Stretching Yourself with a Double Major

By: Rachel

Last semester I separately touched on why you might want to consider a degree in Organizational Management or Writing Studies, but I never talked about why I decided to study both. Here’s a bit of my story and a few tips I have for those of you thinking about or are working towards multiple majors.

I have always had a passion for writing, and taking composition classes in high school made it clear to me this was something I really loved learning about. However, I wasn’t sure writing was a career I wanted to go into. Writing books didn’t really appeal to me, and I knew enough about myself to know I wanted a more predictable occupation.

Image: field of flowers with a single orange poppy flower bloomed. 
Text: Stretching yourself with a double degree.

As I talked to people, a field that kept coming up was grant writing. Oftentimes school districts, non-profits, or even larger corporations will hire grant writers, and I heard there was quite a demand for them. This is more of the structured, professional area of writing that appeals to me.  

I realized grant writing rarely makes up 100% of a person’s job duties — it’s often tied in with other tasks — so I figured it would be wise to gain some additional knowledge in another area. For me this area was business; it was a field I developed an interest in while I was in high school, and I knew the kind of role I would likely find myself in would involve aspects of business administration, human resources, or management. In short, I realized the kind of writing I really want to do is for a business, so rather than specialize in one or the other, I decided to pursue an education in both.  

What I hope you’ll glean from my story is that you hold the power when it comes to your education. Double majoring in two very different fields has allowed me to customize my education in a way no single program ever could. Yes, it has certainly brought challenges, and I’ve realized how critical it is to be your own advocate, but in the end, you are the one who has to take your education to the workplace. Do yourself a favor and make sure it’s one that will help you get where you want to go in life.

If you’re considering doubling up on majors, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way and tips I’ll pass on to you:

  • Prepare to be stretched. Taking on another degree means an additional course load, which obviously presents challenges. If your majors are in very different disciplines (like mine are), it can feel like your brain is being stretched in too many different directions. This isn’t always easy, but it’s important to remember that growth only comes through being stretched. The ability to think in different ways is a skill you will use no matter where you find yourself.
  • Stay organized. The last thing you want to hear is that you aren’t able to graduate because you forgot to fill out some form. Another major means more things to keep track of, especially if you are enrolled in two different schools. Know what the requirements are, and work with advisors to plan out how your programs can work together.
  • Be patient. Along with staying organized, I can bet you’ll run into more than a few snags. I know I have! You might be assigned two different advisors, you might have to run from one department to the other since no one specializes in both your majors together, you might spend weeks trying to submit the correct paperwork to declare your second major, and it might feel like you’re all alone trying to figure this out. To a certain extent, you are. There might not be anyone else trying to do what you are. But, there are people who can help, and with a little patience, things will fall into place. Stay grounded in why you’re doing what you are, and don’t allow little inconveniences to prevent you from building the education you’re really after.

Best, Rachel

Of Possible Interest:
Double Majoring, The Pros & Cons
My Path to a Double Degree
Choosing a Major – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Rachel’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Raquel Raclette

What to do with a Writing Studies Degree?

By: Rachel (a Writing Studies major!)

What does the Writing Studies program entail? 
Within CLA, UMD offers a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Studies. There is also an option to minor in this program, which is called Professional Writing. While these titles are pretty self-explanatory, you might be wondering what the program actually entails.

To start, every Writing Studies student is required to take four core classes. Aside from this, you must take an Advanced Writing class and capstone course to be completed during your last semester. Other than that, you take 15 credits of writing electives and 6 credits in communication, English, management information systems, journalism, linguistics, or theater. This allows you to customize your education to your interests and career goals. Some of the electives I’ve taken so far incorporate aspects of graphic design as well as web design and software skills which are highly attractive in today’s job market. I’ve also taken more traditional literature classes that prioritize reading and analyzing writers’ works.

Looking down on a pencils in a pencil cup on desk. Text: What to do with a writing studies degree?

How can I use a Writing Studies degree?
You might be surprised by how many careers involve a level of writing. Reports, formal memos, or casual emails all require some writing ability. To even land a job, it is likely you will have to compose a resume and cover letter. While all jobs incorporate some writing, there are certainly some that center around it more than others. Here are some writing-related jobs in different categories (in no particular order):

Creative Writing
You can certainly head a creative route and work as a novelist, video game writer, or screenwriter.

Journalism
Journalism is another field within writing, with subcategories such as photojournalism and sports journalism. TV stations also hire writers for producing and writing content.  

Law
At the entry level, you can work as an administrative assistant in a law firm. Since the field involves such a high level of writing, a background of study in business and writing is a smart way to set yourself up for law school.

Freelance
Working as a freelance writer can be a great option! There are several websites to advertise your skills and help you connect with clients. A similar but somewhat controversial field is ghostwriting. As a ghostwriter, you would develop content for a client, but you don’t get any of the credit for your work. The pay can vary widely, and ghostwriters have been used by songwriters, politicians, celebrities, and novelists.

Colored pens on open notebook. Text - Career Ideas for Writing Studies: creative writing, journalism, law, freelance, business, editing, publishing, copy editing, technical writing, and more.

Business
Within a wide scope of businesses, there are a variety of roles that would be strengthened by a background in writing. Some examples include communications specialist, marketing associate, public relations specialist, content strategist, or social media manager. Some organizations also hire proposal or grant writers.

Common Roles Across Industries
Other typical jobs for writers include editors, publishers, and copy editors or proofreaders. You can find these positions in a variety of organizations. If you can speak and write in more than one language, there are countless fields that utilize translators.

Unique Roles
While we’ve addressed some common areas writers work in, there are countless obscure roles you probably don’t know exist. Think of everything you read; someone is responsible for writing that! The backs of cereal boxes, birthday cards, the fine print at the bottom of those ads for medicine on tv. . .it’s all written by someone. Technical writers are often tasked with writing documents like manuals. In certain fields, such as engineering, demand for these positions can be quite high, but they typically require knowledge in your field as well as writing expertise. Another interesting position is speechwriting. Some celebrities, politicians, and executives actually hire writers to come up with their speeches.

Hopefully this opens your eyes to the many directions Writing Studies can take you! If you enjoy writing to any degree, I would encourage you to think outside of the box and combine that with your other interests to see how you can find success in your career.

Of Possible Interest: 
• What recent UMD grads are doing: Writing Studies, English, Journalism
Choosing a Major – all our blog posts on the topic
Turn Your Major into a Career – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Best, Rachel

Read Rachel’s other posts

Photo sources: Unsplash | rawpixel & Jessica Lewis