5 Most Underrated College Majors

Majors widely known for being impractical may have more benefits than you think.

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You may wonder what you can learn from philosophers who have been dead for centuries, but philosophy majors do learn critical thinking skills that are crucial in several careers.

So you want to follow your passion and choose an unconventional major? You can probably hear the conversation now:

"Mom, Dad, I want to major in philosophy (or English, or recreation management)."

Their response: "What are you going to do with that?"

You may not have an answer for them right away. But keep in mind that many of these types of majors have benefits that aren’t always obvious.

5. English

English majors immerse themselves in a world of books. They can concentrate on fiction, poetry, non-fiction, or some combination of the three. Students of literature learn a lot about human nature and society.

Most people read books just for fun, so when you say you want to make a career out of it, they may think it sounds silly.

How to enhance it: If you are passionate about English literature but also want to make sure you're setting yourself up for a career after college, consider adding a practical minor. Teaching or education is one option that works well with English. A minor in public policy or economics would be another good choice.

What to do with it: An English major is great preparation for careers in law, journalism, publishing, and teaching.

4. Graphic Design

Graphic designers express ideas visually. They work on visual art ranging from advertisements to cartoons. Graphic design majors sometimes get a bad reputation because it's viewed as an art.

In order to make it as a graphic designer, you have to develop a portfolio — just like a painter, sculptor, or other artist. And sometimes that means starting off doing work pro bono. The visual of the starving artist may not be appealing, but for many graphic designers, it only lasts until they’ve developed enough samples to get high-paying clients.

How to enhance it: If you want to boost your resume for your post-college job hunt, think about pairing your graphic design major with a minor in business or marketing. This would give you the tools you need to create compelling, persuasive advertisements. Another thought would be a minor in animation if you want to someday work for a company like Pixar.

What to do with it: You can design web pages, create cartoons, generate advertisements, develop new products, and illustrate books.

3. Philosophy

When we think of philosophy majors ask the tough questions about life and humanity. They want to know who we are, why we do things and where our lives and society are headed.

When you think of Philosophy majors, you may think of college students sitting out on the lawn basking in the sun and pondering the meaning of life. You may wonder what you can learn from philosophers who have been dead for centuries, but philosophy majors do learn critical thinking skills that are crucial in several careers.

How to enhance it: Take classes in a variety of subjects. The more you know, the better your questions and your exploration of humanity will be. Classes in psychology and sociology would go well with philosophy courses.

What to do with it: Philosophy is great preparation for law school and most graduate school programs.

2. Recreation Management

Do you love skiing, visiting national parks, spending the day at an amusement park or any other kind of leisure activity? If you want to make a career running those kinds of places, majoring in recreation management might be for you.

On the surface, careers in recreation management may seem like all fun and games. You’d get to be around ski lodges, beautiful parks, or rollercoasters all day. For some people, it doesn’t seem like a “real” career at all. But there’s more to this major than meets the eye.

How to enhance it: Internships are a great way to put what you're learning in the classroom to good use. If your college is in an area where tourism is booming, you might be able to find an internship during the school year with a ski resort or national park. Summer internships are also a popular option. Many of these places also coordinate with schools and allow you to get college credit for your work.

What to do with it: Manage organizations in the leisure industry. You could also start your own company or a non-profit organization that educations students about national parks or teachers underserved children how to ski.

1. Actuarial Science

Actuaries usually work in the insurance business. They work with risks. So, when a company has a question about manufacturing a product in a different country, an actuary would talk to them about the risks. They determine what to charge an individual for car insurance.

Working in insurance may seem either dull or unimportant (or both!). But don’t let this first impression fool you. If you’re a fan of numbers, actuarial science would allow you to apply your math skills to real like scenarios.

How to enhance it: Try to meet actual actuaries and ask them questions about their lives and careers. You can probably find some names of people willing to talk to you by contacting the Society of Actuaries.

What to do with it: Actuaries usually move up in ranks fairly quickly and obtain executive positions and can make over $100,000 a year. They work in all areas of insurance, including but not limited to health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, pension plans and property insurance.

Quick Tips

  • Internships are a great way to gain practical experience that may be related to your field. If you want to major in philosophy or English but also want to do something completely different as a career, an internship would be a great addition to your resume. Check with your school's career center for tips on how to find internships in your area.
  • If you're a freshman or sophomore in college and haven't picked a major yet, chat with the professors in the majors you're considering. Sometimes they'll be able to tell you many of the different opportunities available to students after college.

Stats source: The Daily Beast and The Princeton Review

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