Contining education 101

Nontraditional and alternative degree programs, primarily aimed at adults, have been doing this for years: allowing students to create their own majors.  For example, back when I was an advisor, I worked with a student who wanted to open a photography shop.  She combined photography courses with business courses and created her own interdisciplinary program as she completed her Bachelor of General Studies.

I've argued elsewhere that higher education is just now catching up to continuing higher education.

Can't Pick a College Major? Create One
Megan Kolb was so passionate about music, theater, dance and the production of stage shows that when the time came to choose a major in college, she couldn't decide which to pursue.

So she combined them all and made up her own major: performing arts management. Ms. Kolb, the only student with that degree when she graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst last year, has already landed a job as a project manager for a New York City production company. "How great is it to be able to say, 'I created a major that I love and care about, and then to pursue a career in it?' " the 23-year-old says.

A growing number of colleges and universities are offering "create your own major" programs, custom degree plans in diverse subjects such as underwater archaeology, magic and peace and conflict resolution. Sue Shellenbarger explains.

More than 900 four-year colleges and universities allow students to develop their own programs of study with an adviser's help, up 5.1% from five years ago, based on data from the College Board, a New York-based nonprofit organization of colleges and universities.


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