By Larry Buhl, Special to CareerBuilder
If the tried-and-true undergraduate majors don’t light your fire, consider one of the following more unusual degree programs offered at colleges and universities across the country.
These majors are serious programs offered by respected, accredited institutions. In fact, their specificity makes them practical choices for students interested in pursuing related careers. Plus, the placement rate for some degrees (like racetrack management and retail floristry) is extremely high.
Here are nine unique college degrees to consider:
1. Adventure recreation: If you want a career in the great outdoors, Oregon State University-Cascades and Green Mountain College in Vermont are among a few institutions offering major and minor programs in adventure recreation. This course teaches leadership skills to manage tours and groups in a variety of sports and activities.
Sample course: Adventure group processing and facilitation
Possible careers: Resort adventure director, professional guide
2. Astrobiology: Astrobiology is an emerging scientific meta-discipline that uses technological tools to study all forms of life in the universe and asks (but doesn’t necessarily answer): Where are we going, where do we come from and are we alone? The University of Washington, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Florida Institute of Technology are three of a growing number of institutions offering bachelor’s degrees in astrobiology. Coursework includes physics, geology, astronomy and engineering.
Sample courses: Geomicrobiology
Possible careers: NASA researcher
3. Bowling management
Many universities offer undergraduate sports-management majors, but only Vincennes University in Indiana offers a specialized degree in bowling industry management and technology, with a state-of-the-art 18-lane bowling center lab and National Junior College Athletic Association hall-of-fame coach Gary Sparks teaching.
Sample course: Lane and pinsetter maintenance
Possible careers: Bowling lane owner or manager, manufacturer sales representative
4. Eco-gastronomy: Capitalizing on the growth of locally-grown food, slow foods and sustainable agriculture, the University of New Hampshire now gives students food for thought, literally, through studies in food and its cultural and environmental implications. Because eco-gastronomy is a “complementary” major — it must be combined with another major — students have a wide range of career options from which to choose.
Sample course: Food and society
Possible careers: Restaurant management, food-safety manager
5. Floral management: You need a bachelor’s degree to work in a flower shop? Not necessarily, but it can help, and it can also open doors to more competitive floral industry jobs. Graduates of Mississippi State University’s floral management program enjoy a 90 percent placement rate, according to the school, in purchasing, distributing, marketing, designing and retail floristry jobs.
Sample course: Greenhouse management
Possible careers: Wedding and bridal designer, wholesale floral manager
6. Puppetry: The art and management of puppetry is not kid’s stuff. The University of Connecticut and West Virginia University offer serious undergraduate and graduate degrees in puppetry arts, with coursework that can prepare students to design and build puppet theaters, design toys, teach children and direct schools and museums.
Sample course: Trends in contemporary American puppetry
Possible careers: Puppeteer, puppet maker, theater director
7. Racetrack management: Graduates of the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona — the only program of its kind — have the background necessary for many career paths in the horse-racing industry. The school boasts a job placement rate of above 80 percent for graduates.
Sample course: Advanced animal racing laws and enforcement
Possible careers: Horse trainer, breeder, racetrack manager
8. Sports ministry: Sports ministry is a growing field that aims to strengthen the links between religion and sports. Kentucky’s Campbellesville University and several Bible colleges offer interdisciplinary sports ministry degrees to prepare students for jobs teaching religion and sports in a wide range of religious institutions.
Sample course: The Christian coach
Possible careers: Director of college athletics, youth minister
9. Turfgrass management: Golf courses, community parks and professional sports teams rely on experts to keep the grass healthy. Michigan State University and State University of New York (SUNY) – Cobbleskill are two schools where undergrads can specialize in managing turfgrass.
Sample course: Plant genetics
Possible careers: Golf course superintendent, athletic fields manager, urban agriculture specialist