During your college years, you'll be required to take certain courses—and for a good reason. The classes you take as an undergrad build the skills you’ll bring to a future career. And sometimes, the classes that you least expect will prove to have the best real-world applications and help you land and keep your first job.
So as you’re flipping through the course catalog this fall, here are six essential skills you should make sure you’re learning from the classes you take as an undergrad:
1. Public Speaking
If you dream of going into politics, it’s easy to see that public speaking will help you. If you’re thinking about an engineering or finance job—or anything in between—maybe it’s less obvious. But wherever you end up, you’ll find yourself interviewing, networking, and presenting at meetings—and being a good communicator when you’re put on the spot will be invaluable to getting ahead.
Courses to look for: Basic oratory courses, applied theater workshops, or seminar-style international relations classes.
Different careers require different writing styles—and your first business report or nonprofit grant application won’t look much like that last English term paper. Nonetheless, the ability to write clearly and make a persuasive argument is a skill valued in any career, and one you’re best off learning in college.
Courses to look for: Writing-intensive classes in English, history, or political science—or even philosophy. Look for courses where you’ll need to write frequently, and where you’ll be asked to defend or attack a position.
Numbers are everywhere in the business world—and not just in finance and accounting. Think: budgeting for your startup, estimating the viewers of your magazine, or pricing ads for a big client. Knowing your way around numbers is essential to moving up in any field.
Courses to look for: Statistics and economics, or even personal finance.
The world is becoming more and more tech-centric—why not embrace it? Your future job is most likely going to involve you sitting in front a computer for several hours a day—so it sure won’t hurt you to get a head start on navigating PowerPoint or learning the best short-cuts in Excel (check out our tips for building a great Excel model, too).
Courses to look for: Computer courses offered in business computing or Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), or an HTML course that’ll orient you to programming online.
5. Human Psych
No matter what your career path, it’s going to involve working with people—your boss, your co-workers, your clients. Knowing the ways they think will put you at least one step ahead. Plus, a good grasp on human psychology can give you insights into the ways you work, as well.
Courses to look for: Psychology and sociology, or even communication theory—all great ways to glimpse the human mind and analyze the impact of your actions.
6. Foreign Language
The business world is global, and you’re expected to be, too. Knowing a foreign language—and culture—not only shows that you can look at things from a different perspective, but can open up job opportunities around the world—especially if you’re willing to travel.
Courses to look for: Every university offers language classes, form basic to advanced. Maybe you want to learn one language well, or maybe you want to dabble in several. If languages aren’t your thing, take the time to study a different culture—or study abroad—to broaden your global knowledge.