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Head for the (career) edge


David Leonhardt in a recent NYT Op-ed colum Do not double-major writes:

But the reality is that many students who double-major aren’t doing it out of intellectual curiosity. The number of double majors has soared in recent years mostly because students see it as a way to add one more credential to their résumé. What’s even better than one major? Two majors!

Except that it’s not. Most students would learn more by creatively mastering a single major — and leaving themselves time to take classes in multiple other fields. “Double majoring,” as Jacqueline Sanchez, a Wellesley College student, wrote in a recent op-ed for her campus paper, “ultimately prevents students from exploring many different disciplines.”

Unfortunately, double majoring is just one part of a credentials arms race among teenagers and college students. This arms race exacerbates inequality, because it can make upper-middle-class students seem more accomplished than working-class and poor students. And the arms race is also unpleasant and counterproductive for many of the well-off students. They’re loading up on extracurricular activities, Advanced Placement courses and college majors, rather than exploring, going deep into one or two areas and learning what they really enjoy.

David, I'd like to suggest another way of looking at the "double major" - it may be vital for anyone wanting to stand out in a competitive job environment.

Much to me my delight, my brilliant grandson Paul is considering majoring in both engineering and Chinese. He and I both think that this will set him apart and make him a more valuable asset to any engineering firm that does business with China and its fast growing economic influence.

Way back in the early 1990s, William Bridges wrote an influencial book called Surviving Corporate Transition. In it he recommended:

Head for the edge. “The people who work along the interface between the organization and its external environment are the sources of all the information that is needed to survive in this rapidly changing world.”

Expertise in two areas that may overlap on a daily basis is a real asset in many enviroments. A good reason for a double-major.

Of course, there are certainly poor reasons for double majoring, as Mr. Leonhardt points out. But I hope Paul stays with his plan of "double expertise." 

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Reader Comments (1)

I actually just had a conversation with some co-workers about getting a minor with your degree. I don't know if I have heard of any of my students over the past few years talk about that.

November 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

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