The Chronicle of Higher Education found that of the elite colleges in the United States, 30 to 40 percent of students graduate with multiple degrees. The percentage of Webster University students who graduate with multiple degrees has almost doubled in the past three years.
Webster, compared to other colleges, has a low percentage of students who graduate with more than one major. In Webster’s 2011-2012 graduating class, only 8.6 percent of students earned more than one degree. At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., almost four of every 10 students have double majors.
The number of double majors at Webster is also on the rise. The 8.6 percent of students with more than one degree is an increase from the 6.5 percent in the 2009-2010 class.
Studies by Richard Pitt, assistant sociology professor at Vanderbilt, said current students balance double majors easily. Students are able to graduate with multiple degrees without being in school for extra semesters.
She finds the workload and schedule to be the appropriate amount of time and energy to dedicate to school. Barry started her freshman year as a music education major but switched going into the fall 2012 semester. She still plans to graduate with a minor in music education by spring 2015.
Barry said she gets her focus and drive for school from her mother, Terry Barry. She graduated from Webster in 1977 with degrees in sociology and anthropology, as well as a certificate in art education.
Terry Berry actually believes — opposite of Pitt’s study — double majoring is more difficult than when she was in school. She said the general education requirements currently needed weren’t in place when she attended Webster.
For Katy Barry, the hardships didn’t make a difference. She came into Webster with 41 college credit hours. She, like many U.S. high school students, took advantage of dual-credit and advanced-placement classes in high school.
“I think it’s really important that students take advantage of that (dual-credit classes),” Terry Barry said. “I’m glad that Katy did because it helped out a lot and really relieved a lot of pressure. And I think it really might be a little easier in high school.”
In Missouri, the number of students enrolling in high school advanced-placement classes has almost tripled since 2000. The Missouri Department of Higher Education recorded, currently, more than 17,000 high school students graduate with experience in college courses.
Double majors may lead to jobs
Students with double majors choose to take on more hours of schoolwork and have less free time. Many do this because they think a broader education will lead to a better job.
The Chronicle of Higher Education found more tban 20 percent of all undergraduate degrees awarded in the United States are in business.
Kim Kleinman, assistant director of undergraduate advising at Webster, believes business is always a strong major to have, but using a second major in liberal arts is the better option.
“Liberal arts skills are the ones who will get those jobs that haven’t been created yet,” Kleinman said. “I’m in favor of developing a broad toolkit of skills and have practical experiences that make you ready for the next phases of your life.”
When she chose her degree in education, Katy Barry said she had some concerns. She said she knew it could be difficult to find a teaching job. Barry thought a double major would look good on a resume.
“I looked back at the teachers I have had and many of them have an extra degree in accounting or English, and those are the ones who still have their jobs,” Katy Barry said.
Terry Barry didn’t share the same idea about double majors when she was at Webster.
“I felt more like I was there to learn for my own benefit and to please me, and not so much to conquer the world in the job market,” Terry Barry said. “It’s all about career and I think it’s kind of sad.”
Kleinman also said he sees the advantage of double majors in the job market, but wouldn’t advise students to double major solely for that reason.
“If I get a sense that the double major is getting in the way of the self-exploration, then I would point in the direction of certificates and minors,” Kleinman said. “A major is required, a double major isn’t.”