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You Can Actually Major In These Unusual College Subjects

Subjects like economics, political science, and business are often considered a safe bet to study at university, thanks to their relatively abundant job opportunities and high-salary prospects. Tens of thousands of students graduate from these programs every year, armed with a degree and a head full of knowledge as they hit the job market — but what about students who choose something a bit more off the beaten path? Not every degree is meant to prepare one for a job in an office. These five majors you can actually study are proof of that.

Surf Science and Technology

Surf’s up, dude — especially at Cornwall College, where those inclined to hang loose can study Surf Science and Technology. In addition to learning how to get totally stoked catching some gnarly waves, students are also educated in the ways of environmental science, the design and manufacture of surfboards, human-exercise science, and other topics that are considerably less bogus than you might expect of such a degree. Just because school starts in the fall doesn’t mean it can’t be an endless summer.

Bakery Science

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Culinary arts schools have been around for ages as a necessary step for chefs aspiring to enter the world of fine dining. However, bakery science is not a specialty or course offered at a culinary arts program. Rather, it’s a bachelor of science degree offered at Kansas State University. Students of bakery science study microbiology and milling among other scientific concepts applied in commercial baking. Truth be told, bakery science is far more of a pragmatic choice for a major than one might think, bordering on a trade.

Existential-Phenomenological Psychology

Existentialism is meant to be a livable philosophy, one whose tenets can actually be applied to daily life rather than confined to textbooks. So in that sense it isn’t surprising that a university would meld the teachings of Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Buber to those of psychology’s greatest minds. Even so, the idea of a degree in Existential-Phenomenological Psychology (try saying that five times fast) is nothing if not unique. Seattle University offers the program, which consists of such heady courses as "Psychopathology: Madness in the World" and "Phenomenology of the Face."

Nautical Archaeology

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This isn't your typical “underwater basket-weaving” class. Nautical archaeology is the study of the remains of boats and ships and the cultures that created and used them. Surprisingly, nautical archeology is not a rare area of undergraduate study. Two separate programs offer bachelor’s degrees in the subject, one at Indiana University and the other at the University of West Florida, while the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island offer the focus as a minor.

Adventure Education

Some college experiences are adventures in a metaphorical sense: They introduce you to books that transport you to other places and times, expand your horizons in ways you never thought possible, and help you grow into a more fully realized version of yourself. Other experiences are literal adventures, like Plymouth University’s major in Adventure Education. If ever you wanted to turn whitewater kayaking, mountaineering, and winter camping into more than just hobbies, this is the program for you. It's meant to transform students into leaders so that, after mastering these outdoorsy skills, they can then impart those skills on others. Think of it as "leave it better than you found it" in its most elevated form.

Turf Grass Science

Golf ball on golfing green grass
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Beyond simple golf course management, Penn State created a program to prepare students to grow grass. The school website explains:

“As the first university to offer a two-year technical program specifically for golf course superintendents, and as the first to offer an undergraduate major in turfgrass science, we built a solid foundation for the turfgrass management programs that we offer today through the World Campus.”

So, there you have it. Golf luncheons aren’t going to happen on their own.

Bagpipes

Those of who majored in literature, philosophy, and other “impractical” subjects are used to being asked “what are you going to do with that?” But perhaps few people are likely to have received that question as often as Nick Hudson, the first student at Carnegie Mellon to major in bagpipes. "Some people think it’s cool, some people think it’s crazy, but everyone has a reaction, that’s for sure," the intrepid scholar said shortly before receiving his BA, and his usual response to said query was commendable: "I'm doing what I love." It's no coincidence that Carnegie Mellon offers such a program: Andrew Carnegie, who founded the university in Pittsburgh, had a personal piper and wasn’t shy about displaying his Scottish heritage at the school.

Astrobiology

Antennas lit up under the milky way in the night sky
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As you hear the grumblings about the job prospects for a history major, a new class of graduates from The Florida Institute of Technology will be graduating with their degrees in astrobiology. The study of extraterrestrial life at Florida Tech falls within the science program and, therefore, proffers a bachelor of science degree. It’s not all fun and games: The curriculum includes planetary science, math, physics, and biology. It is also taught by a former astronaut.

Citrus

If you love oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, why not make a living out of it? Citrus and Horticultural Studies at exactly one school in the country, and it shouldn't surprise you to learn that it's Florida Southern College — the Sunshine State produces more than 70% of the nation’s citrus and is responsible for 90% of the oranges that go into our OJ. You’ll do more than sip on Tropicana while getting this major, however. FSC’s campus features a citrus grove for hands-on training and the program is meant to prepare enrollees for a career in the industry, which is a vital part of Florida’s economy. To that end, Citrus Pest and Disease Management, Soil Science, and Plant Nutrition are among the courses required to complete this sweet-and-sour degree.

Puppet Arts

Colorful wooden puppets on strings
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Love theater and performing? There are drama programs all over the world, but perhaps specializing in puppeteering is a way to stand out from the crowd. The University of Connecticut offers both a BFA and an MFA in the study puppetry. Students receive a thorough working knowledge of both mask and shadow theater as well as both rod- and hand-puppets (think: Grover vs. Cookie Monster), and courses include set and costume design, vocal performance techniques, and more.

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