Commentary: Double majors can attract more employment options

ME Online

ME Online

By Lee Feder

You’re still here?” is what casual acquaintances incredulously ask me at bars, in class or on the Quad. I am one of those insane few – and we are talking a handful here – who thinks one reputable bachelor’s degree (International Studies) is not sufficient and has returned to get a second (Mechanical Engineering). Upon discovering my continued studies, people give me a funny look usually reserved for math majors haranguing about the wonders of non-Euclidean geometry. “Yeah,” I tell them, “so I came back to study Enginerding. Get over it.”

For those wondering why, let me give my friend Manny’s explanation: I want to make myself overqualified for most jobs. It just so happens that to obtain a position in global energy consulting, my field of choice, the right two degrees are worth more than either individually. After graduating, I faced an agonizing decision to return for another two years of class, tuition and Unofficial (OK, so that one was easy). The longer I hang around Chambana though, the more I know I made the right choice.

When I finally escape, I expect to be the most well-rounded candidate that companies interview because of my varied background (meaning I will cry even harder when I cannot get a job). Most single-major graduates still need to work on their writing, numerical reasoning, abstract logic or foreign language skills. By pursuing another relevant degree, I am showing employers a high level of maturity and a commitment to my work that will help come job time.

The decision to return manifests my diverse skills, my willingness to undertake challenges and my passion for my future field. For those debating undertaking either a second major or a second degree (even if it takes an extra, cough, cough, two years), if you can afford it in financial, social and chronometric terms, I would highly recommend it. In the long term, the advantages of the extra coursework outweigh taking bowling at noon instead of an academic course at 11.

Consider the typical campus criticisms: for how many engineers does the description, “Great brain, good problem solving skills, lack of social graces” apply; for LAS majors, “Nice person, passionate about their interests, fluffy academic history;” for Business majors, “Sharp, quick, heartless.” Adding a second major in a different but potentially related field nullifies these criticisms and supplements lackluster resumes. And depending on the individual, earning a second degree or major needs few extra semesters or none at all.

Even for those unable or unwilling to pursue a second degree or major, adding a unique and useful minor (no Graffiti Studies permitted) can still help, especially if in a foreign language like Spanish, German, Chinese, Arabic or French. The world is global, and companies want employees who can adapt to different cultures or situations; employees who are more diversely educated.

Take it from the second in a family of University of Illinois “lifers.” Extra education will more than pay for itself. Who knows, I might even learn something this time around.