All college students learn to grapple with the optimal way to organize their courses into a neat and tidy major or minor. Choosing the best possible combination – the major/minor, double major, major/double minor, or the overly ambitious double major/double minor – can be a confusing and constantly changing process throughout a person’s undergraduate career. An important thing to keep in mind while making (and remaking) these decisions is that there is no single path that can fit all, or even most, students.
“It depends on your major and what you are trying to do. It is going to be contingent on the end result. Its really what the student is wanting to do with their degree,” said Twyla Hough, director of Career Services. “Advisors would be a good person to tell you what [classes] would be complementary as far as knowledge acquisition.”
The best path to take will depend primarily on what a student plans on doing after college. Interest and career objective both serve as effective guides.
Overall, potential employers will want employees that have work experience in the industry they are applying to. Work experience is vital, but some industries call for having a more particular major than other fields. Business, nonprofit, administration and government employers will see related work experience as more important than the title on an applicant’s degree. Industries like engineering, IT, accounting or other technical fields will require a more specialized degree, but, again, work experience is extremely important in these fields.
The minor is given a secondary role by many employers. In fact, it may be better to avoid stacking minors on your diploma.
“I’ve talked to graduate school admissions and employers who see a list of minors as a detriment because to them it says that you were not focused, that you don’t really know what you want to do. [You] were just chasing a bunch of threads instead of really becoming an expert in your degree program” said Dennis Ugolini, associate professor of physics and department chair.
Students planning on going to graduate school after completing their undergraduate degrees have slightly different concerns than students entering the job market after graduation. But even then, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to getting in.
“It’s not, a lot of times, related necessarily to the major as much as it is the number of credit hours you’ve taken in a certain number of courses. Many times the majors just help you fulfill those requirements much easier than majoring in something unrelated and also taking additional classes. This is especially true for applying to medical school,” Hough said.
For those going into science, taking courses in the field you want to get into and research experience are both crucial for getting into a masters or PhD program.
“The three things that admissions people look for are, one, your grades, specifically in upper-division courses in your degree program because those are the classes most similar to the classes you’ll be doing in your graduate program. Classes are something you have to get through to get to the interesting part. Two, prior research experience. And three, recommendations” Ugolini said.
No matter how one orients his or her major(s) and minor(s), keeping choices in perspective to future education or employment is key.
“The title is not what’s important; what you learned to get to the title is what’s important” Ugolini said.