Who regulates what counts as a valid major?

I have read about some rather weird and useless majors in US some of which seem to be beyond absurd. Some of them already have meme status like communication and LJBTQ studies, and others are too obscure to even name of the top of my head. Here in Russia, we make fun of majors like "management" but when compared to gender studies it doesn't seem that funny any more?  Who regulates what counts as a valid major? What if some university decides to offer astrology or hamster breeding as a major? In Russia, the Ministry of Education makes a list of all possible majors, each of them having a unique number along with all the minimal requirements universities must adhere to when offering them. Is there a similar list in the US?


So there is no regulation to what universities can offer as a major?

Update 2:

I don't know about Americans but in Russia you only get a management degree if you are bad at maths, lazy and you don't know what to do with your life. Nobody would hire you with a management degree because everyone has some wife's nephew with that same useless degree they could hire.

Update 3:

I am not insulting anyone, and I am not claiming that Russia is the pinnacle of higher education (UK is;  not Russia IMO). I am not trying to criticise but to ask about how a certain aspect is regulated (or not regulated).

9 Answers

  • 6 months ago
    Favourite answer

    Universities are regulated by their accreditation boards, so it's not a complete free-for-all on what may be offered as a major. There are certain requirements for a college major: a minimum number of classes, and there have to be increasing levels of progress in subject matter (introductory to advanced). 

    And there has to be a certain level of interest from the students to take the classes; no one is going to waste the professors' time with a class of one or two students. 

    So it's fairly effectively controlled just by logistics. 

    But students have been combining majors and creating new ones for a long time. Biopsychology, which use to be basically a double major of biology and psychology, is now quite a popular major in its own right. Gender studies grew out of sociology, economics and history. Other majors are just highly specialized versions of more general majors: you might study botany at one university, whereas most universities would just call it biology at the undergraduate level. 

  • Anonymous
    5 months ago

    A new major is decided by the university itself.  It is a very long process that starts with the  academic Provost.  It goes through many committees and much planning needs to be done before it is actually offered.  A new major would heavily discussed before they would beginning to move forward. They would not consider hamsters breeding. What they see a need for and what would attract students.   Would be considered.     The US government is not involved. 

    Any business management major would require math.  

    Gender studies minor or major is not a worthless degree.  Especially combined with a Masters degree in an other area. Health care, psychologist, social work, police work, advertising, marketing, administrator of human services department would all see gender studies as a plus.

  • fcas80
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    Each college decides what counts as a major, but colleges need to be accredited and their choices will be reviewed by accreditation organizations.  A college major needs to have some scholarly basis to it - are people writing books and articles that peers consider scholarly?  Management, communication, and LGBTQ qualify under my scholarly criteria.  I don't know how many LGBTQ majors are going to find jobs in that field, but the same can be said for philosophy majors.

  • Lili
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    Why on earth would you make fun of a management major? That's not very intelligent of you. And in the US, that major requires math skills.

    Most people don't major in "Gender Studies". Many schools don't even offer it as a major.  No university, moreover, is going to offer a major that is not considered academically legitimate or it won't retain accreditation.

    The government here does not tell universities what majors they can offer.  Our federal government doesn't control all universities, not least because many of them are private, and also because we believe in freedom of thought and intellect, which includes freedom of study.  It's up to a given university to decide what majors can be offered, and this will depend in part on the availability of faculty and other resources, and partly on accreditation issues and requirements. See below on university accreditation.

    This is not the only time I've seen you attempting to criticize US higher education  and insulting it.  You're not making yourself or Russia look somehow superior by doing so, so I'm wondering why you feel such a need to do it?  In fact, you're looking quite insecure about your own education and the quality of Russia's in general  You might want to think about that.

    Yes, nepotism's a serious problem in Russia, isn't it? Management degrees or not.

    Edit:  In fact, dear, American universities dominate the international rankings.  MIT at the moment is listed as #1 on the two major international lists.

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  • 6 months ago

    You make fun of majors like management?  With my management-focused degree I make 5-6 times what the average Russian makes and about three times what the average American makes.  

    I would consider any major that provides you with skills that are marketable on the labor market a good major.  Social justice degrees, History, English, Communications, and Theatre do not tend to be good majors since the majority of students who complete the degrees do not find relevant jobs.  Not to say that it is all of them, but for most who complete these degrees, it is not worth the cost.

  • MS
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    A new degree program or major requires review by university/college officials and administrators, and then it is voted on; .  There is no country-wide regulation of majors.  Most universities will not offer majors that are not in enough demand to be worthwhile to offer - in other words, there must be enough enrolled students to justify the cost of facilities, faculty, and staff.  So that prevents some really outlandish majors from being offered. Additionally, a school would likely not receive accreditation if it was offering a slew of inappropriate degree programs, such as hamster breeding.

  • ?
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    Whatever the department or departments or schools or colleges  offering the degree program wants to call the major. One of my diplomas says

    Bachelor of Science

    Earth Sciences

    I took the same courses someone who graduated 2 years earlier whose diploma says Geology. The name of the department changed officially. It changed again to Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

    There is NO regulating office.  

  • 6 months ago

    Each university in the US (and I'm sure elsewhere) has a list of the majors they support, the bachelor's, master's and PhD programs they have, based on departments, facilities, instructors, etc.

    But especially with advanced degrees, you can get a degree with an 'emphasis'.  If you wanted to study the reproductive habits of the platypus, well you can't get a PhD in Platypus Sex.  You get into a PhD program in biology with an emphasis in platypus reproduction.  PhDs, in particular, can be very specialized.  I'm guessing you write up a proposal, then meet with a committee and explain your intentions.

    BTW, when I was in college, we made fun of management and business majors too.  But looking back, they were the ones that made all the money!  8^<

  • Scott
    Lv 6
    6 months ago

    What counts as a valid major is purely a matter of opinion. But all universities maintain an office of institutional research. They post data about job placement. So you can see what graduates are doing.  

    Just search for the survey of recent graduates.

    Universities have wide latitude in the majors they offer, but they are subject to review by regional accrediting agencies.

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