42 Unusual Majors Your College Probably Didn't Offer
Undeclared undergrads are a dime a dozen, but the majority of incoming freshmen—along with most graduate students—have a firm idea of where their professional futures lie. And it’s not always in a traditional occupation. From beer to bagpipes and pot to pop culture, here are 42 of the strangest college majors and grad school concentrations students can actually major in.
1. Business of Cannabis
The College: Oaksterdam University
Leave it to California to open the country’s first cannabis college. Then again, considering the thriving—and legal—industry that existed for medical marijuana in The Golden State before full legalization in 2016, it really only makes sense that there would be a trade school for the cannabis industry. And one where classes in the history, politics, and legalities of the herb are taught alongside seminars on growing and methods of ingestion. But don’t be surprised if your classroom time gets interrupted by a raid by the Feds; that’s exactly what happened in April of 2012, when a bevy of DEA, IRS, and U.S. Marshals Service agents showed up on the school’s doorstep.
The College: Humber College
Think you’re funny? Whip out your diploma and prove it. Toronto’s Humber College takes its laughs seriously with its Comedy: Writing and Performance program, which is aimed at helping sort of funny people become really funny people by perfecting their comedic timing and understanding of how the funny business works. The college uses a faculty of working comedians and puts on weekly shows at the nearby Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club and an industry showcase at Second City—all in the name of helping students make it big in stand-up, improv, sketch comedy, and/or screenwriting.
3. Fermentation Sciences
The College: Appalachian State University
As tempted as one might be to call this a degree in beer-making, there’s a lot more to a career in suds than cracking open a cold one. The official description of this B.S. is “an interdisciplinary degree offered in the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences, within the College of Arts and Sciences, intended to provide students with a strong background in chemistry and biology as well as a considerable focus in business, marketing, and entrepreneurial principles.” Hands-on experience comes courtesy of the Ivory Tower Brewery, an on-campus, nonprofit brewery and plant managed by the school’s students and faculty. We’ll drink to that!
The College: San Francisco State University
A career in sex doesn’t have to come with an X rating. The M.A. degree at SFSU is an academic program more than five decades in the making, where students immerse themselves in a wide range of topics surrounding human sexuality, from its representation in arts and literature to social justice for sexual minorities. It’s academia at its most titillating.
5. Viticulture and enology
The College: Cornell University
College-age connoisseurs who know the difference between a Zinfandel (good) and a White Zinfandel (bad) might be ripe for a career in wine—an industry where demand is outgrowing the supply of qualified professionals to oversee the vineyards that produce the best vino and manage the wineries that sell them. Translation: job security, kiddos! While Cornell students will face the unique challenges of growing grapes and making wine in a northeastern U.S. climate, the schooling they get in soils, pests, grape varietals, and growing markets can be easily translated to any of the world’s wine countries (and make the job that much easier).
6. Decision sciences
The College: Indiana University
A Ph.D in Decision Sciences is really the antithesis of being “undecided,” with doctoral candidates at IU amassing expertise in a range of quantitative methods to make business decisions at the highest level. These aren’t yes or no questions we’re dealing with; graduates emerge with the skills to apply research, data, and analysis to solve problems in a range of precise disciplines, from finance to information technology.
7. Popular culture
The College: Bowling Green State University
And you thought all those hours spent binge-watching Breaking Bad had no professional merit! The official pitch for BGSU’s B.A. is that “by examining television programs, movies, cars, houses, music, museums, celebratory events, holidays, magazines, and many other manifestations of culture, insights can be used to examine society presently and historically.” On a more practical level, students can parlay their studies into a career in journalism, mass media, advertising, or public relations.
8. Floral Management
The College: Mississippi State University
Running a flower shop isn’t as easy as Janet made it look on Three’s Company, what with all the sourcing, purchasing, marketing, merchandising, and selling that’s required. Floral Management students at MSU get an up-close look at what a career in floral retail, wholesale, design, styling, or display gardening feels and smells like, courtesy of The University Florist, an on-campus flower shop owned and operated by the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
The College: Harrisburg Area Community College
Do I hear 20 credits? A first step toward becoming a licensed auctioneer in the state of Pennsylvania is completing the Auctioneering program at HACC, where students develop an eye for procuring the best merchandise for auction, using the best appraisal sources and techniques, and developing that all-important auction “chant.” Going once, going twice ...
10. Poultry science
The College: Texas A&M
As Frank Perdue would tell you, it takes a tough person to make a tender chicken. Hence the need for an education in the science of poultry, where academics, research, and service play equally important parts in a career in this major agricultural commodity. The program’s wide-ranging curriculum includes courses in biology, chemistry, zoology, and statistics. Bonus points for determining once and for all which came first: the chicken or the egg?
11. Entertainment engineering & design
The College: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
A keen understanding of casino game design and engineering is as essential to the people who design the games in Vegas as it is to the pros who try to beat them. Which makes it all the more appropriate that Sin City is the setting for this B.S. degree, which educates students on both the art and business of the entertainment industry, from venue design and rigging to biomechanics and animatronics. Plus, students are never too far from a casino in which to ply their trade.
12. Turf and golf course management
The College: University of Maryland
Golf courses require a lot of upkeep, so UMD offers a plant science degree in Turf and Golf Course Management to help train the greenskeepers of the future. The B.S. program requires a bit of biology and chemistry, but there are also more enticing classes like “Weed Science” and “Pest Management.” One can only hope that the latter class includes a screening of Caddyshack.
13. Turfgrass science
The College: Pennsylvania State University
For opportunities beyond the local country club, the more generalized B.S. in Turfgrass Science prepares students for careers in professional lawn care, sod production, athletic field maintenance, and beyond. Though the degree may sound like a walk in the park, courses lean toward the science side of the equation (biology, chemistry, and meteorology are required courses).
14. Family enterprise
The College: Stetson University
Countless entrepreneurs have been warned about the dangers of doing business with friends—but family? That’s another story. Some of today’s biggest corporate success stories—including The Gap, Walmart, Ford, Motorola, and White Castle—are technically “family businesses.” In DeLand, Florida, Stetson’s Family Enterprise Center has been teaching students the right (and wrong!) ways to mix business with relatives since 1998. Topics of interest include personal, professional, and leadership development and legal, estate, and asset protection.
15. Canadian Studies
The College: Johns Hopkins University
Canada looms large and expansive just north of the United States, but most of us are pretty uneducated about what the heck goes on up there. Master’s students who want to learn more about our neighbors to the north can absorb the culture, politics, and history of Canada through a Canadian Studies concentration at Johns Hopkins. This sounds like possibly the only academic track in which there’s a slight chance you’ll have to watch Strange Brew as part of your coursework. If you’re not ready to go the whole hog, a few other schools, like SUNY Plattsburgh and the University of Vermont, offer Canadian Studies minors.
The College: Brown University
We’re pretty sure all of the great pyramids have been discovered, but on the off chance that there’s still a sphinx or two waiting to be stumbled upon, would-be Indiana Joneses would do well to have a degree in Egyptology. Established in 2006, Brown’s Department of Egyptology and Assyriology—which offers B.A. and Ph.D degrees—brings students back to the birthplace of Western civilization as we know it with “Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts” and “Ancient Egyptian Religion and Magic” among their required courses.
17. Jazz Studies
The Colleges: University of North Texas, East Carolina University & University of Louisville
For whatever reason, jazz seems to inspire college music departments to start majors more than its fellow musical genres. A number of colleges around the country offer degree programs in jazz studies. These programs usually include both playing jazz and studying its history, cultural significance, and major figures.
18. Pop Music
The College: University of Southern California
For those who aren't classically (or jazzically) inclined, USC can set you on the path to writing the next Taylor Swift or Sam Smith jam. The program obviously isn't just about listening to the hits on the radio (although there's almost definitely plenty of that). It's a comprehensive study of the history and construction of popular music that requires the musical know-how necessary to go out and make something big.
The College: The University of Arizona
After completing the basic requirements for a bachelor’s degree in instrumental studies, students at UA’s School of Music choose their melodic weapon of choice. And for some would-be musicians, that means a bassoon—that 19th-century woodwind that mimics the sound of a male baritone so well and plays prominently in a number of orchestral and chamber music ensembles.
20. Piano pedagogy
The College: Belmont University
It may seem odd, since so many folks took their childhood piano lessons from someone who didn’t have collegiate training, but the B.Mus degree at Nashville’s Belmont University doesn’t sound like a bad career move from a stability standpoint: Moms forcing their kids to take piano lessons is an economy-resistant tradition. Want to take that education one step further? The University of Oregon in Eugene offers advanced graduate degrees in the discipline.
21. Bowling industry management and technology
The College: Vincennes University
Being a pin monkey may be Homer Simpson’s unreachable dream, but you can make it your reality at Indiana’s first college, which offers the country’s only program in Bowling Industry Management and Technology. Required classes for this A.S. degree include “Lane and Pinsetter Maintenance,” “Pro Shop Operations and Instructions” and “Responsible Alcohol Service.” The program’s site proudly touts its facilities, including an 18-lane bowling center that acts as a laboratory for students to gain hands-on experience.
22. Costume technology
The College: DePaul University
Much like film editors are to movies, costume designers are the unsung heroes of the theater—the people upon whom the audience (unknowingly) relies to take them into a fantasy world. Needless to say, there’s a science to this talent that goes far beyond a flair for fashion. Costume Technology majors within DePaul’s Theatre School will explore the world of costuming from a variety of disciplines, from art and architecture to ethics and business management. Draping, cutting, and designing are, of course, part of the package, too.
23. Diving business & technology
The College: College of the Florida Keys
It’s the dream of many a beach bum to spend their days carting tourists around and showing off the undiscovered corners of their waterfront worlds. The College of the Florida Keys can get you one knot closer to this goal with an A.A.S. curriculum that merges diving science with instruction, leading the way to a thriving—and oh-so-freeing—career as a divemaster, scuba instructor, commercial diver, water-based medical technician, research diver, or underwater photojournalist.
The College: University of Houston
Crystal balls are for Halloween parties. If you’re curious about what the future holds—and who isn’t?—there are scientific ways to make educated guesses. At this school’s College of Technology, M.S. students dive into the amazing world of futurism. Courses like “Introduction to Foresight,” “Social Change,” and “World Futures” will teach you how to anticipate oncoming events by reviewing transformational and systemic changes.
The College: University of New Hampshire
In 2008, UNH launched a dual major in EcoGastronomy, a program that educates students on how food gets from farms to their plates. With an eye toward sustainability, pupils study food at a number of steps along the road to their mouth to gauge the ecological impact of what they eat. EcoGastronomy students will also pick up knowledge about the hospitality industry, nutrition, and agriculture in this major. And will undoubtedly get to sample a ton of tasty fresh foods.
The College: Michigan State University
MSU’s School of Packaging offers B.S., M.S. and Ph.D programs. What does the School of Packaging study? Exactly what it sounds like: all sorts of packaging in an effort to improve functionality and environmental impact. Since we’re unlikely to revert to a system in which goods are sold loose without packages any time soon, this major might lead to a steady career of putting things into things.
27. Equine studies
The College: Becker College
If you like horses, why not major in them? Several colleges offer degree programs in studying horses, each with its own focus. Some programs, like this one at Becker College in Worcester, MA, offer students the choice of concentrating in riding instruction so that they can eventually teach lessons. The University of Maryland has another well-regarded equine studies program, which covers everything from pasture management to horse reproduction.
28. Bakery science
The College: Kansas State University
Smelling like a loaf of fresh-baked bread might just be the most brilliant way to make new friends. Modern commercial baking relies pretty heavily on science to achieve consistency and efficiency, and this major teaches prospective bakers and managers the cereal science, microbiology, and milling expertise they’ll need to run a successful bakery.
29. Southwest Studies
The College: Colorado College
You’d be hard-pressed to name any region that’s been as thoroughly romanticized as the American southwest. Combining history, ecology, and art appreciation, this unique degree prepares students for careers in a wide variety of fields. Plus, those who major (or minor) in southwest studies at Colorado College get to participate in field trips through some of the most breathtaking countryside on the entire continent.
30. Comic art
The College: Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Master the serious art of storytelling, while studying the use of line, color, and composition, as well as character development, storyboarding and plot. In other words: become the next Stan Lee with this BFA program from the world-renowned Minneapolis College of Art and Design, with a dual emphasis on the history of comic art and individual, experimental expression.
The College: Lassen Community College
Founded in 1945, the Gunsmithing school at LCC in Susanville, California, is the oldest institution of its kind in the United States. Its NRA-affiliated A.S. degree programs offer such courses as “Machine Shop for Gunsmiths,” “Basic Rifle Barreling,” and “Cowboy Action Shooting Short Guns.”
32. Puppet Arts
The College: University of Connecticut
Like something out of a Spike Jonze movie, puppetry has been an academic specialty of UConn since 1964, when master puppeteer Frank W. Ballard—who died in 2010 and for whom an on-campus museum is named—first started teaching classes. In the five decades since the subject’s introduction, the school has put on nearly 500 puppet productions, with graduates of the BFA and MFA programs going on to design and perform for some of the world’s best-known theaters, television shows, film studios, schools, museums, and beyond.
33. Adventure education
The College: Plymouth State University
There’s a reason why the Boy Scouts chose “Be Prepared” as their motto. Mother Nature is wondrous and enriching, but you can’t just trudge up Mount Washington without the proper training or equipment. PSU’s Adventure Education majors work with ecologists, physicians, and canoeing maestros to build up their outdoor skill sets.
The College: Florida Tech
Is there life on other planets (or moons)? Astrobiology, the marriage of astronomy and life science, interrogates that age-old question while considering other big topics like the origin of life on earth. At Florida Tech, you can earn a B.S. in this fascinating discipline. En route, you’ll learn about the ongoing search for Martian microorganisms, discuss the future of lunar colonization, and gaze at extrasolar planets through a spectacularly big research telescope.
35. Shakespeare Studies
The College: King’s College London
England is the land of Shakespeare, so naturally there’s a Bard-centered degree program at one of London’s most prestigious universities. A collaboration between King’s College and the world-famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the course load details both modern and historic perspectives on the great playwright and his contemporaries. Students are also made to grapple with the practicalities of staging classics like Romeo and Juliet or The Tempest at a 21st-century playhouse. All the world’s a stage, but times do change.
36. Paper science and engineering
The College: North Carolina State University
Michael Scott would’ve loved this curriculum. As NC State’s official website explains, their Paper Science and Engineering majors “learn applied skills on our $12 million in-house laboratory equipment, including a state-of-the-art paper machine. We are the only school in North America with equipment in-house that can convert any biomass material, such as grass, cornstalks, and wood, into pulp and paper.”
37. Bagpipe performance
The College: Carnegie Mellon University
Located in western Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon was founded by a pair of entrepreneurial Scotsmen, Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. In keeping with its ancestral roots, the school’s been training bagpipers for decades. Back in 1990, CMU introduced its Bagpiping Performance bachelor’s degree program, which remains a campus staple.
38. Bicycle design and fabrication
The College: Minnesota State College Southeast
If you love cycling, why not go pro? At Minnesota State College Southeast, you can earn a two-year A.A.S. degree that covers the ins and outs of everybody’s favorite human-powered vehicle. And hey, classes like “Physics for Bikes” ought to make triathlons way more interesting.
39. Greenhouse operations
The College: Gateway Technical College
Seasonal temperature and humidity extremes are the bane of many-a-gardener’s existence. That’s why good greenhouses, which allow horticulturists to control such factors, are a godsend to plant-growers. Wisconsin’s Gateway Technical College has an A.A.S. degree in their maintenance and care. Completing the coursework can open all kinds of doors into landscape management, floral design, and other botanical career paths.
40. Citrus and horticultural science
The College: Florida Southern College
While oranges technically aren’t native to Florida, the Sunshine State has an ongoing love affair with the fruit. Students enrolled in FSC’s Citrus and Horticultural Science bachelor’s program can choose to—ahem—concentrate in a wide range of topics pertaining to lemons, grapefruits, oranges, and whatnot. Some program alumni have attained high-profile jobs within the industry, according to one recruitment video.
41. Resort management
The College: Ferris State University
Helping others feel relaxed can be really hard work, especially at a resort. Good thing the professors at Ferris State know what it takes to maintain a golf course, keep a well-stocked bar, and advertise your little slice of heaven. Get ready for a lifetime of enviable Yelp! reviews.
42. Social media
The Colleges: Pace University, University of Florida, University of Southern California
A number of schools have created Social Media degree programs in recent years (usually at the Master’s level). And why wouldn’t they? Love it or hate it, this new frontier in information-sharing technology transforms businesses, connects communities, and reshapes our public discourse on a global scale. So yeah, it sounds like something more of us ought to study.