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Success Starts Here: Making 'major' decisions

"Success Starts Here" is a series of six articles that introduce new students to the UW-Eau Claire College of Business. A new article will be posted each week until the fall academic term begins.

What's your major?

This is a tough question for many students to answer, but it is one that they will be asked throughout their college career. The College of Business alone has over 20 different major, minor, and certificate options. Which one(s) is right for you?

To answer this and other questions about majors, Gretchen Hutterli, assistant dean, interviewed Josh Engle, an academic adviser in the Center for Academic, Development and Enrichment (CADE), the college's undergraduate student advising center.

What majors, minors and certificates does the COB offer?

J.E. We have all the traditional business majors and minors-accounting, business administration, finance, information systems, international business, management, and marketing-as well as a major in health care administration. We also offer specialized programs or emphases in the information systems, management and marketing majors. In addition, we have six certificate programs that enable students to expand their knowledge beyond their major. They can do this by taking just a few extra courses. So the College of Business really has something for everyone!

Students certainly have a lot of options. Are some business majors better than others?

J.E. No, not really. Students may have read articles that imply this, but this isn't true in business. The employment outlook for new grads continues to be strong in all our majors.

So how do students pick the major that is right for them?

J.E. The advisers in CADE are here to help guide them through this process. We talk to students about different majors and encourage them to attend Career Conference and other events where they can learn more about majors and career options. We can also connect students with self-assessment resources in Career Services like SIGI 3, Career Cruising, and CareerLocker.

Some things students should consider when evaluating different majors are their interests and values, academic strengths, preferred work environment, and personal and professional goals. They should also know that some majors like accounting and health care administration require graduates to pass certification examinations.

How soon do students need to finalize their major?

J.E. Generally by their junior year. By then they will have completed most of the BUSCORE, the 31 credits of required introductory business courses taken by all business majors, and will need to start focusing on their major-specific courses.

I often get asked about the merits of adding a second major. Does adding a second one make you more marketable?

J.E. Possibly, but not typically. In fact, many employers prefer to see you do well academically in one major, and build your resume by participating in competitions, consulting opportunities, and student leadership experiences. Participating in career-building opportunities shows a potential employer that you also have experience utilizing your education in your field.

For the record, most business students do not have a second major. Accounting students are the exception. Most states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, require CPA candidates to have completed at least 150 credits of education. Our accounting students do this by finishing a minor, a certificate, or second major in addition to their accounting major.

Another popular question: how long does it take students to graduate from the COB?

J.E. It depends. Most business students graduate in 4 to 4 1/2 years. Accounting and health care administration majors take a bit longer because their programs require additional credits (accounting) or a required practicum (HCAD). In general, it may take longer than four years if you repeat a required course, change your major, add a minor or second major, or don't follow the college's recommended academic program.

Where can students find the course requirements for their program?

J.E. Information is available in multiple locations: the university print and online catalogs, the COB website, the fliers outside CADE, and their degree audit in MyBlugold CampS. Major requirements may change from year to year so students need to follow the ones listed in the 2015-16 catalog, the year they entered UW-Eau Claire.

Any parting thoughts, Josh?

J.E. College is a great time to experience new things and explore the world in a new way. It's also a time that can bring up significant life questions. This is expected and is a wonderful part of becoming an adult. So students, don't be afraid to ask questions and seek out help. There are many resources at your disposal that you may not be aware of.

Meet Josh Engle, CADE Adviser

Josh EngleJosh Engle is one of five academic advisers in the college's Center for Advising, Development and Enrichment. He advises students majoring in management and marketing. Josh helps them map out their academic and professional goals, and meets with them at least once a semester to make sure they're on track for their degree program. He also helps students during summer orientation develop their first semester schedule.

"It's great to see an excited new freshman leave my office with a smile," he said.

Josh also coordinates CADE's Mentored Study Groups, MSG for short. MSG are student-led study groups for students who need extra assistance in accounting, economics, or math.

When he isn't working, Josh enjoys playing guitar, singing, and watching science fiction and horror films. He loves to read and he recently finished the novel, Armada by Ernest Cline. An avid gamer, he enjoys playing video games (PS4 and PC) with his family and friends. A little known fact is that he has an identical twin so don't be surprised if you see two Joshs on campus someday.

Josh encourages new freshmen to set priorities and focus on the things that are most important.

"Freshman year is a great time to make new friends, create new experiences, and enjoy adulthood," he said. "But your priority is to learn and prepare yourself for a career. The habits you develop now will stay with you through college and your life after graduation. Make smart decisions early."

Plan to attend the COB Freshmen Social, Tuesday, September 1 from 2-3:30 pm in the Davies Center Ojibwe Ballroom. Watch your email for more details.