These five bachelor’s programs had the fewest total graduates since 2005:
Distributed studies: 37
Russian studies: 54
Asian studies: 57
Engineering physics: 63
Source: University of Colorado Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis
It is not grades, extracurricular activities or research experience that will set University of Colorado junior Sarah McCullar apart from other applicants when she begins her job hunt in the coming months. It’s her degree.
McCullar is double majoring in political science and women’s studies but said she is getting the most out of her experience studying gender issues.
“Fields like education and business are great degrees to have, but my women’s studies degree will definitely make me stand out with my resume,” McCullar said.
While McCullar may be one of few with her unique degree, there are thousands of other students at CU in the same position, hoping a non-traditional program will help them stand out.
The women’s studies program has graduated just above 100 students in the past five years, but is far from the smallest major offered at CU.
The smaller size of the program can be beneficial for students, McCullar said, by providing more individualized help and personal support to undergrads.
Other majors — including geology, religious studies, and distributed studies — have had far fewer bachelor’s degree graduates since 2005 than more popular programs like business administration or psychology. Business administration is the most popular, with 4,232 grads since 2005.
One of the smaller majors, religious studies, awarded 81 bachelor’s degrees in the same time period.
Greg Johnson, associate professor and chair for the religious studies department, said smaller enrollment can be beneficial for both the students and department by allowing for a tighter focus on content.
“We have high standards and that’s well-known around campus,” Johnson said. “I think the main reason, historically, the department is small is because we are focused on quality over quantity.”
Some students said it’s not the size of the program that turns them away, but the relevance to life after college.
CU accounting junior Andrew Birney said he feels that while degrees like women’s studies will stand out, they will also be less relevant in the job market.
“Wouldn’t you say studying how cloud formations can look like different foods is specific and unique,” Birney said. “That doesn’t mean you can get a job because you know something different.”
While some students like Birney have chosen to stick with more typical majors to ensure job security, others believe that a less-common degree is still the safer route.
CU junior Ashley Basta is in the humanities program with a double emphasis in the INVST leadership program and creative writing.
“Part of being in a popular major is graduating as one of many in your class,” Basta said. “I think students who truly invested themselves in their learning experience will stand out to employers.”
Graduate school, teaching and research are some of the more traditional choices of students in more specific programs, Johnson said, though the overall skill sets learned open the doors for endless possibilities.
After changing majors five times, Basta finally settled on the humanities degree, which allowed her to follow two separate but complimentary paths. Creating your own curriculum is a great way for students to combine more than one topic that interests them if they can’t decide on just one, Basta said.
“Very few (students) are in my exact curriculum because part of the humanities major is that you build your own degree,” Basta said.
With a fluctuating economy and numerous variables that determine why and how one gets a job, McCullar said she is less worried about what her degree will do after graduation and more concerned with following her heart.
Her advise for choosing the right major: “There are no guarantees after college so you might as well do what you love instead of what you think you should do.”