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8 Offbeat College Majors

8 Offbeat College Majors

Allison Ford | Divine Caroline

June 07, 2010

Whatever happened to plain ol’ communications? When I was a new college freshman back in the olden days of 1998, I regarded my roommate’s math major as highly unusual.

I was flabbergasted not only by the fact that a person could actually major in mathematics, but also that anyone would choose to do so in the first place. Most people I knew were majoring in English, education, or political science, so it was not every day that I met someone with an unusual concentration.

Perhaps the myopia that I developed by attending an urban East Coast university is to blame, but over the years I’ve always been surprised to learn about the offbeat programs that other colleges around the country are offering these days. Picking a college major is a decision that influences the rest of a person’s life, but current university catalogs list classes in hotel and restaurant management, meteorology, and even yoga. Of the many odd and exotic-sounding curricula out there, some of the weirder options just might train students for the jobs of the future, but others are nothing but educational and professional dead ends.

The Useful

Turfgrass Science
It’s not just about choosing which fertilizer to put on your backyard; turfgrass management involves learning how to properly maintain and manage all types of outdoor grass areas—athletic fields and facilities, golf courses, and, yes, home lawns. Turfgrass specialists perform water and soil testing, guard against erosion, eradicate undesirable pests, and oversee all aspects of preventing botanical diseases spread in the grass. Being a groundskeeper at a golf course or university can be a lucrative position for someone who likes the outdoors and working with her hands. The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Turfgrass Science offers the oldest turf-maintenance program in the country; in addition to courses like Soils 101, students take classes in biology and chemistry.

Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies
At colleges like New York’s Colgate University, students combine topics in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy to learn about war and peace across the world. Understanding conflicts and how different nations negotiate and resolve disputes can be an invaluable learning experience for someone whose career plans include working for an international nonprofit or in the diplomacy or international-relations field.

Homeland Security
It’s a true sign of the post-9/11 world that students can now major in thwarting terrorism. Students in Homeland Security programs like the one offered at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University don’t just learn the finer points of searching luggage. Coursework includes learning about legal precedents in cases of terrorism, intelligence gathering, managing disaster zones and formulating disaster plans, and studying the psychological profiles of terrorists and suicide bombers. Graduates usually aspire to management positions within the Department of Homeland Security, but some also work in the private sector at consulting or security firms.

If your goal is to work in just about any “green” job, a bachelor’s degree in sustainability is a great first step. At Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, students study the interaction of social, economic, and physical systems and learn how to reevaluate humans’ relationship with nature and our resources. Sustainability majors go on to design green buildings, build innovative packaging systems, and work in green marketing, and can find jobs in many environmentally based industries and nonprofits.

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