General Studies is Generally Okay
If you’re heading off to college in the near future, there are plenty of options for fields of study. But there’s one option that doesn’t get the credit it could deserve—one you might scoff at, never realizing it could be the diamond in the rough you’ve been searching for. That degree is a bachelor’s in general studies. If you have yet to be convinced about the usefulness of this degree, keep reading to find reasons why you should consider it for your academic pursuit.
Choose Your Fields
Just because you don’t choose a specific field as your overall one to study doesn’t mean that you don’t have some kind of interest in mind when you take on a general studies degree. In fact, plenty of schools insist that general studies students select certain areas of concentration to base a significant portion of their degrees on. These can be chosen from specific categories that are listed as options or from a wider array of possibilities that the school permits, but the result remains the same. With a general studies degree, you can still choose areas to concentrate on.
This is different in a number of ways than choosing a field as your major. For one thing, not all general studies degrees will show the areas of concentration on your transcript or diploma, so only by browsing the courses or being told of the focuses will a future employer know that you sufficiently studied any particular area. Beyond this, though, there’s a great quality about the process, and that’s the notion that students can choose more than one field without having to do something as drastic as declare a second major. This is different, as well, than having a major and a minor since areas of concentration can be divided more evenly so that no one field stands out above the other.
Let’s say you want to open a personal training business. With the right school, you could choose to pursue a general studies degree and make a fitness-based field one of your concentrations. With running your own business, though, you would do well to prepare yourself for those elements of the future job as well. Your second area then could be business administration. For a third option, you could add in some kind of nutrition concept so you could help customers with that aspect of fitness as well, or choose something that’s just plain fun to keep you entertained. Overall, this is one of the biggest perks of general studies: being able to prepare for a job where you need multiple skills by learning each of them in one degree.
There’s the chance as well that you have no plans to open your own business or dive into anything under the self-employment umbrella. With that kind of plan, you should concern yourself with how future employers will see your education. Otherwise, you could end up earning a degree that won’t help you get the job you want because someone else has a more fitting degree, one from a stronger school, etc. For some of these jobs, general studies degrees just won’t work because you need something specific. At other times, a bachelor’s degree fits the job description perfectly because there’s no specification about what the degree has to be in. It just needs to have been earned.
If you know beyond a doubt that your future job will operate this way, then you might want to choose a general studies degree just to have more freedom in regard to courses. This is actually beneficial in two ways for this prospect. One, you can take courses from a series of fields to keep you in new subjects, with less chance of growing tired of one field. Two, you can keep that future career in mind and shape your curriculum to best prepare you for that job. Even if the future employer won’t notice that you shaped your curriculum like this, it can help you build the perfect set of skills to best tend to the job you’re going to want. If you’re planning on being a bank teller, for instance, you could take accounting courses, bookkeeping classes, and even communication options to prepare you for multiple elements of the job—all with one degree. As long as the general studies name won’t cost you that career, this could be a great option in this scenario.
Learn What You Want to Do
There’s always the option that you’re going to enter into college without knowing what you want to major in. If so, you’re hardly the first freshman to have this problem! It can take students a while to figure out what they want to major in because they haven’t found the field that snatches their interest just right. If you’re searching for this right option, a general studies program could be perfect for you.
Without a doubt, you can tackle this prospect by going undeclared for a while—until you decide on your major. By then, though, you might have so many credits earned that there’s just no room on a field-based curriculum to use them all. You could end up wasting valuable time and money by taking courses as an undeclared major that you just plain won’t need once you declare a major. Since a general studies degree is so open in regard to how you delegate your credit hours, if you find that it takes you a while to decide what you want to do, this might be the best option to earn that degree in a timely manner. Because you can often choose more than one field of concentration and/or a whole lot of electives for a general studies program, the odds of finding places for your courses drastically heighten. Basically, you get more for your time and effort this way.
It’s also worth noting that a general studies degree can allow you to explore your career options longer within your program. If you major in biology, for instance, at a certain point, much of your curriculum is potentially going to be scientific. With a general studies degree, you have more freedom to keep those options open—potentially throughout your whole program. Because of this detail, you can keep searching for new interests and skills until that degree is in your hands. For uncertainty in this scenario then, you might want to give general studies real consideration.
Prepare for the Unknown
It’s entirely possible that you’ll graduate with your bachelor’s without having a concrete idea of where you want to go next. Again, you’re not the first to experience this if it happens to you! Graduation is a big step, and the job field alone offers so many avenues to pursue that the specific path you want to take isn’t necessarily clear. When you add the possibilities of things like going to graduate school, joining the Peace Corps, enlisting in the military, learning a trade… The truth is that the options can be so numerous that you might not know where to start looking.
Once more, this is where a general studies degree can come in quite handy. While a declared major in accounting or culinary arts might prove incredibly specific and primarily assist you in selected types of jobs, a general studies bachelor’s shows that you had experience in a number of fields. This not only indicates that you are trained in various fields to catch the attention of potential employers, but it also makes sure that you actually have gone through that training beyond just general requirements for a degree. Through that general studies program, you could have invested time to learn to communicate, understand the human mind, keep financial records, research historical documents… Basically, while you’re an expert in no particular field, you have experience in enough to likely give you some kind of preparation for whatever job you land post-graduation.
Leaving school behind can be a scary thing! If you know you’ve prepared in a series of ways to take on life’s challenges and a new job, you might feel a little more comfortable—and function a little more competently—diving into more fields than a set-in-stone major would have allowed.
But Keep in Mind
A general studies degree is not for everyone, and your overall plans should be considered before you declare your major. If you want to work as a pharmacist, for instance, you’d probably fare better by choosing a fitting major. But if you find that you fit the mold for the above-mentioned conditions, don’t overlook a general studies program! It can prepare you for certain jobs in a tailor-made kind of way!