by Justine Wagner
Deciding on a college major can be stressful. Maybe you want to study business to eventually run your own company, but you also really love to act. Maybe the thought of studying abroad and learning French is also intriguing. However, you begin to realize that in order to study these things, it’s going to take a whole lot more time (and a whole lot more money ) to do so, than if you just picked one program and stuck to it. So is there a way for me to study everything I actually want to study? As it turns out, a degree program exists here at UCF that allows you to do just that.
When I was a sophomore at UCF, I realized that I had too many interests to narrow down to a single pathway. After changing my major several times, I finally came across the interdisciplinary studies major while reading through the UCF catalog. I realized that I would be able to take classes from multiple disciplines that interested me, without actually having to take on a second degree. Although students studying subjects such as business or nursing may have a fairly easy time discussing their major and career path to anyone who inquires, my answer to the “what’s your major” question is often followed by confused stares and plenty of follow up questions such as:
- What does interdisciplinary studies even mean?
- What are employers going to think when they see your major?
- What can you even do with that type of degree?
While it may be frustrating to explain exactly what the major entails, it is easy to see just how valuable this degree is in today’s world.
According to dictionary.com, interdisciplinary means “combining or involving two or more academic disciplines or fields of study.” The Interdisciplinary Studies program at UCF allows students to select two different areas of the thirteen areas of study, some of which include: Arts, Behavioral/Social Sciences, Commerce, Computational Sciences, Education, Engineering, Life/Biomedical Sciences, and Modern Languages/Letters. In addition, the program requires that students also pursue a minor from the program: either World Comparative Studies, Leadership Studies, or Environmental Studies. You can choose any two of the thirteen areas combined with either one of the three minor options to create a program that caters to your specific interests and goals.
If you are looking to pursue another program in addition to the Interdisciplinary Studies program, such as a certificate program at UCF, it is certainly possible to complete without delaying graduation. As a student who is focusing on the Behavioral/Social Sciences and Modern Languages/Letters paired with the World Comparative Studies minor, I have found that some of the courses within these areas of study can overlap with certificate programs that could supplement your degree. For example, the Modern Languages area of study contains several classes that are also a part of the Undergraduate Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate. So, if planned carefully, it is possible to obtain a certificate with only having to take a couple extra classes. However, it is important to note that there are many restrictions on overlapping courses within the major and minor programs depending on the specific programs.
If obtaining a certificate or a second minor doesn’t appeal to you, the flexibility that an Interdisciplinary Studies degree provides will still allow you to take a variety of elective courses that may or may not relate to your areas of study. Thinking about graduate school and want to take a few courses in a discipline you have never considered before? Do you want to study abroad while staying on track to graduate in four years? Taking on this program will certainly allow you to explore many options and pursue unique opportunities, without adding years (and money) to your degree.
What will potential employers think?
Despite not holding a degree that focuses on a single, disciplinary subject, graduates hold skills that are essential to any workplace. The study of multiple disciplines will be advantageous as you move into the workplace. Interdisciplinarians are able to offer a unique approach to problem solving; they are often able to see a problem from multiple perspectives. In a workplace where most of the employees hold similar degrees, an interdisciplinary degree may be exactly what employers are beginning to look for. As it turns out, critical thinking is one of the top skills employers are searching for in candidates. Being able to analyze and evaluate a problem before reaching a solution is a skill that is learned as a result of studying several disciplines, and it is a skill that is transferable to any career path.
Although you may be able to see the value of an interdisciplinary studies degree, it may be difficult to see where exactly an interdisciplinary studies degree could take you. Before deciding to pursue the program, it may be beneficial to speak with an advisor to see how your degree could be designed to fit your needs. Students of the program may also turn to Career Services for resume advice, or with assistance in finding opportunities that could help apply their knowledge to a real work environment. In addition to the resources of UCF, there are also specific courses in the program, such as IDS 3933 (Cornerstone) and IDS 4934 (Capstone) that are designed to help you uncover the opportunities that may suit you.
As an Interdisciplinary Studies student, I receive semester newsletters that highlight alumni of the program and describes where their degree has taken them. As it turns out, graduates of the Interdisciplinary Studies program have pursued a variety of different paths with their degree. Some of the titles that graduates of the program hold include: UCF graduate student, medical student, multimedia assistant, and director of sustainability.
What can you do with an interdisciplinary studies degree?
You can do anything!
So take those business, acting, and french classes. Study abroad. Intern with your favorite company. The flexibility that an interdisciplinary studies degree offers will surely allow you to do all of these things and more. You will learn the skills essential to any workplace; but it’s possible that along the way you may discover a passion that you never knew you had.
If you are interested in the Interdisciplinary Studies program at UCF and want to learn more, you can find more information on its website or by visiting the advising office, located in Suite 239 in Trevor Colbourn Hall.