The Millennial Major

We take a look at what Generation Y is studying these days and it's veering away from medicine, law and accounting.

Photo: iStock

To a large extent, the basics of education have not changed much in the last few decades – we all need to know our ABCs and multiplication tables.

But when students enter university, they can finally explore their interests by choosing courses that will not only influence the way they think and act, but their future career path and earnings as well.

It is no secret that medical, business, law and engineering majors are perennial favourites and are still seen as ‘traditional’ choices to this day, mainly because these industries form the backbone of society and are constantly in need of skilled labour.

“Our most popular subjects in 2016 were Economics and Engineering. The clientele we have tend to focus on the more traditional subjects that they see as being able to provide a stable career,” says Eddy Moore, Head of Higher Education and Careers at Epsom College in Malaysia [at the time of writing].

However, as times progress, the demands of the workforce change and so do university offerings, notes Professor Graeme Wilkinson, ViceChancellor of Sunway University.

“Universities always try to match their courses to the needs of society and employers in particular. This means we look at changes occurring in the industry, growing areas of the economy and emerging technologies to drive our new course development.”

Besides traditional subjects, undergraduate degrees these days are becoming more specialised and some even cover brand new areas. Let’s take a look at some of the new courses that millennials are choosing these days.

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Given that we now live in the digital age, the popularity of majors in information and computer science 
should not come as a surprise.

As computer programs, software and networks become a necessity in every industry, the demand for IT-savvy graduates has skyrocketed as a skilled workforce is needed to operate, repair, build, analyse and protect machines, infrastructure and – most importantly – data.

“Increasingly, we are seeing students attracted to new areas related to the digital world such as computer security, data analytics – big data – and mobile computing,” says Professor Graeme.

Majors in this field also seem a natural choice for millennials, who have had the advantage of growing up in a technological world and will be responsible for driving its progress.

While computer science and information science are majors on their own, further specialisations include:

• Computer Programming

• Computer Information Systems

• Computer Systems Analysis

• Computer Systems Networking

• Software Engineering

• Computer Forensics

• Cybersecurity

• Data Analysis

• Game and Interactive Media Design

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This area of study is not a new field, but it is more relevant now than ever as technology shrinks the world and globalisation becomes a common buzzword.

Businesses now cross geographical boundaries, the workforce is increasingly mobile and world events like Brexit have far-reaching economical and social consequences.

As a result, millennials are choosing to study how to navigate and thrive in an ultra-connected global landscape.

While majors in international studies have historically been associated with diplomacy and politics, it can also grant a valuable international perspective for industries and businesses, or other sectors such as security and development.

Specialisations include the following:

• Development Studies

• Globalisation Studies

• International Relations and Diplomacy

• Security and Intelligence

• World Economy and Business

• Peace and Conflict Studies

Some majors are also based off geographical locations such as African Studies, East Asian Studies, West European Studies and more. Choosing an area studies major depends on where the student wishes to work or what they want to specialise in.

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It might seem a little unbelievable that you can actually major in social media, but the slew of job advertisements for social media managers across all industries prove that there is sufficient demand for people who know how to navigate the fickle world of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more.

New platforms are emerging every day and each can be leveraged as a business or marketing tool – with the right person in the job.

While social media is usually offered as a subject under marketing, public relations or communications courses, a major invites a much more in-depth exploration of these technologies and platforms.

Not only will graduates have to be familiar with using and creating content for these services, they will also gain a theoretical understanding of social media practices and learn how to engage with their audiences, maintain customer loyalty and develop media campaign strategies.


The importance of effective communication is slowly starting to gain more recognition and as a result, people are delving into communication science to learn how people communicate, how thinking can be influenced and how messages are created.

Understanding the science behind communication equips graduates with important critical thinking and analysis skills, which will be useful in advertising, business communications, marketing, politics and other fields.

While general communication science is largely theoretical, specialisations such as a major in communication sciences and disorders take on a practical slant. It teaches students about the origin and biology of communication disabilities, and they can choose a specific focus later to treat children and adults with these disorders.

Awareness about communication disabilities is growing – especially among parents of young children – and so graduates in this field are increasingly in demand.

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It is an exciting time to be in the medical field as scientific advancements contribute to the increase in medical innovations. Patients will always need doctors, but doctors also need more advanced equipment and medicines to treat all the diseases present – and that is where biomedical engineers come in. 

By applying engineering principles to biology, biomedical engineers invent new medical tools and work in areas such as medical imaging and regenerative medicine.

Since it is considered an interdisciplinary field, they can have different specialties such as optics, neuroscience, cardiovascular science and more. Inventions such as the artificial heart, CT scan machines and prosthetic implants are all thanks to them.

This field is tipped to grow exponentially over the next decade so job security will never be an issue. 


The human population on earth is increasing, resources are slowly being depleted and our quality of life may experience a downgrade as a result. What can we do about it?

Sustainability studies is a relatively new discipline that has been gaining traction in the last five years as concern grows over the state of the environment and how human activity is affecting it.

It covers multiple fields such as economics, business and social sciences, but all with the environment playing the central role. 

A graduate with a major in sustainability studies can specialise in just about every field, but their goal is to explore ways that humans can pursue economic growth without imposing too great a cost on the environment. They can choose to specialise in areas such as business operations, agriculture, biotechnology and more.

Unless we find the potential to support life on Mars, we only have one Earth and it needs these people to find and achieve the balance between progress and preservation.

The evolution of civilisation brings with it a constant slew of new challenges to face, and it is the role of the universities to prepare every new generation to face them head on.

There are more options for tertiary study now than ever before, with many skills transferable between disciplines; it is up to the student to make informed choices based on what the world needs and the sort of career path he or she wants to work towards, whether that be a ‘traditional’ route or not. 

Tags: Education, Features
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