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Hands-on experiences are a critical part of career exploration and skill building. It is helpful to be in an environment to really know whether you want to do and can succeed at a specific kind of work. When you start exploring your options and interests through research, volunteer, and internship opportunities, the more likely you are to find something that you love.

Human Development and Family Studies students are typically involved in community organizations and extracurricular activities, and many students work for pay in their intended field during the school year and summer. Being strategic with these opportunities will help make the most of your course selection and goal planning.

Each semester and summer, we encourage students to pick an interest from their list and explore it with a hands-on experience. If you love, find more experiences in the same field. If you don't, think about what you liked and didn't like, and try a new experience focused on those strengths.

Take a class with a hands-on component icon-olus-circle

A number of HDFS classes have a hands-on or off-site component, allowing you to observe and experience skills in real-world settings.  Talk to your friends and academic advisers in departments that interest you to find these courses. Also look at our career pages to find hands-on courses related to a variety of fields.

Volunteer or intern icon-olus-circle

Most students do a capstone, full-time internship during their final semester as an HDFS major. Internships are a way to build occupation-specific skills and professional connections in a field. However, we encourage you to take advantage of internship or volunteer opportunities prior to your final semester.  Do a one-day service activity through a student organization; volunteer one after a week at a local organization during the school year, or intern at an organization in your hometown over the summer.  These types of opportunities will help build your skills and resume long before participating in your capstone internship as a senior.

Information about volunteer and internship opportunities on campus and in the community are available on the career pages.  lso see our internship program website.

Select part-time or summer jobs icon-olus-circle

Many students do paid work that builds their career-related skills.  These work experiences can expose you to organizations and fields you may want to work in, help you build transferable skills, and develop strong references.

You may not be able to get a paid job yet doing exactly what you want, but find a lower level job in an organization that serves a population you are interested in or that employs professionals in careers you want to pursue. Serving food at a nursing home can teach you a lot about what it’s like to work with the elderly. Filing papers at a non-profit can expose you to people trying to solve community problems.

Even if you’re not working in a field that interests you, focus on building useful skills. Many college students can earn money while building a resume that shows they have experience supervising and training other workers, handling money and ordering supplies, raising money over the telephone or providing excellent customer service.

For more information about exploring careers and building skills, see our general guidance on career planning.

Participate in extra-curricular activities icon-olus-circle

Many students learn valuable career-related skills, like organizing, event planning, leadership, budgeting, mentoring, and communications, through extracurricular activities. Use these experiences to explore your interests and build your resume.

  • Don’t just volunteer for Thon, pick the perfect-fit committee for you!  These committees can give you relevant job experience.
  • In your club or sorority/fraternity, take on greater responsibility in areas related to your education and career goals.

Use your extracurricular time wisely and spend time on things that you love and are teaching you new skills.  There are many  different student clubs and activites at Penn State, many of which allow you to get involved in the department and college.