Completing more than one college major may help you impress potential employers someday. But if you think that multiple majors will guarantee you’ll snag an entry-level job, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
How many majors you have "isn’t so important that it would fundamentally sway an employer’s decision about you," says Brad Karsh, president of Chicago-based JobBound and a college recruiter for 15 years at advertising giant Leo Burnett.
That might come as news to many of today’s college students (and their parents), given how many of them are pursuing two, three, four or sometimes even five majors. At the University of California-Davis, for example, the number of students with at least two majors rose 50 percent between 1998 and 2003, according to an October 2003 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Similar increases are happening at schools across the U.S., and a few campuses are considering policies to prevent students from signing up for more than two majors.
So before you invest the extra time, energy and money in a second or third major, think carefully about how much you’ll get in return — and what you might lose.
Multiple-Major Pros and Cons
If an employer looks at your résumé and sees you’ve completed more than one major, his initial reaction likely will be positive, or at least not negative, says Karsh.
There are definite pluses to taking the multiple-majors path. "Generally speaking, it shows that you’re academically oriented, committed and dedicated to at least a couple of different areas, and that you’ve probably taken a rigorous academic course load," he says.
But there are possible downsides too, particularly if the majors you choose don’t seem to be related to each other, says Bobbie Carter, a recruiter for Career Professionals Inc., a suburban Minneapolis firm that helps recent college grads find entry-level jobs. Some companies might view you as unfocused or undecided as to what you want to do, she notes.
Karsh agrees. "If I’m looking to hire someone — a finance and advertising double-major, let’s say — part of me thinks ‘do they really want to do advertising, or do they really want to do finance?’" he says. "I’d wonder where their heart is, if you will."
Triple majoring might raise even more questions, Karsh says, while quadruple majoring, not unheard of these days, is simply "preposterous." "I’d see that person as someone who is really just crazy-obsessed with school," he adds.
Of course, different employers will have their own opinions of multiple majors. Some may be genuinely dazzled by your efforts. Others might wonder about your sanity. Perhaps the majority will be unmoved one way or the other.
And that’s the real moral of the multiple-majors story, Karsh concludes.
"Overall, the downsides are not so dramatic that I’d worry about it, but the upsides aren’t all that dramatic either," he says. "There’s probably more positive than negative, but it’s not something where you have to feel like ‘unless I’m a quadruple major, I won’t get a job.’ That’s just not the case."
Don’t know what your major should be in the first place? The article "I Have to Pick a Major — Now What?" will help you decide.