“What’s your major?”
Ah, the inquiry that no college student can avoid; this question breaks more ice than the busiest ships in the Arctic.
At The University of Iowa, students often answer with one of these three words: business, engineering, or psychology. Truth is, there are more than 100 unique answers, according to a comprehensive report issued by the registrar’s office. The report, compiled each spring and fall, offers an inside look at the UI student profile.
The major leagues
Some students have yet to find a calling, and declare an open major. Such a student would have some 1,500 peers—only pre-business students can claim a larger population.
While students may cite “business” and “engineering” more often as their chosen field of study, those programs offer majors in multiple disciplines. Technically speaking, psychology is the most popular degree-granting major. The University of Iowa had 1,148 undergraduate students majoring in psychology during the fall 2005 semester.
English and communication studies occupy the next two slots in the University’s top majors, followed by biology (a popular major for pre-med students, according to Lola Lopes, associate provost for undergraduate education) and political science. Art, nursing, elementary education, finance (the most popular of the six business majors), and history round out the top 10. See graph of most popular majors.
Conventional wisdom says that few students will go on to be psychologists, so why do so many UI students gravitate toward psychology?
Lopes—who, by the way, holds a PhD in psychology—calls it an “excellent general liberal arts and sciences major” because it touches all the bases of academe.
“Psychology graduates are able to apply for many jobs,” Lopes says, citing human services and data-related fields as some examples. “For companies that hire liberal arts and sciences grads, psych majors are great, because these employers know the graduates have a little bit of this, a little bit of that in their educational background.”
Although not a major, there’s no business like pre-business. More than 2,000 undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were in the pre-business program for the fall 2005 semester—2,085, to be exact. This group will soon follow the 1,514 undergraduates in the Tippie College of Business last fall who were exploring majors such as accounting, economics, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing.
Undergraduate students in the College of Engineering also are a large group (1,200). Of the six engineering majors, biomedical engineering touts the most overall students (271); of those, more than 35 percent are women and more than 15 percent are minority students. See table of the 10 most popular undergraduate majors.
Women’s (and men’s) studies
Yes, the registrar’s report also breaks down majors by gender. Iowa women are flocking to psychology, communication studies, nursing, elementary education, and art. Of the 1,148 psych majors, 818 are women, the largest group of women among the majors.
Although not as large in size, majors such as dance and speech and hearing science attract mostly female students—women make up 97 percent and 92 percent of those fields, respectively. Pre-business appeals to a substantial number of women (718), although they make up only 34 percent of all pre-business students.
So that means there are more than 1,300 men working under the declaration of pre-business, easily the leading classification among male students. The College of Engineering had 965 men among its majors; 195 of the 203 electrical engineering majors are male. Computer science, cinema, finance, and history also yield a high percentage of guys among their ranks.
Many popular majors find a gender balance. English, political science, biology, and marketing have similar numbers of men and women. The open major also finds equal interest from both sexes.
The bottom line
Regardless of the major your student is pursuing, the offerings at The University of Iowa translate well for the job market.
Pat Folsom, director of the University’s Academic Advising Center, says many employers aren’t necessarily looking for specific majors. “They look for transferable skills developed through liberal arts education,” she says.
“What’s important about basic liberal arts and sciences majors is that the students gain very strong communication skills,” Folsom says. “They are able to write topresent a point, they can analyze both data and words. These majors are the kinds that build multiple skills.”
For everything you ever wanted to know about the student profile, see http://www.registrar.uiowa.edu/profiles/2005-063profile.pdf
by Christopher Clair