Aggies personalize education with career-specific options
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07
Students have taken to mixing up their major with special certificate distinctions offered within their colleges. By adding one or more of these certificate programs, students are differentiating their degree and putting more structure into their academic course plan.
A&M’s 39,000 undergraduate students have a selection of more than 150 majors, 70 minors and a growing number of certificates.
“Sometimes I think students think they can only do their degree, but college is here for us. It is up to us to make the most of our time here,” said senior business management major Meredith Harper. “There are so many cool degrees, minors, certificates, programs, etcetera that are hidden.”
Advisers at A&M have increased promotion of their college’s certificate programs. Mays Business School and the Departments of Political Science and Recreation Parks and Tourism Sciences offer a variety of options.
“A certificate demonstrates that a student has taken a concentrated set of courses and enrichment experiences in a specific area,” said Janet Parish, clinical associate professor and assistant department head of the marketing department at Mays Business School. “This can help a student gain a more complete understanding of the industry or job type they are headed toward.”
Harper designed her path of study to maximize her career preparation.
“My degree plan is an undergraduate degree in business management, a minor in horticulture, emphasis in floral design, and a certificate of entrepreneurial leadership,” Harper said. “The reason I am doing this is to be able to have the chance to gain all of the skills in college I want/need for my future job.”
Harper said she wants to own her own event planning company. To understand business operations she selected the business degree; to learn how to start a company, the certificate; and to better develop her design and execution skills she added the horticulture minor.
Parish said students should take the initiative to seek out interesting programs and courses and work with their advisors to fit them into their degree plan.
“The programs that are recommended depend upon a students’ interests and career plans,” Parish said. “[For example,] we recommend a certificate in international business for students that are interested in global marketing.”
Junior business management major Brady Wilson decided to go on his study abroad program partially because it helped him fulfill requirements for a certificate.
“My adviser … realized I had a lot of electives that would credit as international electives and so she recommended that I pursue this certificate,” Wilson said. “I’m not exactly sure if international business lies in my future, but having this certificate will open up my future options to work overseas by expanding my résumé.”
Parish also said certificates are good preparatory tools for post-graduate studies.
“If an undergraduate student plans to apply to graduate school, a certificate might be helpful if it gives the student exposure to more coursework in their graduate area of interest,” Parish said.
Senior political science major Mokhtar Awad said students should be sure that certificate programs apply to a career path.
“Getting a certificate in international relations makes my [degree] worth more, but you have to be doing something specific,” Awad said. “That way, even your electives go toward something.”
Awad said the certificate program helped him make sense of his degree track and major.
Some students, though, don’t focus on just one major — their degree is a mix of multiple courses of study in a combination of concentrations and minors.
Vince Hernandez, senior academic advisor in the Department of Political Science, said he believes certificate and degree programs to be a personal choice and unique to each student as a way of making them more marketable in the job search.
“We are going to start presenting [certificate options] at the new student conferences,” Hernandez said. “They aren’t going to grow if we don’t get the word out. If we can tell freshmen about this now, how can they not want to consider it?”