Students opt to enhance degrees

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With a growing competitive job market, students are under a lot of pressure to stand out when they graduate from university.

According to Marilyn Watson, functional analyst for the enrolment services project team at Wilfrid Laurier University, a solution to setting yourself apart in the job hunt could be by getting a more comprehensive education in the way of double degrees or double majors.

“This has been going on for as long as I can remember, but the employment situation has cycles and this just happens to be one where it’s a tough job to find something out there,” she explained.

Double degrees involve the pursuit of two separate honours degrees at the same time and can take students up to five or six years to complete.

These double degrees combine an honours in business administration with some other honours degree in the faculty of science or from the University of Waterloo.

A combined major only takes the typical four years, but can be two majors within the faculty of arts or faculty of science with lessened requirements for both.

According to Watson, between 30 to 40 per cent of students at Laurier’s Waterloo campus have a combined major, while up to 50 or 60 per cent of students at Laurier’s Brantford campus pursue two majors or a combined degree with minors and options.

However only a small percentage of students — possibly only 20, according to Watson — will graduate from one of the five double degree options Laurier offers.

“The double degree students, they can write their ticket [to the workforce],” Watson said.

Watson said the office of the registrar encourages students to add to their degree.

The university also offers around 25 options, which are a series of credits that create a specialization, such as a management option or a legal studies option.

“Laurier is one of the most flexible universities as far as combined majors, options, minors — everything. We have so many combinations, it would make your head spin,” Watson said.

Ruth MacNeil, acting university registrar, explained that adding an extra major, minor or an option can help tailor students’ education to what they’re passionate about and interested in.

“They would definitely be a benefit because they broaden a student’s appeal to an employer, or if you’re looking to go into grad school after, they have that second subject area [that] makes a huge difference in terms of their success at a graduate level,” she said.

According to MacNeil, these types of double majors, double degrees, options and minors make the student more attractive to employers.

However the workload does increase and the requirements are quite high.

“There’s going to be more stress on students if they’re planning on doing a double major or one of the double degrees because there is more planning involved — more papers, more exams, more midterms. That kind of thing. So that does come into play.”

Henry Goddard is a fifth-year honours business administration and honours computing and computer electronics with co-op student at Laurier.

After debating between business and computer science, he stumbled across Laurier’s options for a double degree.

While his two degrees have helped him solidify his skills in both programming and marketing, Goddard explained it has not been without its challenges.

“Early on I’d say it’s a lot harder,” he said.

“I had a six-course semester in second year — that was just tough. There was a lot to do, and there are no electives you can just sit back and relax in. The challenges are early on when you’re packing in the heavy semesters.”

By being part of the double degree community — one in which he will be the only student graduating in his year with his particular combination — Goddard said it helps him in the hunt for finding a job in the workplace.

“My degree is computer electronics … it’s gotten me into a lot of programming and I’m going to be trying to do some marketing sales. And digital marketing relies quite a bit on programming now. If you can pick that up and then be able to leverage both sides, it’s an asset.”

While comprehensive, compact degrees can be beneficial to students, MacNeil advised students not to overkill their degree. She recommended students to possibly look into one or two majors, or a major with a minor or option. If it becomes too much, there are always options to downgrade.

She also advised students that are pursuing double degrees, double majors, minors or options to keep in communication with academic advisors.

“[Students] may have an understanding of what the academic requirements are, but to sit down with an academic advisor and map it out is a key component of this whole process.

“So when you go to graduate, [you didn’t] miss a credit. And keep in contact with that academic advisor,” she said.

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