots of useful tips on preparing for this process.

a teacher

Though it can be difficult to gain direct teaching experience while in college, there are many extracurricular opportunities for undergraduate students to mentor, tutor, or otherwise facilitate groups of school-age children. Click here for information.

If you think you may be interested in pursuing a career in primary or secondary educational teaching, Harvard also offers two significant teacher training opportunities:

  • UTEP (Harvard Undergraduate Teacher Education Program)

UTEP is an elective pre-professional program, available to all Harvard undergraduates, that combines coursework in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) with field work in the Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville public schools. Students who complete all of UTEP's requirements receive an educator license in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the middle or high school level (which is also valid in states with which Massachusetts has licensure reciprocity).  See the UTEP website for more information.

  • HTF (Harvard Teacher Fellows)

HTF prepares students to teach English, History, Math or Science in high-need urban schools.  Fellowships start in the spring of students’ senior year in college, and continue through post-graduate teaching and licensure training experiences.  See the UTEP website and the Student Handbook for more information.

a business professional

The business world is enormously varied.  There is no pre-business track at Harvard, and no one way to prepare for either business school or a career in business.  There is, however, a lot of information on the Office of Career Services website to assist you in thinking about the range of possibilities. See, for instance, the career pathways page, which links to information on career planning in each of the following areas:

Check out the OCS calendar for information on relevant panels, workshops, and career fairs throughout the year.

And meet with OCS advisers to discuss your interests and any questions you may have.  OCS advising is not just for seniors embarking on job searches, it’s for students at every stage of their undergraduate careers – as they’re planning for term- or summertime job or internship opportunities, as they’re beginning to ask big questions about what they want to do with their lives, and as they’re honing in on specific post-graduate educational or career plans. 

Connect with OCS advising early and often.

an engineer

A background in the sciences or engineering opens the door to a vast range of career possibilities. Visit the Office of Career Services’ career pathways page for links to information on career planning in each of the following areas:

For information on the kinds of careers for which specific science or engineering concentrations prepare you, check out concentration pages on the concentrations website or the 49 Book.  And speak with concentration advisers (contact information for whom also appears on the concentrations website and in the 49 Book.)