Psychology•February 6, 2023
Today’s employers value the skills of interdisciplinary studies graduates, who view them as adaptable and able to take on a variety of roles.
The Hart Research Associates conducted an online survey among 318 employers to determine the employer’s opinion on what kind of skills and abilities college students need to succeed in today’s economy.¹
The survey results showed that nearly all employers (95%) prefer hiring college graduates with skills that enable them to contribute to innovation in the workplace. In addition, almost all agreed (93%) that a candidate’s ability to think critically and solve complex problems is more relevant than their undergraduate major.
Given these survey results and a rapidly changing and unpredictable job market, cultivating a diverse and multifaceted skill set has become essential for career success.
Rather than limiting yourself to a single narrow field of study, you can pursue an interdisciplinary degree. It will provide diverse coursework, expose you to various viewpoints, and help you develop a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the world.
Join us as we delve into the benefits of interdisciplinary education, how it refines your critical thinking, helps sharpen your problem-solving skills, and opens a myriad of career paths for your future.
The first advantage of pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary studies is its flexibility and customization. Interdisciplinary studies majors can tailor their courses of study by combining courses from multiple disciplines to create a personalized and unique degree.
One example of a potential combination of courses for a major focusing on psychology is Statistics for Behavioral Sciences, Cognitive Psychology, and Sensation and Perception. Choosing these courses will help you have a strong foundation in core areas of psychology.
Customizing your degree can help you focus on your interests and strengths and create a degree useful for your academic and career goals. In addition, the interdisciplinary degree requirements are typically less restrictive than other degree programs, such as a double major, giving you more options in terms of course selection.
Interdisciplinary subjects are the intersection of multiple areas of study, combining different types of knowledge to solve complex problems and address difficult questions.
For example, climate change requires expertise from multiple fields, such as meteorology, engineering, economics, and policy analysis. If you are a professional with expertise in these topics, you are more likely to find an answer to this critical issue than a specialist who only focuses on one of these topics.
Additionally, interdisciplinary subjects allow you to see connections and relationships that might be overlooked by someone narrowing down on a single subject. Integrating the knowledge of multiple fields of study could lead to you having breakthroughs that can advance your understanding of the world or create more effective solutions to our problems.
Neuropsychology is an interdisciplinary subject combining knowledge from multiple study areas, including psychology, neuroscience, biology, and medicine. It focuses on elucidating the relationship between brain function and behavior.
Neuropsychologists study the brain and behavior using a variety of methods, including neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG). Moreover, they also use neuropsychological assessments, which test cognitive functions, including memory, attention, language, and others. They study various conditions and disorders that affect brain function, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer, Parkison).
One famous example of a neuropsychological case study is the story of the patient known as H.M. He had a type of epilepsy that was not responsive to medication. In 1953, after consulting with his doctors, he decided to undergo surgery that involved the removal of parts of his temporal lobe, including the hippocampus.²
The surgery was a success, reducing the severity of H.M.’s seizures, but it had an unexpected side effect. He was unable to form long-term memories. He could not remember anything after his surgery. This type of memory impairment is called anterograde amnesia.
Researchers used tests to assess H.M.’s memory function, such as the Digit Span Test and the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test (ROCF). The digit span test involved presenting H.M. with a series of digits that he had to repeat to the researchers in the same order. This test showed that H.M. had difficulty retaining information in his short-term memory. More specifically, he could only remember a few digits at a time, even if the researchers presented them multiple times.
For the ROCF test, H.M. was asked to copy a complex figure onto a blank sheet of paper and then reproduce it from memory after a delay of 30 minutes to 1 hour. The test results showed that H.M. had difficulty recalling and reproducing many of the figure's details from memory after a delay.
These tests and other research experiments revealed that H.M.’s memory impairment was specific to his ability to form new long-term memories. In contrast, his short-term memory and other cognitive functions were intact.
The study case helped us deepen our understanding of the relationship between the hippocampus and memory function, and the researcher’s findings significantly impacted the development of treatments for memory disorders. These findings become possible with the help of insights from the interdisciplinary neuropsychology field.
Another advantage of the interdisciplinary degree is that its completion requires students to develop a broad knowledge base and acquire transferable skills.³
This means you will take courses from multiple disciplines and develop a well-rounded education that will prepare you for various career paths. The results of the surveys, such as The Hart Research Associates online survey, showed that most employers are looking for professionals that can take multiple roles and develop innovative solutions.
Earning an interdisciplinary studies psychology degree program can help you, for example, gain the knowledge and skills to pursue a career as a counselor for substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health. This profession is both rewarding and in demand, with an expected 22% employment growth from 2021 to 2023, much faster than the average for all occupations.
An interdisciplinary psychology education that draws from multiple fields of study, such as psychology, social sciences, and neuroscience, is essential in providing you with a strong foundation for the counseling profession.
That strong foundation is relevant not only for the counseling profession but also for the many other interdisciplinary studies jobs available for professionals with expertise in multiple domains of knowledge.
The cultivation of critical thinking is a fundamental competency that students can develop throughout their pursuit of an interdisciplinary degree.
This educational approach entails exposure to various academic disciplines, improving the students' innovative and imaginative thinking. Employers place great value on these cognitive abilities, seeking candidates with a broader perspective that can adapt to an ever-changing workplace.
Most interdisciplinary studies curricula often require students to complete a capstone project, wherein students can apply the knowledge and competencies they have acquired over the course of their degree program to address a real-world problem.
This experiential learning opportunity is ideal for students, as it encourages them to engage in profound and analytical thought and use the skills they have developed in a practical setting.
Capstone projects are highly important tasks that prepare students for collaborative projects that can change the world. For example, Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) is a 10-year collaborative project that involved experts in psychology, neuroscience, and addiction medicine and statistics from over 20 institutions across the United States.
The study followed over 10,000 children and adolescents to examine how biology and environment interact and relate to developmental outcomes such as physical health, mental health, and life achievements, including academic success. The ABCD study aims to improve our understanding of promoting healthy development in young people by investigating a wide range of factors contributing to these outcomes.
One of the study's many findings shows that higher screen time levels were associated with differences in brain structure and function, lower cognitive abilities, and poorer mental health outcomes. More specifically, the researchers observed that increased screen time was associated with reduced gray matter volume in the brain’s cortex, which is essential for processing information and regulating emotions.
The study’s results highlight the importance of parents' monitoring and limiting children's screen time to promote their children’s healthy brain development and prevent potential negative outcomes. The ABCD study is just one of the many examples of collaborative projects in which interdisciplinary expertise would be valuable.
Interdisciplinary studies programs offer you a broad range of courses that you can customize to suit your educational goals and explore multiple disciplines. This can be ideal for you if you are looking for flexibility and freedom of choice.
However, it is important to note that you can choose a pre-structured multi-domain education offered by your university, such as a bachelor of arts. A liberal arts degree has a pre-established curriculum covering various subjects, including literature, history, philosophy, and art.
You might also be interested in a general studies degree, typically pursued by students with sufficient college credits but lacking the necessary credits for any specific major.
You can follow multiple paths toward gaining interdisciplinary knowledge. Whether a degree in interdisciplinary studies is good depends on your career goals and interests.
Historically, a polymath was an individual who studied and was competent in multiple fields of study. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci was a polymath due to his voracious curiosity. He studied and became proficient in various areas of study, including engineering, science, sculpture, physics, and art. Leonardo's art was, in part, so ingenious and beautiful because he deeply admired the natural world. He wanted to grasp every detail of it, and his art was a reflection of that.
Moreover, because of his capacity to paint and express his knowledge visually, he was able to capture the physics of flight in real-time while watching birds flying in front of him. His insights regarding flight helped engineers, after his death, to make one of his dreams, flying in the sky, a reality through the construction of planes. His knowledge of the natural world made him paint better, and his ability to visualize and draw made him a better engineer and scientist.
When people look at his work and knowledge, many consider that it was only possible because science was not so advanced at the time of his life, so becoming proficient in more than one field was easier and possible. Nevertheless, that’s not exactly true because people like Yuval Noah Harari demonstrate that becoming a modern life polymath is still possible.
Yuval Noah Harari is a modern polymath due to his multidisciplinary knowledge and contributions to many fields, including history, philosophy, ethics, and anthropology.
Harari has written extensively on the history of humanity, more specifically about the development of civilizations, the rise of empires, and the impact of technological advancements on society. He wrote several best-selling books, including “Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind” and “Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” which have been translated into 50 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide.
Hararis’s writing touches on subjects such as the meaning of life, the nature of consciousness, and the ethical ramifications of technologies like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.
What Davinci and Harari have in common is the fact that they both pursued their curiosity, which helped them become polymaths. Their achievements show the interconnected nature of the world and how deepening the understanding of one subject can also mean exploring others.
You can also become a modern polymath. Pursuing an interdisciplinary degree allows you to follow your curiosity, improve your critical thinking and problem-solving capacities, and get exposed to a wide range of perspectives. You will be able to make connections between different areas of study, innovate, and have the skills that expand your work and job opportunities.
If you are interested in following a path of curiosity that allows you to see the world’s interconnectivity and grasp the human mind’s complexities, consider checking our Graduate Program in Psychology Overview.
Our master's degree program in psychology draws on a wide range of knowledge domains, including spiritual traditions, somatic practices, creative arts, mythology, and more, offering a unique curriculum that integrates these diverse perspectives.
You will be able to tailor your degree to match your career’s objectives and gain expertise that stretches to more than one field. If you want to learn more about our programs, you can email an Admission Advisor and take the first step in becoming a modern polymath.
James Jacob, W. (2015). Interdisciplinary trends in higher education. Palgrave communications,1(1), 1-5.