Everyone knows about traditional college majors such as English, Biology, Engineering, and the like. But today’s college curriculum looks nothing like it did even 20 years ago, thanks to the wise decision of many colleges to make sure that their curricula keep up with trends in employment. While college certainly should not be limited to job training, in today’s economy more students are interested in both pursuing studies that will help them make a living and support their families, and at the same time add to their store of knowledge and gain a solid grounding in the essentials of higher education.
Colleges have responded to these twin student goals by creating new majors that reflect changes in the labor market, especially as new technologies emerge and alter the parameters of employment options. As Jeff Selingo reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education,
“The choices of majors are greater than ever before. As the race for more and more credentials became the game in the last decade for those looking to gain any edge in the competitive job market, colleges pounced on the opportunity by creating a bevy of new majors. In 2010, when the U.S. Education Department updated its list of academic programs used in various higher-education surveys, more than 300 titles were added to the previous list from a decade earlier, a 22 percent increase.”
This is happening all over the nation, and not just at large universities with reputations for innovation. In the greater Buffalo, NY area, local reporter T.J. Pignataro points out that even small liberal arts schools such as Daemen College and Canisius College are “finding creative ways to tailor their curricular offerings with innovative programs aimed squarely at preparing both undergraduate and graduate students with the tools they need to succeed.”
What are some of these new majors? You’d be surprised at the variety. They run the gamut of different fields, different career options, and in many cases, things you may not have heard of but might be exactly what you are looking for. Check out this list of some of the newest college majors offered around the country, to give you some idea of the variety and scope of your options.
- Geriatric Health: As the largest sector of the United States population continues to age, the demand for geriatric care-medical and life care for seniors and the elderly-has expanded. Many businesses need caring and qualified staff to fulfill the important care-giving roles necessary to easing the last years of our elders. Currently certified nursing assistants are the main providers of direct healthcare in long-term facilities, but degrees in geriatric nursing, geriatric medicine, and geriatric psychological care are cropping up across the United States. The last of these is a crucial need, because there are high rates of major depression amon
in residential care facilities. This is a truly generous profession, and one that students interested in medicine but are more specifically interested in patient care and quality of life would find very rewarding.
- 3-D Animation: Animation has come of age: it’s no longer just for breakfast anymore! With a new Academy Award category just for animation finally becoming standard just in 2011, it is a recognized artistic field with many career opportunities. Combining traditional art skills and computer programming knowledge, this field is not just limited to film: Terra Community College in Ohio points out that those who major in this field can become app and website developers, digital illustrators and artists, and multimedia producers. For example, many education companies now employ 3-D animators to create textbook supplements such as websites and CD-ROMs. You can still dream about the red carpet, but chances are you might find more opportunities than you imagine in this field.
- Digital Media Studies: This field overlaps a bit with 3-D animation, but is much more diverse in its scope and career possibilities. At Florida International University, one of the schools embracing this new field, Digital Media Studies is now part of the Department of Communications, and Dean of Education Dr. Raul Reis explains that the new major is designed to “lay the foundation for our students’ success in the rapidly evolving world that is digital communications – allowing them to further apply their digital skills in a great variety of disciplines.” Students in this field can become journalists, educators, interactive website designers, etc.
- Global and Local Sustainability: This relatively new major is all about changing the world for the better. Twenty years ago, one of my high school friends self-designed a similar major at the University of New Hampshire and founded Sustainable Harvest International, a nonprofit organization that works with farmers in Central American to create life-changing, ecologically-sound sustainable farming practices. For her work improving the lives and opportunities of thousands of people, Florence Reed was just awarded the 2012 Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service from the National Peace Corps Association. Now, students interested in saving the rainforests, designing green housing, global health education and disease prevention, environmental law, and literally dozens of other fields don’t have to self-design a major, because many schools have embraced this field and built creative and dynamic majors that weave business, economics, agriculture, the Humanities, and many other areas of study together.
- Global Studies: Possibly the best definition of this new major comes from Lehigh University’s Global Studies major webpage, which explains that “the Global Studies major is different from traditional majors. It is an interdisciplinary program. That means, students take global classes from professors in almost a dozen departments so they can better understand and manage the impact of globalization. A Global Studies major can contribute to almost any organization or business.” What can you do with this major? What can’t you do with this major! From international relations to business, from literature to sports management, there are opportunities around the world for students who study globalization and are interested in expanding their horizons beyond the United States. If you want adventure, challenge, and new skills that will be useful in literally hundreds of different career options, Global Studies may be the major for you.
As these five new majors illustrate, the changing face of higher education means that there are new fields and new career possibilities for students of all interests. All you need to do is have the courage to maximize your creativity and fulfill your dreams by taking a walk off the beaten path of traditional college majors. Talk to your academic and career advisors to find out what your school offers and how you can take advantage of all these new opportunities!