The Importance Of Academic Electives

The Importance Of Academic Electives

The Importance Of Academic Electives


They teach you a critical perspective on other areas. One of my first year, undergraduate anthropology classes had a few medical students in it. They were being encouraged to try out other areas so that they had a better perspective of the world – which makes a lot of sense when you realise medical staff have to be able to deal with people from literally anywhere.


You may not get exposed to this other set of variables during your time at university. It also lets you see if you like a topic, without committing to an entire degree in it. Careers, interests and opportunities all change over time. Particularly careers. A job for life is no longer a thing.


Now, I guess the real question is if we still need to learn in this particular manner, when we can use Google, YouTube and probably Wikipedia to find out pretty much anything.


And my response would still be yes. BUT, only for those who are looking at studying. You need to learn “optional information” in the same context as you’re learning your main topic.


The Importance Of Academic Electives


What might it spark later?


I think this is what people  might miss. There is a benefit to streamlining life in some areas – ones that could otherwise create mess. I don’t think learning ever creates mess. I’m sure it’s not marketable or cool, but I learned a lot of valuable things in my first year of uni, and I still use them today, even though they were “off topic” to my area of study.


Do you think education is diverse enough these days? 


17 Replies to “The Importance Of Academic Electives”

  1. I had to do a computer subject for my Bachelor of Business Communication (Journalism). It was first year and we were itching to write stories, not code. In hindsight, those early computer lessons did come in hand.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I did the programming IT classes in year 11 & 12 and the HTML skills I developed are still useful today!

  2. I’m all for expanding your horizons and taking in information from outside your comfort zone. There needs to be balance as there is only so much information you can hold but I thrive when I learn new things. I did an Arts degree back in my uni days and got a lot out of every subject. I didn’t come out qualified in anything specifically but the critical reasoning, research & interpretation, analysis and writing skills I developed have served me very well ever since.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      My degree is Arts with a double major in Anthropology so yep – I’m with you all the way 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed the diversity of the first year of my teaching degree – I studied English Lit and Religious Studies, neither of which taught me anything that I’d need at a practical level or for teaching per se, but I learned stuff that had real life relevance and broadened my horizons.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I think a diverse first year is great. I had electives in a kind of environmental town planning – I wouldn’t go into it as a career but I’ve always remembered what I was taught and I can see how it makes and breaks the functionality and culture of a town.

  4. Like Sammie, I studied teaching. My electives throughout were creative writing and Australian history … and look where I have ended up. Turned out writing, not teaching, was my true passion all along!

    Visiting from #teamIBOT x

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      You must have known something along the way.

  5. Vanessa I have to admit I know very little about educational curricula nowadays. But broadly I think it’s great to offer a variety of electives and my undergrad degree certainly did. (Not so much my MBA.) I know people who’ve discovered their eventual careers because they happened to pick up a psych or english subject or similar!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It’s exactly that – the flexibility helps you discover a lot.

  6. I’m all for electives. I did some psychology subjects as part of my communications degree which I loved and they’re relevant to my work now. It’s great to be able to indulge a few interests while you’re studying. You never know where it will lead.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I feel like degrees are kind of a step behind – back when you could reasonably expect one career for life, you could study other things easier. Now that things are money focused, they want one narrow path, but the irony is that we need the wide range as we are unlikely to have one career for life.

  7. I’m definitely for electives and believe that uni should be to get a broad education, there’s time to specialise as well. (I did anthropology in my first year too!).

  8. I think electives cultivate different ways of thinking about the world. Each discipline comes with its own analytic tools and it’s important to be able to use more than one form of analysis when approaching problems in any discipline.

  9. I’m a fan of electives. I was able to do a minor in creative writing while studying journalism.

  10. I had to do a journalism unit last year and I hated it with a passion. But it’s definitely improved my writing and changed my thinking on lots of things. I’m a big believer that it’s often the subjects you wouldn’t choose or don’t love, that teach you the most.

  11. I love the old-fashioned idea of university, where it was less about learning a trade and more about getting a solid understanding of the classics. I wonder what we lose when we give that up?

Leave a Reply