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UCLA lacks majors that provide useful, real-life preparation for students’ careers

Students in social sciences with a dream career already in mind are disadvantaged by UCLA’s broad majors, which fail to provide them necessary skills for their desired jobs. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

By Navdeep Bal

Sept. 26, 2019 11:23 p.m.

Choosing a major is hard.

What’s even harder is graduating with a major that actually prepares you for a job.

And at UCLA, that decision is even more daunting. The university offers more than a hundred possibilities, yet very few are focused on career paths – especially for social science majors. The lack of career-oriented majors leaves certain students without a clear direction of what they want to pursue post-graduation and unprepared for the career that they do choose.

Yes, your family always said your political science major was useless – but you didn’t think your university would prove them right.

For such a large public institution connected so strongly to the California economy, UCLA would be wise to encourage more career-oriented learning that focuses on specific skillsets – as opposed to esoteric majors focused on the conceptual. In doing so, they would provide direct lines to job options, something that would be especially helpful for the UC’s large low-income and first-generation populations. Doing so would provide students with extraordinary resources specific to their intended career paths and would improve networking, financial opportunities and professor guidance.

Students choose to attend UCLA for access to resources they could not receive anywhere else, and it’s UCLA’s job to make sure those resources are accessible for students taking on debt with a career already in mind.

This process could be streamlined by expanding the list to offer common majors such as journalism, criminal justice, business, legal studies, accounting, finance and many similar programs. And it wouldn’t be a big step away from what other colleges have already done.

Executive Director of Communications Melissa Abraham said the faculty and Academic Senate consider multiple factors in creating a new major.

“The administration plays a role in terms of assessing the resources needed for a new major and in determining if sufficient resources exist to launch it,” Abraham said.

Yes, the process to create them might be arduous – but these career-oriented majors are worth the effort.

UCLA should likewise recognize that it would be extremely beneficial to prepare students with real-world experience and applicable lessons to succeed in their field. Majors geared toward professional careers would also allow students to integrate hands-on experience into academic material, dispelling the need to scatter their schedules with unpaid internships and possibly avoiding further debt as a result.

Kira Hum, a second-year business economics student, believes a purely business major would be beneficial, as it would go further than theoretical concepts.

“It’s very limiting,” Hum said. “Especially because most of the classes are catered towards accounting in business, not really management or finance.”

The nuanced concepts that students seek out are mostly unavailable in classes for the more general majors, such as economics. Some students want more than just a broad overview of topics to regurgitate on the final – they want to know how to flourish in their dream job.

And hands-on practice is the only way to prepare them for that.

Specialized majors such as business, finance and accounting can prepare students in a way that their theoretical counterparts – like economics – cannot.

Similarly, a major in communication does not provide the same on-site expertise as a major in journalism.

Communication lecturer Jim Newton said that a class specifically for journalism would delve further into the day-to-day questions regarding the more mechanical side of journalism, teaching actionable tasks like checking sources.

“The course emphasizes some of the values and ideas of journalism that benefit society generally – things like critical thinking, holding people in positions of public trust accountable for their actions, ways of discerning what is true and what isn’t true, ways of bringing truth to the attention of the public,” Newton said of his current communication class.

Communication is a major that deals with these big ideas – but combining them with the concrete realities of a daily newsroom would be beneficial to those who want to pursue a career in journalism.

This hands-on approach would be incredibly helpful to students who know what they want to do – whether it be working for a magazine, being an attorney or creating their own startup.

If students are at UCLA knowing what they want to get out of it, they shouldn’t need to waste time getting the experience they need.

Many STEM majors are geared toward specific professional careers, whether that be medicine, nursing or engineering. It’s understandable that such majors lend themselves to hands-on approaches to learning, but social science majors should be afforded that same kind of opportunity.

Providing these majors would also make UCLA a more attractive option to prospective students, especially those who are set on these specific majors.

Some might argue that clubs and organizations such as student media or pre-professional fraternities work as a replacement for career-based majors and provide enough meaningful experience for interested students. But the extreme popularity of these groups only further proves these majors would be well-received among undergraduate students. These learned skills shouldn’t be exclusive to student clubs and organizations that constantly struggle for funding and resources, and the demand will never be met by just a handful of exclusive groups.

UCLA’s current majors provide flexibility, but that in turn can leave students with a sense of uncertainty post-graduation. And while some students can afford to explore that flexibility, others need the promise of a streamlined eduction to ensure their career options right out of the academic gate.

UCLA’s campus is already hard enough to navigate.

Choosing a major doesn’t need to be.

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Navdeep Bal
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