Colleges require students to take certain general education classes as well as program-specific classes in completing a degree. Additionally, students usually must earn a certain number of class credits by selecting electives. These may include choices within a general ed area, such as humanities or science. Students may also pick optional courses in meeting their program requirements. Electives offer several benefits to a degree program.

Fun

Students who moan and groan about taking required math, science or history classes should relish the opportunity to pick elective classes they might enjoy. Regardless of long-term pursuits, elective classes provide an opportunity to explore an area of interest or simply to have fun. A business major might take a culinary class to develop a curiosity for cooking. Another student might take a bowling or golf course for the sheer pleasure of learning about and participating in the game.

Broader Education

Colleges require general education classes to help create well-rounded students. Students can also use electives to broaden skill sets beyond those conventionally found within a field. A marketing or advertising student, for instance, might take classes in graphic design or computer software programming to develop niche skills useful to employers or in small business. Diligent students might also use electives as a chance to improve on areas of weakness or limited knowledge.

Career Exploration

Many college students don't have a clear-cut career path set out when they start. Thus, elective classes allow a freshman or sophomore to gain perspectives in various academic arenas to see if a light bulb goes off. Program electives allow an older student to explore specific professions within an academic arena before graduation. A management student might test the waters in human resources, small business and retail management, to discover which professional path seems most appealing.

Employer Preferences

According to a June 2008 "Community College Review" article, employers typically prefer a student with a broader or more diverse educational background if candidates are on an otherwise even playing field. Plus, broader education and skill development typically allows you to better match the qualifications and duties of a given position and to provide more value to the employer because you have more work competencies.