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OUTLINE: This article explores on the subject of elective courses which most students are required to take when they enroll for a college degree. Throughout the article we mention the types of electives, the different subjects they may cover and what is the point of taking electives in college regarding both your professional and personal life.

COLLEGE DEGREE: CORE AND ELECTIVE COURSES

When you start your undergraduate or master degree you are faced with a completely different reality when it comes to the courses that you must take. There are core courses, that are somehow connected to the program and field of study you chose and elective courses, which are optional and allow you to learn more on themes beyond the particular program you are enrolled in but that you find interesting or important for your professional life.

The point of taking electives is that you can actually choose based on your interests or on the basis of what could help you to further acquire knowledge in your field of study and provide you with critical insights for your career. For example, if you’re in a Business program you may want to learn more about organizational behavior or psychology in order to apply for human resources’ related jobs. Having an elective related with your program may allow you to develop critical understanding and background in how to align management with people’s behavior and understand how they feel motivated and so on.

The purpose of the electives is to provide skills that go beyond the core theme of your degree and can allow you to expand on your different interests. Additionally, many people believe that you should still take some electives even if your course does not require them, as they can be very important for your education.

TYPES OF ELECTIVE COURSES

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When you enroll in a bachelor or master degree you are usually faced with different types of electives. Free electives are the ones you will find more flexible as they are usually very different in terms of subjects and many of them are not directly related to any of the courses you are enrolled in.  Free electives are usually seen as an easy class but often times they allow you explore a completely unrelated subject that you would not even talk about in any other course, such as social entrepreneurship, managing luxury brands, political science, and economic history amongst many other options. Secondly, you find area of study electives which are usually much more related with the subject of your program in some way, which just allow you to get additional knowledge beyond the core courses you have to take. Of course depending on the program or college you choose there will be different kinds of electives, but these two are the most common you will find.

BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF TAKING ELECTIVES IN COLLEGE

There are many reasons why you should take elective courses and carefully plan which are the best ones for you.

  1. Taking electives allows you to explore new subjects and areas of study which in turn may help you find out new interests you never knew you had.
  2. Electives that are outside your core program allow you to gain a new perspective on your own degree, complementing on your core subjects and may largely influencing your future career path.
  3. From an academic standpoint, the fact that you took some elective courses may make you more attractive to potential employers because it may help you complement your CV by showing you have a richer educational background and potentially acquired specific knowledge required in that area.
  4. Building on the previous points, electives expand your educational horizons, providing critical insights in various subjects and increasing your thinking and learning skills.
  5. All in all, the fact is that electives help you to build on your strong core values that will help you being more successful in your field.

You can also find drawbacks in taking elective courses. Fortunately though, these are usually largely surpassed by the benefits. Sometimes students that are focused and dedicated on their programs feel like electives that are unrelated with core courses are a waste of time. Yes, at times it might be hard to see the point of taking a free elective. For example, if you are focused on finance why would you want to take an elective on social-network marketing? If nothing else, the fact that you are taking electives beyond your area of expertise helps you to develop new ways of thinking that you can later apply while working on your specific area.

FIELDS OF ELECTIVES AND WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE THEM

Finance: When you are in your 20s you usually don’t think too much about boring things such as investments or retirement, but the fact is that the sooner you start, the better. Finance-related subjects can be an asset for your career, but they can also help you to manage your own money.

Business: taking business-related electives, even when you are not in a business program helps you have a broader CV, which may increase your job prospects. Courses such as management, marketing, strategy, amongst others are especially valuable if you think you’d like to open your own business eventually!

Economics: Several articles have mentioned that including economics-related electives on your CV makes you highly employable. Taking courses such as intro to economics, microeconomics and macroeconomics allows you to learn critical subjects such as supply and demand, inflation and interest rates, and international economic issues, as well as it may also provide you with some economic history which allows you to understand past and present mistakes and theories.

Computers: Another subject that looks great on your CV is anything related with technology and computers. For example, courses in Web design allow you to learn HTML and how to create webpages. Courses that are teaching you how to integrate or understand social media can be useful if you may need to deal with social media marketing. Regardless of your field, knowledge of technology will always be somehow helpful.

International studies: These are particularly relevant if you want to work in a multi-national environment, as you’ll need business skills in a global environment.

Depending on your college or country electives may widely vary. If you have access to other types of electives such as writing or public speaking you should also definitely consider taking them. Writing will be essential no matter what career path you choose. Knowing how to write articles, letter, formal e-mails, invitations and reports is definitely a competence you want to have. Also, public speaking will always be necessary whether at meetings or at presentations of new projects. Lastly, taking a foreign language always looks good on your CV and might be critical if you want to work in an international corporation or one that deals with people from different parts of the world.

SO, SHOULD COLLEGES OFFER MORE OR LESS ELECTIVES?

As most things in life, it depends. Although many people feel like electives might be a waste of time or are too beyond the point to be helpful, the fact is that most students find the offered electives not to be enough to fulfill their interests. Many believe that expanding the selection of electives would benefit students by giving them more opportunities to explore other fields, find new interests and develop themselves beyond their core program.

In this sense, most colleges are still far behind, although some are beginning to adapt to new more creative generations who want to focus their attention on various subjects at the time. Most students are looking for more international electives, computer-related electives and even some related with public speaking, creative writing, arts and music.

Today, more than ever, students look for a richer college experience, with a broader, more diverse list of electives to help them experience multiple types of education which in turn can help in making career decisions. This allows students to explore their interests and become individuals with an open mind and developed creativity.

And even if they are not that relevant for you professional life, having different electives may just end up being fun and enjoy college even more!

AUTHOR: Margarida Morais

“The arrogant engineering student is one who considers all other areas of study or academic programs as inferior to his own and who looks down on others because he considers their programs “useless, easy, dumb, etc.”. Have you ever heard something like this? Do you think people who study social sciences are not as smart as everyone else? Tell us what you think and check out our insightful article by clicking here

 

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