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Not only do interdisciplinary majors cater to students with a variety of academic interests, they also open up numerous career options.

While most of these majors are informally known as pre-graduate school majors, it’s not a given that these students will end up there. The skill sets interdisciplinary majors foster often become a unique asset in the job market.

Philosophy, Politics and Economics is an example of a typecasted interdisciplinary major, informally known as the pre-law major. However, according to Career Services survey, only 17 percent of the Class of 2011’s PPE majors went to law school.

“The wonderful thing about majors here at Penn is that they don’t pigeonhole students,” Director of Career Services Patricia Rose said. “Students develop a portfolio of skills that they can apply according to their own interests.”

The Biological Basis of Behavior major was originally regarded as the “perfect major for pre-med students,” said Marc Schmidt, director of the BBB program.

According to Career Services survey results, 46 percent of Class of 2011 graduates who studied BBB went on to study in a health-related field.

“The BBB program encourages students to get a lot of experience with research in the lab,” Schmidt said. “This is great for graduate school, but students also get to know what research really is about.”

In the process, students better understand scientific research and can bring those skills into any career, according to Schmidt.

“I do think it’s true that the BBB major is an informal ‘pre-med’ major for many people,” College senior Tiffany Hu said. “I think this goes to show that medical school really isn’t the only option for you as a BBB major if you want to be successful,” Hu said.

Hu, who is the president of the BBB society, said an alumni panel event the society organized last spring featured alumni who were pursuing careers in social work, research, charitable trust funds and technology consulting, among others.

Others find the diversity of subject matters in an interdisciplinary major to be a big draw.

The Health and Societies major is also associated with pre-med studies. According to Career Services, 23 percent went to graduate school out of the Class of 2011.

Health and societies major and College senior Carolyn Chen said, “I was really able to learn about broad topics, but I also got to take a lot of classes that were specific to my interests in health care,” Chen said. “I think this is really special, because the HSOC major makes you really prepared for the real world and whatever career you choose to pursue.”

The Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, a newly formed interdisciplinary program, is designed for students to develop research skills as an undergraduate in preparation for graduate study in energy science and engineering.

Program Director John Vohs said that because it is a “heavily research-related program,” most of the students probably want to go to graduate school.

But “someone who has a degree in both physics and material science” may see better job prospects, Vohs said.

Vohs added that due to the nature of the industry, engineers and scientists typically work in teams. Someone with a background in both science and engineering would be better equipped to work in those environments.

Ultimately, while majors do play a role in equipping students with specific skill sets, it is how graduates present themselves during the job search process that becomes the differentiating factor, Rose said.

Because health care consulting firms and other employers saw Chen’s course of study, she was able to have substantive discussions that may have helped her job prospects.

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