In past blogs, I’ve touched briefly upon opportunities for careers in the horse industry, but have never really taken the opportunity to discuss the topic of equine major and minor programs. It probably seems a bit strange to regular readers that I haven’t done so – especially after last week’s post on veterinary careers and the fact that my specialty is working with equestrian students. But there’s a reason that equine majors haven’t made it into this blog previously and it’s simple:
(Pause for collective “Huh?!”)
Perhaps it’s more clear if I provide an example that illustrates why it’s been so difficult for me to include an entry about equine majors in this blog.
Let’s say for a moment, junior equestrians, that you love math and want to major in it as a college student. (Don’t worry, math haters, this is all hypothetical.) In your college search, you’ll seek the very best math programs you can find. You’ll look for professors of calculus who will challenge and inspire you and for programs with wonderful career outcomes for their graduates – students who gain acceptance into wonderful graduate programs or who secure jobs as actuaries, accountants, educators, or even take jobs in budget analysis, financial strategy, or human resources management.
(Related: The median salary for a student who graduates with a Bachelor’s degree in math is around $92,000. Still hate math?)
At any rate, the thing about a math degree is, no matter what college or university you attend, the curriculum taught to you will be nearly identical at all of the schools you apply to. I mean, it’s math – there’s a regular and logical progression through the fields of geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, etc. Each exercise builds on the one before. And while different professors will have different teaching methods, different areas of interest and research, and the curriculum might vary somewhat from school to school, ultimately, math is a subject that is standardized across the higher educational board.
What’s more, math is standardized long before students even arrive on their college campus. In order to meet their state and local graduation requirements for high school, students must pass a standardized math curriculum and face math questions on either the ACT or SAT as part of the college entrance process. Therefore, students tend to enter their college math programs on similar levels of understanding. (There will always be variation, of course, but for the sake of this example, we’re adhering to the theory that most kids take algebra I and II and geometry in high school as a graduation requirement.)
The conversation about standardization isn’t limited to math either; other subjects can say pretty much the same thing – even the social sciences and humanities, which are fields with a lot of variation within them. The foundations of the disciplines are generally the same and college students don’t begin to specialize by interest until they gain more experience in the subject area.
The challenge with equine majors is that there is no similar standard curriculum or progression to follow in high school or at the college level. Each year, students enter major programs with assorted backgrounds and varying levels of experience, all the way from having never been around horses at all through upper level competitors or students who grew up on breeding farms. They come from the western disciplines, from dressage and hunter and jumper barns, and from different parts of the country where horses are cared for in different ways, from desert settings to lush pastureland. Expert riders can enter a major program without ever having tacked a horse or mucked a stall before and other students might have worked around horses on the ground all their lives but never swung into a saddle.
What’s more, unlike countries like Great Britain, which has its rigorous training program for equestrian professionals through British Horse Society (BHS) system, and other countries in Europe (as well as Canada), most of the equine major programs in the U.S. tend to be built around the expertise of the faculty members who teach in them. So while one program may excel in turning out expert hunter/jumper trainers, another might be the leading producer of educated horse breeders and still another might focus solely on the biological side of equine and general animal care. All fields have merit and can be wonderful educational experiences for the students enrolled in them, but it’s hard to compare their curriculum on an apples-to-apples basis when the subjects are more the educational equivalent of comparing apples to pineapples and apples to grapes.
…and therefore, it’s hard to write a standard blog entry about a non-standard subject area!
The bottom line is, if you’re a student who is considering an equine major in your future, you’ll need to do some serious self-evaluation before you even begin your search so that you know specifically what you’re looking for. What weaknesses do you have that you need a college program to fill in for you? What areas of the equine world most interest you? What would you like your equine business to be after graduation? Once you know what you’ll need, you’ll be better-equipped to look for it.
In the end, finding the right equine program will probably require more time spent on research than you would spend looking for a math or English program, but it shouldn’t be too hard.
After all, it isn’t calculus.
(Need help with any part of your college search? Interested in that math major? Contact me.)