Emerging Programs of Study

By Flora Richards Gustafson

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It was hard to imagine having a cell phone that allowed you to access the Internet, surfaces that charge electronics without the need to plug them in or tablet computers 15 years ago. Today there are similarly emerging programs of study that you may not know about that are unique and can lead to interesting careers.

Pursuing a degree in a field that is yet not well known can make you a hot commodity once you begin exploring the job market or even before the job search starts. Here are a few examples:

Human Factors Psychology

Human Factors examines how humans relate to their environment, as well as the safest and best methods to do so. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s human factors psychology program offers an undergraduate program focused on aviation and aerospace safety that allows students to use flight simulators and other equipment in order to help the FAA improve efficiency and safety.

Joseph Grgic graduated with a master’s degree in human factors from Missouri Western State University in 2011. He was surprised by the diversity of the field and said: “My background was in cognitive psychology, but I have had to expand it to include computer science, design and business. The field is constantly changing, but one thing is constant: the ability to understand how and why people interact with an interface always involves (mental processes).”

Sustainable Food Production

A love for working outdoors and caring for the environment is perfect for a degree in sustainable food production. With this college major, you’ll learn about the importance of being able to grow your own food and create positive changes in communities.

Dr. Sue Wika at Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) said this degree helps students become entrepreneurs. Moreover, this major is a one-year degree program at M State, so students potentially don’t have to graduate with four years of debt.

Ricca Macklin is pursuing a sustainable food degree at Indiana University because she has a passion for cooking and business and hopes to open her own restaurant. “I think many businesses, not just food businesses, will become more sustainable,” said Macklin, “because it is the right thing to do and consumers love businesses that care about the society, economy and environment.”

Information Assurance

If you have always wanted an excuse to hack computers and get paid to do so, a degree in information assurance (IA) may be right for you. Dr. Josh Pauli at Dakota State University explains IA is securing computers and networks from hackers and adds, “No matter the industry, everyone relies on technology. Hospitals, banks, schools, they all have a security department.”

Mike Klein, a graduate DSU student, received a Cyber Corps Scholarship for the IA program. He feels IA is important because “Most individuals and businesses create new software or hardware without taking into consideration the security of the design. New flawed and vulnerable programs are introduced to the world every day; the Internet was never designed to be secure.”

Comic Arts

At the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, you can hone your skills as a comic artist, storyteller and illustrator. For those thinking about a Comic Art major, Barbara Schultz with MCAD advises students to make their own three-page comic to see if they really enjoy the process or prefer to make single illustrations.

Cartoonist Nikki Cook, a 2004 MCAD graduate, said, “Comics are incredibly complicated and need tons of different skills just to produce one piece. You don’t need to be big and famous and have tons of work to be counted as a cartoonist, you just need to be making comics.”

Studies in War and Peace

The studies in war and peace degree (SWAP) at Norwich University combines political science, history and social sciences. This major allows you to examine the origins of military institutions and their impacts on societies.

Dr. Steve Stodergen at Norwich said the SWAP major teaches students important leadership and communication skills. While Norwich is a military university, you don’t have to be in the military to attend.

Student Matt Johnson said he chose the SWAP major because it’s unique and fit his strengths and interests well.

About the Author

Flora Richards Gustafson