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Do employers look at your major or what classes you have taken?

  1. Jul 19, 2011 #1
    I'm an "engineering physics" major. However, I am interested in adding a double major of ME, EE, or AE, due to interest and increased employ-ability.

    Due to how my university organizes things and other circumstances, it can be very difficult to double major. Would it be to my disadvantage if, for example, I took most core ME engineering classes, but lacked the complete major? Or if I just got a minor, would I be at a large disadvantage when applying for jobs pertaining to that minor?

    Secondly, would it be harder to get into grad school in an area I only minored in?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2011 #2


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    Employers don't care about what classes you've taken, and there isn't room to list them on a resume.
  4. Jul 19, 2011 #3


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    I don't think you'd be at that much of a disadvantage in getting into a grad school, if at all. It's not like you'd be going from business to physics like some people do.
  5. Jul 20, 2011 #4
    I am no longer responsible for either of these (HR or graduate admissions), but I suspect that "jobs pertaining to JUST that minor" might be made more difficult (in a pool of applicants), but if it's in an overlap area (in a smaller company with less formulaic HR staff) you might stand out.

    Also: it used to be less of a concern in a "related field," but with possibly larger applicant pools in the present poor economy, it might play a role if the graduate program doesn't feel you can pass qualifying exams (if the institution has them) and core coursework (and possibly comprehensive exams) without additional remedial courses in the field. (Edit to add: they are perhaps more likely to look at your coursework/transcripts).
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
  6. Jul 20, 2011 #5
    I would add to physics girl phd's post and note that it's not your actual degree the program cares about so much as the promise you show. You could have a minor because you completed 7 of 8 major requirements and decided to do 5 other courses that don't satisfy the major requirements.

    Of course that is unlikely, but it serves to illustrate the point that even if you had a major and did the bare minimum, you're not any better off really. Like physics girl phd said, passing quals with ease is something grad programs like to see happening, as it's a basic thing they can control, perhaps more so than predicting research success.

    Overall depth in the area of concern is always recommended.
  7. Jul 20, 2011 #6

    D H

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    Yes, they do. I know of several employers that do care; I am an interviewer for one. For freshouts, I care. Do you know how to program a computer? Can you do hairy math? Listing the classes that you took in this regard answers those questions. A resume from a freshout should be quite different from a resume from someone with a decade or more of experience.

    Sure there is. Just name the classes.

    To the OP: Have multiple versions of your resume. Suppose you take a bunch of aerospace engineering classes and you apply to an aerospace engineering company. Your degree in engineering physics is a slight handicap. You can compensate for that by listing the relevant AE classes you took. Keep it to a couple of lines. Aerospace engineering companies know what "Guidance and Control" means, for example. The version of the resume that you send to a national lab: They won't care about those AE classes, so use that space for something else.
  8. Jul 20, 2011 #7


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    Resumes are one page. It should be filled with work experience and applicable skills to the job. Classes taken can be mentioned in the interview.

    Also, I don't really know why you assume taking a class in something automatically translates into knowing how to do it. Demonstrable work experience is a much more reliable indicator.

    "Took Computer Science 201: Programming in C++"


    "Created a Top 10-selling app in the iOS App Store."

    I know which one I'd be more likely to give a second look. YMMV.
  9. Jul 21, 2011 #8
    One thing about the "do employers care" question is that a lot depends on which employer.

    The ones that I have hired me didn't care that much about what classes that I took or what my major was in, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that if they did, they would have hired someone else. A company that insists on hiring CS majors to do computer science work would have (and most likely did) toss my resume since I've only taken one CS course in my entire life.

    For undergraduate, it matters more because often coursework can be the *only* thing that ends up on a resume. However, if you are ending up in a situation in which the only thing that you can talk about in your resume is your coursework, you are playing with a weak hand. Work experience beats coursework.
  10. Jul 21, 2011 #9


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    Very true, and it also depends on the position. I'd be OK with someone listing coursework if I was hiring from a pool of college sophomores trying to get their first lab job. I would not look at course work if they were applying for an entry-level position at an engineering firm. If they have no work experience; internship, co-op, or otherwise, they're already out of consideration.
  11. Jul 21, 2011 #10
    This is also an example of how networking can help you. Most people get the incorrect idea that having a friend that works for a company will give you someone that can "pull strings" for you. While that does happen, it's somewhat rare.

    However, if you know someone that works for company X, they can tell you if company X likes people to put coursework on your resume or not. Also this is why having an internship is useful. Not only do you have something on your resume, but you can get inside information on what works and what doesn't for a particular company or industry.
  12. Jul 21, 2011 #11
    People graduate from undergrad with nothing to list on their resume but coursework?

    Wow, that is really sad.
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