Top Majors on Campus

Top Majors on CampusMeghan Jennings

The Career Fair

The third week of classes saw the arrival of a time-honored Notre Dame tradition — the Fall Career Expo. Hundreds of students packed the hot stadium concourse to jockey for a chance to speak with representatives from their favorite companies.
“This is how [I got] my most significant internship last year, and I think how most people get the internships that they want,” senior Erika McAndrews said. “I think it’s a great way for students to connect to people without it being so intimidating.”

Notre Dame’s career fair underscores a familiar and universal facet of college life: the drive to enhance not only one’s education, but also one’s career prospects. This piece takes a look at careers — how Notre Dame students choose, prepare for and compete for them — and what they mean to the student body. Which majors put students on the path to success? What are some of the attributes each college has to offer their students? Where do students end up after graduation, and how do they feel about the choices they’ve made? Scholastic provides an in-depth look into how Notre Dame prepares students for their careers.


Top Majors On Campus

It’s the question everybody wants answered. The question googled a million times over, commitment deadlines and adulthood growing closer with each passing day. It’s the question we hope we’ve figured out and yet remains shrouded in eternally frustrating subjectivity.

Which major is the best major?

Let’s be honest for a moment. Studying what you love is wonderful and fun and interesting, but there is something important to be said for choosing a major that is going to set you up for success, give you the skills you need to do well in life and help you work your way into the job market.

Scholastic did some investigating to find out which majors have (a) the lowest rates of unemployment and (b) the highest starting salaries. Using data published in Notre Dame’s 2017 First Destination Report, an online survey conducted six months after graduation by the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Research, our staff compiled a list of the top majors on campus. This survey reports a 93 percent knowledge rate of “reasonable and verifiable” information about recent Notre Dame graduates. Scholastic parsed through the data and made a list of the majors with no students still seeking employment six months post-graduation and ranked them based on median starting salary. It should be noted that the data presented has been rounded for ease of reporting.

Without further ado, here are Notre Dame’s top six majors.

1. COMPUTER SCIENCE

Since the 1990s, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering has experienced tremendous growth, conferring over 1,300 undergraduate degrees, including almost 150 in May 2018. Dr. Patrick J. Flynn, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, points to the faculty as a major strength of the program. “They are all very dedicated to undergraduate instruction of the highest quality,” he said. “Our students generally view the faculty as very accessible and approachable ... We try to make [the] hard work as enjoyable and rewarding as we can.” In order to prioritize research experience, the faculty have taken on many students as research assistants. According to Dr. Flynn, “Research activity is, by definition, life on the frontier of the field; that is an exciting place to be now, with computing and its applications influencing every aspect of our lives.”

According to the 2017 First Destination Report, graduates of the computer science major report a median salary of $76,250 with 89 percent employed, 8 percent enrolled in higher education, 3 percent in service and 1 percent indicating other activity. “I have been a faculty member in CSE at Notre Dame since 2001 and the department chair since 2017, and in all the time our graduates have never had difficulty finding jobs,” Dr. Flynn said. “Some job categories available to CSE grads are very ‘hot’ right now ... students demonstrating strong abilities may receive a premium salary offer.”

2. MECHANICAL ENGINEERING

Mechanical engineering graduates report a median salary of $66,000 and an 82 percent employment rate, with an additional 13 percent in higher education, 3 percent in service, 1 percent in the military and 1 percent indicating other activity. According to Dr. Bill Goodwine, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, “Engineers create new and useful things for humanity ... It is satisfying that our students do so well so soon after graduating.” Developing useful, marketable skillsets is perhaps one of the best things an academic program can do for its students. “The education we provide is meant to be useful in the very long term,” Dr. Goodwine said.

3. SOCIOLOGY

As indicated by promotional material from the Department of Sociology, there are four reasons to study sociology at Notre Dame: relevancy, variety, research and service. Perhaps a fifth can be found in the consistently high salaries of graduates as well their steady rates of employment and admission into graduate programs. According to Dr. Bill Carbonaro, chair of the Department of Sociology, “Our students are poised for success because they learn valuable skills, such as data analysis, critical thinking and expository writing, that are sought by employers in a diverse array of fields.” Sociology graduates report a median salary of $62,250 as well as an employment rate of 48 percent, while 38 percent are enrolled in higher education, 17 percent in service and 3 percent indicating other activity. “Sociology majors ... find jobs that are challenging and rewarding, but just as importantly, they work in professions that allow them to pursue their passion for social justice,” Dr. Carbonaro said.

4. INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS

According to Dr. Mary Flannery, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics, “The international economics major includes the benefits of both an economics major and a language major. Students take the same core classes as economics majors which means they are equipped with data analysis and modeling skills attractive to employers. Beyond that, students have the opportunity to achieve fluency in a foreign language and become immersed in the culture. In an increasingly interconnected world, both these skills are very important.” These skills are evidenced in the median self-reported salaries of Notre Dame graduates at $60,000. International economics majors have a 69 percent employment rate, while 13 percent of graduates find themselves in higher education, 13 percent in service and 6 percent indicating other activity. “Many of our students are interested in pursuing business careers and acquiring marketable skills but they also are interested in other disciplines of study such as design or political science,” Dr. Flannery said. “Economics is a good complement to many of the other arts and letters majors, and this combination makes economics majors particularly attractive to employers.”

5. MARKETING

According to their website, “The Department of Marketing develops the analytical thinking, strategic ability and creativity of undergraduate and graduate business students through a range of innovative courses. Notre Dame marketing professors study consumer experience, pricing and decision making, and are recognized leaders in the exploration of marketing and society.” Marketing graduates report a median salary of $54,000 and an 89 percent employment rate, with 5 percent in higher education, 2 percent doing service and 3 percent indicating other activity.

6. ANTHROPOLOGY

Reporting a median salary of $53,000, anthropology majors have a 48 percent employment rate, with 26 percent of graduates in higher education, 22 percent engaged in service and 4 percent indicating other activity. “Anthropology majors access global, cultural and holistic perspectives that are crucially needed in nearly every career path,” Dr. Eric Haanstad, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Anthropology, said. “Through engaging coursework, international fieldwork and laboratory or independent research, they create local and global experiences as students that are immediately applicable to widespread career success.”

Utilizing these experiences, anthropology majors are able to obtain a unique and useful skillset. Employers recognize our majors’ ability to work with and among people,” Dr. Haanstad said. “They know anthropology students are able to navigate the complexity of human experiences and can integrate the countless skills they learned as majors, including observant participation, focused interviewing, data analysis, critical engagement, language fluency and holistic approaches to organizations.”


PROFILE OF NOTRE DAME’S COLLEGES

Mendoza College of Business:

The Mendoza College of Business offers a distinguished program of undergraduate studies. In fact, according to Poets&Quants, the college offers the fourth-best business program in the country. The factor that differentiates a Mendoza education from other university programs, according to Interim Dean Martijn Cremers, is an emphasis on the development of “social and cooperative skills that allow students to ... recognize their responsibilities towards others, especially those with the greatest needs.”

Scholastic’s Picks:

• FINANCE: Finance has long been one of Mendoza’s most popular majors, boasting an average of 44 percent enrollment among all business majors, according to an internal report. According to the 2017 First Destination Report, 91 percent of finance majors are employed six months post-graduation. They also have one of the highest reported starting salaries: $75,000. While both of these factors offer practical reasons to choose finance, Department Chair Richard Mendenhall believes that “it is also popular because of the wide range of things you can do with it.”

• INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT: The ITM major flaunts very similar immediate postgraduate employment and salary statistics, with a 91 percent employment rate and $65,000 median salary. Graduates are in high demand for a wide range of industries, including banks, tech firms and pharmaceuticals. Department Chair Robert Easley emphasizes an educational focus on “preparing future business leaders for the ever-changing technical, managerial and ethical landscape of business.”

 

The College of Science:

The College of Science is guided by both the pursuit of excellence and mission to impact positive societal change. While immediate postgraduate employment numbers are much lower for College of Science students, it should be noted that the majority of graduates (51 percent) pursue postgraduate education. “Half or maybe more of our students want to be doctors,” said Dean Mary Galvin, “and there’s no way to become a doctor without postgraduate work.” Notre Dame has an outstanding record of medical school acceptances. Last year, 87 percent of those who applied were accepted — twice the national average.

Scholastic’s Picks:

• ACMS: Among College of Science graduates,ACMS majors have the highest rate of immediate postgraduate employment and second highest salary, 67 percent and $63,500 respectively. ACMS is the third least popular major in the College of Science, with approximately 130 students in the program. However, 260 students, whose primary majors are generally outside the College of Science, have supplementary ACMS majors.

• PHYSICS: Among College of Science graduates, Physics majors have the second highest rate of immediate postgraduate employment and the highest salary, 62 percent and $64,750 respectively. Although department chair Peter Garnavich “would not call it popular,” physics is the second least popular major in the College of Science. Only after math, “physicists are trained ... to approach and solve problems [in a way that] is universal” and their quantitative analysis skills are valued in numerous industries.

 

College of Arts and Letters:

Arts and letters students pursue a liberal arts education that is founded on the principles of the Catholic intellectual tradition, which “inspires students to ask bigger questions, seek a greater purpose, embrace diversity and use their education to make the world a better place,” as stated on the college website. Though a variety of majors are available — from gender studies to neuroscience — every student graduates with the ability to “read deeply, think about issues critically and write arguments persuasively.” The college’s slogan says it all: “Study everything. Do anything.”

Scholastic’s Picks:

• ECONOMICS: According to Director of Undergraduate Studies Mary Flannery, the economics department “has a reputation of rigorous courses which provide students with quantitative and critical thinking skills.” Employers actively seek out Notre Dame economics majors for their “quantitative and critical thinking skills.” The economics department has the highest post-graduation employment rate in the College of Arts and Letters (82 percent), and the median starting salary is $65,000.

• ROMANCE LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES: Students in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures “enter into new and inexhaustibly rich cultures whose literature, art, music and film have profoundly shaped our own.” The department has a 75 percent postgraduate employment rate which is the second highest in the College of Arts and Letters. Graduates of 2017 have taken jobs at companies such as Walt Disney World, where they put to use their well-developed skills of “critical, interpretive and creative thinking.”

 

College of Engineering:

The College of Engineering at Notre Dame takes a broader approach in training their students than most other engineering departments. Dean Thomas Fuja explained how the program stands above others by focusing on “a top-quality technical education” that takes place “in the context of Notre Dame’s rich liberal arts tradition.” The combination of these two elements prepares students to “solve real problems” with a skill set that includes “critical thinking and effective communications” as well as the standard math, physics and communication.” Dean Fuja considers this fusion to be “absolutely essential for success.”

Scholastic’s Pick:

• MECHANICAL ENGINEERING: The program produces amazing results due to its demanding, enduring and collaborative focus. Eighty-two percent of students were employed as of six months after graduation. The $66,000 median starting salary proves the value of the major. Dr. Bill Goodwine, the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, attributes the success of the major partly to the longevity of its relevance: “to the extent that companies are hiring our students as an investment in them ... It serves as an endorsement of the fundamental, long term value of their education.”

 

School of Architechture:

In addition to being one of the top ranked programs in the nation, the School of Architecture is the only architecture school in the United States that requires students to study abroad. The year spent in Rome ensures that students have a global understanding of their impact and allows them to study classical architecture first- hand. According to the School of Architecture, “Students leave Rome upon completion of the program with a deeper knowledge of architecture and valuable life experience.” The school has a 97 percent postgraduate employment rate — median starting salary of $52,000 — while the remaining 3 percent are enrolled in higher education.

 

Keough School of Global Affairs:

The Keough School of Global Affairs hopes to help students become global citizens with the capacity to address critical interdisciplinary issues. As of fall 2018, students will be able to declare a supplementary major in global affairs. According to Dean Scott Appleby, the new major will “provide students with a truly globalized education” by “offering them coursework focused on worldwide problems” as well as bolstering their language and intercultural communication skills.


Majors with the Toughest Job Markets

While only 2 percent of Notre Dame grads report they were still seeking employment six months after graduation, the 2017 First Destination Report indicates that some majors on campus have tougher job markets than others. Listed here are the majors with the highest rates of graduates still seeking employment six months after graduating.

1. Italian: 20%

 2-3. (tied) Gender Studies, German: 17%

4. Aerospace Engineering: 12% 

5. Chinese: 8%

Although the report indicates a median salary of $63,000 for Notre Dame graduates with full-time employment, the majors listed below have the lowest recorded salaries six months after graduating. These salaries are reported by Notre Dame graduates with full-time jobs and do not include students currently enrolled in higher education or are otherwise employed.

1. PreProfessional: $24,000

2-3. (tied) Neuroscience and Behavior and Program of Liberal Studies: $32,000

4. Biological Sciences: $32,000

5. Film, Television and Theatre: $41,000


THE CENTER FOR CAREER DEVELOPMENT 

With all the options laid out, the process of major — and by extension, career — discernment can seem daunting. Now on the fifth floor of the Duncan Student Center, the Center for Career Development is taking a renewed approach to help students make many of the difficult decisions about their academic careers and future employment.

“It is important for students to engage in the first stage of the career development process when discerning their major and/or career path which is figuring out ‘who they are’ through self-assessment,” Bridget Kibbe, director of undergraduate career services, said. “What are your values, interests, personality and skills? Knowing these four components will help students understand what is a ‘good fit’ for them when exploring majors or careers and help them achieve long term career satisfaction when all four components are considered.”

Students who visit learning labs can discover some of the opportunities offered by the Center for Career Development, prepare for the Career Fair, get started on a résumé, discuss summer opportunities or learn about networking. They may also schedule an individual appointment to explore different majors or career paths with the Engagement Team or gain knowledge about specific industries with the Exploration Team. The Career Development Guide is a wonderful reference booklet that offers a wealth of knowledge about career discernment and other related topics.

According to Ryan Willerton, associate vice president for career and professional development in the Division of Student Affairs, “Our motto is: Discern. Discover. Pursue. We are looking for meaningful careers and those careers can be a force for good in the world. And that force for good is not necessarily a top leadership position, something with a big title, something with a big paycheck. A force for good could be a teacher, a force for good could be doing community service. It’s how I can find happiness, how I can find joy, how I can help others.”

Another important resource students can take advantage of is IrishCompass, a database of more than 5,000 alumni interested in networking and mentoring conversations with students. “IrishCompass is a great resource for any student on campus,” Willerton said. “You can engage in a conversation with someone who has been out in the world for five, ten years. We encourage students to reach out so that they get comfortable talking with a professional. Interpersonal experience is so important. For a student who has just arrived on campus, doesn’t know what they want to do, networking is key, having those conversations is the first step.”


ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

Mary Brosnan Class of 2017 (Arabic and Political Science)

I am a Peace Corps Volunteer and I teach English at a secondary school in Ndzuwani, Comoros. I will return to the U.S. in August 2019 and find a job, inshallah. I would recommend Peace Corps to interested students because it allowed me to learn about another place, culture and language through experience. Majoring in arabic and political science has been helpful in adapting to the language and culture of Comoros, and in my experience as a teacher. However, many of the most impactful learning experiences I had came from outside the classroom like internships, my work as a research assistant with Dr. Dominic Chaloner on intellectual virtues in scientists, and working in the preschool at the Robinson Community Learning Center.

Class of 2014 (American Studies) Sarah Cahalan

After a year of service in Ireland, I went into the magazine industry and have been in it ever since, first in Denver, then on the East Coast, and now back here in Indiana, and I plan to stay in this industry. I’d definitely recommend that everyone expand his or her horizons beyond South Bend at some point, but it is a surprisingly fun place to live. The American studies major in particular exposed me to a lot of great journalistic writing, which is really what first introduced me to the world of long-form and made me want to do this kind of work. So my major planted the seed of the idea of becoming a journalist, which I then went out on my own to cultivate.

Ankur Chawla Class of 2013 (Finance and Mathematics)

After graduating from ND, I began my career at Disney working in strategic planning and Mergers & Acquisitions. After three years there I joined Hulu’s Content Acquisition Finance team, managing the financial analyses for scripted television acquisitions and original series. I recently left Hulu this summer to start in the MBA program at Harvard Business School. I had a great time in LA working at Disney and Hulu and am excited to explore Boston these next two years.