Deciding to double major

double majorIn my role as both the father of two college-aged kids and a high school English teacher, the direction of majors and minors as a college student gets plenty of “air time” both at home and in classroom discussions. While my daughter has declared one major and one minor and has had her classes built around these designations, my son has now expressed an interest to double major so he “will be marketable.”

I guess taking on an additional major might reveal his fortitude. Yes, it might also show his intense dedication, motivation to succeed, ambition and a grasp of time management skills heretofore absent from his character. However, I believe the quest for doubling up might come from the fact that his career choice might be difficult to achieve fresh from graduation. Thus selling himself as flexible (with a double major) will increase the employment opportunities.

In other words, an education student with a major in Physical Education would be smart if they also pursued a major in Health. Indeed the possibility of being hired by a school district would be far greater with a combination like this then simply a P.E. major. The same holds true with my son’s current career goal in the Hospitality field. His way of thinking makes his current major in Hospitality much more of a selling point with a major in Business Administration. On paper, I have to agree with him especially in the wake of the economic turbulence that we are facing right now.

However, after discussing this situation with the counselor at our high school, the disadvantages to this pursuit have to be taken into consideration as well. Number one is the amount of extra time, effort and money that this decision will require. Number two is the fact that some employers might see the extra major as being indecisive and also raise red flags about which major is indeed more important. Number three is that many times, employers might view the double major as a person who is over-qualified. Number four is if the student has the pressure of a second major hanging over them, their other classes might begin to suffer and eventually be difficult for them to devote the attention needed to excel in the program. Number five is the fact that often times employers might be more impressed with a recent graduates social skills and work experiences (which is often lacking with double or triple majors) than their multiple degrees.

I think my wife and I will have a conversation with our son about his proposal. Indeed it is not a bad idea to have a double major, but he (we) need to take into consideration the down side to such an endeavor also. In fact my opening statement to him will be, “It’s good to have a backup plan – but if it comes at the expense of earning good grades, it might not be worth it.”

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