Numerous colleges and universities across the nation have reported a rise in the number of students who enter the job market armed with a double major.
Fran Bock, assistant director of Career Services at Southeast Missouri State University, says some Southeast students are making similar preparations.
“I’ve kind of noticed it, in the sense that I’m starting to see some double majors on resumes,” Bock said.
In the fall of 2001, 412 Southeast students had declared double majors or study in a pre-professional program. That number had risen by the fall of the following year, to 423, and had skyrocketed to 536 by last fall.
Bock believes students who choose to take on a second major are selecting one of several options for making their resumes more competitive and helping them stand out from the crowd.
“To me, the issue is, ‘Here’s what I want to do ᾰ what do I have to do to be competitive in that?’” she said. “It may be to major in one field, participate in campus activities and have a great grade point average. Another option is to get a minor in a second language, such as Spanish, and prepare for a master’s degree.”
The double major usually attracts students Bock described as being highly intelligent and having a lot of interests, adding there is a certain type of student that simply is enamored with a field despite the limited marketability it affords professionally.
“A lot of those people try to reinforce themselves with a major that has more employment potential,” she said. “A lot of students know they’re very talented, and a lot of them just enjoy a particular field, so they’re going to go ahead and major in that along with something else and see how it falls out.”
Bock said certain combinations of majors compliment each other and fortify students’ resumes.
“For instance, take international business and Spanish … that could work,” she said. “Those go together very well. A student I talked to recently was working toward a bachelor’s of science in business administration with a double major in accounting and finance. You don’t see that very much. I would interview him, were I a potential employer.”
Pre-professional programs, such as pre-med, serve a similar function as double majors. Students enrolled in such programs are often classified as double majors, but will not receive a double major or medical certification upon graduation. Instead, they earn a bachelor’s degree plus enough credit to fulfill the prerequisites for medical school.
Ember Crowe, a junior this year at Southeast, from Caruthersville, Mo., is in a pre-professional program of biology and pre-chiropractic. She plans to become a chiropractor, but a full degree is not required for entry into chiropractic school. With academic advising, she was able to establish a safety net for when she graduates.
“It was my adviser’s plan,” Crowe said. “At first, I’d planned to do 90 hours and transfer, but I decided to get a degree to fall back on,” she said. “With pre-chiro, I have to take certain chemistry classes, but chemistry’s also my minor. It was only a few classes, and it’ll only take me one extra semester.”
The decision to pursue a double major is a serious undertaking. According to Dr. Patricia Ryan, director of Institutional Research at Southeast, students make the decision at different times, according to how well they’ve planned their college careers ahead of time.
“There are students who come here who absolutely know they want two majors,” Ryan said. “Those students have career goals in mind, and they know they want two majors. Others get into their majors and decide they want to add a language.”
Ryan also noted in addition to extra work, a double major increases the time students typically spend in college.
“Some people hold the myth that all students graduate in four years,” she said. “Students who take on a second major take more time to get through.”
Defying that norm is Megan Roe, a senior Aurora, Ill., who is double majoring in mass communication and psychology; she will complete both majors in four years.
“I was going to get out a semester early,” she said. “Now, I’ll just get out on time.”
Like many double majors, Roe declared one major and added the second one later.
“I was already intending to do radio when I came here, and it took a year before I declared psychology,” she said. “I probably could have graduated a semester early if I’d started out doing both.”
Roe has specialized in radio broadcast for her mass communications option, and plans to pursue a graduate degree in psychology, get licensed as a community counselor and certified as a school counselor. She plans to do on-air work at a radio station as a second job, and hopes that clients or students who come to her for counseling will open up to her more readily after they have heard her voice on the radio. But that wasn’t always her plan.
“I picked radio because I want to be involved in music in some form, and I enjoy being on the air ᾰ I’ve been told I have a pretty voice,” she said.
Roe believes she chose a compatible second major.
“I think psychology can go with anything,” she said. “It’s an integral part of life in general.”
Tracie Ramage, a senior from Cape Girardeau, Mo., intends to put psychology to use in the field of criminal justice, so she decided her sophomore year to double major.
“There is always an aspect of human relations involved, no matter what level of law enforcement you are aspiring to, from the local to the federal,” Ramage said. “Knowing people and being familiar with psychology and behavior can help you relate not only to victims and their families, but also to the perpetrators of crimes.”
Like academic advisers, career counselors and many of her fellow college students, Ramage is aware of the trials facing individuals entering the workforce.
“The job market is rather competitive and having experience and education in two areas that complement each other can be more appealing to possible employers,” she said. “And as one of my former teachers used to say about most fields of study, there’s really no such thing as too much education.”