A recent surge in the number of University of Wisconsin students pursuing multiple majors has raised questions among university officials regarding the effectiveness of such actions.
UW students can currently major in an unlimited number of majors, provided they can complete the required courses.
While double majoring has been a common occurrence, the number of students majoring in two to five subjects has risen from 27.7 percent in 2002 to 32.7 percent in 2008.
“If you’re really interested in two very different kinds of subjects, then it’s fine to double major,” said Christopher Lee, assistant dean of student affairs. “But in my opinion, if you’re already a zoology major double majoring in another bio-related class, its probably not going to do much for you.”
Lee also noted students should realize double majoring is not required to be a competitive candidate in the job market.
“There are certainly credentials, like being fluent in Spanish, that can help you, but don’t think it’s the multiplicity of majors,” Lee said. “I can’t imagine an application process where they have two very similar candidates and chose the guy with two majors. Employers choose whom they would rather work with.”
Lee also urged students to take classes they are genuinely interested in. If students are in fact interested in multiple subjects, Lee said he commends them on their double major.
Several decades ago, UW did limit students to a maximum of two majors. As the number of students double majoring climbs, the administration is faced with the possibility of implementing that policy again.
Although Lee said he has considered whether the university should limit the number of majors allowed per person, he has yet to take a stance.
“My opinion on whether or not UW should limit the amount of majors a student can have or make it harder to graduate in certain majors is really not fully formed, but I would hate to see somebody not pursue their interests because we’ve ruled against it,” Lee said.
Gary Sandefur, UW dean of letters and science, said little evidence has shown double majoring in anything other than a foreign language gives students an edge in the job market.
Sandefur added pursuing multiple majors also keeps students in school for longer and causes students to spend more money. It is costly for schools as well.
Sandefur said while he and the university are unsure whether the university should set a limit on the number of majors a student is allowed to pursue, making degrees more difficult and demanding is not the answer.
“I certainly don’t want it to be harder to graduate in a major,” Sandefur said. “What I want is for people to be able to major in the field they want to major in, in a timely manner. That’s our ultimate goal. It’s a matter of whether having a second, third, fourth degree is good for the student or whether it might impede their education.”