Smith: College curriculum creates employability

Smith argues that a recent study overlooked how majors imbue students with important skills.

Jessica Smith

Jessica SmithEveryone, quick, stop what you’re doing, drop your heavy textbooks and withdraw from your core classes. Majors don’t matter anymore.

Or at least that’s what a study conducted earlier this year suggests.

Unfortunately, nobody told that to Temple. You can’t graduate or earn a degree in university studies, and the department itself laments on its website that, “While we love having you as our student, at some point you will need to leap from the University Studies nest and soar to your next destination.” But a recent online survey of employers by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that majors are pretty inconsequential when seeking potential candidates for jobs.

The survey, conducted in January by Hart Research Associates, polled 318 employers that have 25 employees or more in their organization with at least a quarter of them holding either an associate degree from a two-year college or a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college. These employers – including owners, CEOs and presidents – answered questions about their preferences in potential employees and the priorities that college students should emphasize on résumés and in job interviews.

Ninety-three percent of the employers agreed that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.”

Also, more than 75 percent of employers said they want colleges to give more guidance on helping students develop “critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.”

Basically, the people in charge of hiring recent graduates are saying that they couldn’t care less about majors. All you need is an education and some skills.

If that’s true, why are universities so adamant about declaring majors?

Well, let’s look at Temple’s educational system in particular. With every major, there are core requirements. Some have tracts you can sign up for, and others have enough elective freedom to allow customized specialties. The classes that fall under these categories are only applicable to major-related occupations.

That’s when you factor in all the general education courses. Every single Temple student needs two Mosaic courses to graduate, which combine analytical reading with in-depth discussion. As annoying and unconventional as it might be, it gives much-needed exposure to a more culturally rich area of education.

Also, it’s not just encouraged but academically required to take a variety of classes that aren’t major-specific. Gen-eds make up a considerable amount of the portion needed to graduate with a bachelor’s. No matter what you’re studying, you still need to explore science, humanities and arts-oriented courses.

In all, Temple is pretty much guaranteeing you’ll experience a very broad spectrum of classes, regardless of the major printed on your diploma.

There goes the mark for “well-rounded” on the employers’ checklist. That’s essentially the wide-range knowledge they’re seeking, as revealed by the survey. It’s not about titles or a certain focus, just as long as job applicants come prepared with a large skill set.

So with all the regions of study, why even bother having a major? Why is the system designed in such a way?

Well – quite simply – college prepares us for what we actually want to do, with the assumption that we probably don’t know what that is yet. Other courses aren’t just offered to broaden horizons, but to present us with the possibility that we might change our minds.

It’s a foolproof way to ensure that we get to focus on what makes us happy, but have a backup plan in case that plan switches or fails.

“While [employers] may prioritize key skills over a job candidate’s field of study,” the survey reads, “the majority of employers agree that having BOTH field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success.”

We can’t say where we’ll end up in five to 10 years, but we have some ideas formulating of where we want to be. The path to earning a degree is crafted by experiences and forays into different schools of thought and majors are the stepping stone. We can’t reach our destination without that first step.

As the Hart Research Associates discovered, majors don’t signify much by their title, but the well-rounded education they represent does.

So while employers may not give them too much thought, it’s pretty clear that majors aren’t a minor thing in our lives.

Jessica Smith can be reached at 

1 Comment

  1. Yes I agree that Temple does have a lot of Gen-Ed courses, but I feel that it does make the student well rounded, and if they should change their major along the way, they may have some knowledge of that field. I also agree that is it good to have a back up plan in case things don’t go well, because in today’s market, the more knowledge one has, the more marketable they are in the work place. Overall, the list of classes offered at Temple seems to introduce the student to a broad range of courses to enlighten them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.