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Multidisciplinary study: the value and benefits
Multidisciplinary study: the value and benefits

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6 Skills developed through multidisciplinary study

What makes multidisciplinary students stand out to employers is the rich view of the world that they develop, the wide range of perspectives they will have encountered during their studies, and the combination of subject areas they have studied that could offer more flexible career choices. In fact, many vacancies don’t specify the subject knowledge required for the role; it’s the skills you have developed in your studies as well as your other life experiences that employers are interested in. Studying more than one subject, therefore, helps you to develop important transferable skills, which are continually developing at all stages of life (Table 1).

Table 1 Some examples of the transferable skills gained through multidisciplinary study
Skill Explanation
Critical thinking Critical thinking skills are used and developed as students look across disciplinary boundaries to consider other viewpoints and also begin to compare and contrast concepts across subject areas.
Self-management Choosing which subjects to study – and why – can be challenging, and requires students to think carefully about how to identify their priorities and manage their study choices.
Adaptability Different subjects may need to be viewed through different lenses which means an individual needs to be able to switch to the appropriate lens at the appropriate time for whichever subject they are looking at. It requires careful self-management to be able to do this.
Analysis and problem solving By studying across different subject boundaries and by studying a wider range of subjects, students develop deeper skills of evaluation as they learn a number of different logical and methodical approaches and are able to select the best one to use for particular circumstances. For example, students can draw on their range of academic or subject knowledge to identify solutions of a practical or technical nature.
Communication and literacy Students’ written and verbal communication skills are well developed amongst multi-subject students as they learn to revert to the appropriate communication style for a particular subject area. For example, multi-subject students might encounter a range of different assessment methods, including essays, laboratory reports, written and oral examinations, as appropriate to different subject areas.
Application of information technology Using technology across a range of subjects means that students can be more practised in displaying and presenting information in a range of ways.
Flexibility The ability to adapt to different contexts and environments is a strong skill gained from multi-subject study as you will be switching from one subject to another.
Synthesis of ideas Students begin to consolidate learning by combining ideas from many perspectives and consider an alternative way of acquiring knowledge.

Building your own multidisciplinary approach to learning and developing these important skills will enable you to study in a way that suits your own style of learning, motivations for study and personal interests.

Having a portfolio of different subjects within your degree profile can therefore be marketed to employers in a very positive light and help you to ‘stand out’ against other applicants. Your adaptability and versatility in being able to follow very different disciplines successfully, and developing a full range of skills, can be particularly attractive to employers. However, it can seem challenging to work out how to explain these skills to a potential employer. If you are studying for career reasons, you need to consider how you articulate the skills developed and experiences gained in your CV, job application forms and interviews.

Remember too that many employers will also be interested in other life experiences outside of your studies and these can be just as helpful in demonstrating your skills or competencies for a particular job.

Activity 4 Explaining skills to an employer

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Write down three reasons why an employer might value the skills of a multidisciplinary learner.

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You may have included any of the following in your answer:

  1. They can show that they are more flexible and are able to adapt to a variety of different situations with ease. This can be particularly helpful in an organisation where there may be lots of change taking place.
  2. They are used to managing different deadlines and categorising what ideas belong where, and therefore are good at managing themselves and their time.
  3. They are able to bring together a number of ideas and perspectives from across different subjects, and therefore may be able to offer alternative ways of looking at issues or problems. This can help identify new, innovative solutions to particular situations.
  4. They have well-developed communication and literacy skills, having been exposed to different terminology across a number of subjects.
  5. They are able to consider and understand different viewpoints and different approaches to tackling a particular problem.