Learning that pays: the value of pursuing multiple majors


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Sarah Michels

Ever since I decided to pursue a dual degree and two minors, the connections between each area of study have astounded me.

Sometimes, my economics class curriculum perfectly matches up with chapters in my political science textbook. My journalism background has allowed me to connect the role of media ethics with terrorist development in my honors proseminar class. The Hispanic history knowledge that I gain from my Spanish class helps me to analyze the trend of institutionalized and rationalized injustice in today’s world.

Whenever I make these multidisciplinary connections, it’s like a metaphorical light bulb goes off in my brain; I can feel myself actively learning, not simply recording and regurgitating material to earn an “A”. I believe that’s the kind of learning college should be all about.

Pursuing multiple majors can also lead to a better paycheck. Multidisciplinary students often have more marketable skills than their peers, which is invaluable in an unpredictable job market. If suddenly, due to technological advance or a recession, their ideal job position isn’t in high demand, they will have a backup plan.

Most students’ eventual jobs won’t exactly match the specific job for which their major trains them anyway. In the decade after graduation, the average person changes jobs every 4.2 years, according to a 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Even in a thriving economy, these individuals will have more bargaining power when asking for raises or promotions, since their employers know they have a credible exit threat. If their demands aren’t met, they can leave and know their marketable skills will land them another job.

You’re probably asking yourself, is it worth it? Won’t that take extra time and money? Yes and no. Contrary to popular belief, it is very possible to get a double major in four years, at the same or similar price that a single-major student would pay.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the math.

Every degree at UK requires 120 hours of coursework. About 30 of these hours go towards general requirements, the UK Core. With a few notable exceptions, most majors include around 50 hours of coursework, which leaves upwards of 40 hours for electives. Accounting for class overlap, especially when their second major is somewhat related to their first, students can make many double majors work with that number of hours.

Even better, if you brought AP, IB, or dual credits into UK, or are able to take more than 15 hours a semester, you are already ahead of the game. If a major is just too much, the average minor only requires 18-21 hours. This leaves plenty of room to breathe.

Adding another area of study, however, will take more of your time. Students may have to cut their Caturday celebrations a few hours short to finish a paper at Willy T. But there is a silver lining. The extra studying time will increase students’ time management skills, which are necessary in the lives of every adult dividing time between work, family and leisure.

I believe pursuing multiple majors and/or minors is one way to squeeze every ounce of quality out of a college education, perhaps equalizing rising tuition costs with college’s real world value.

Skipping a Thirsty Thursday or two to hit the books might just pay big in the future.