Does it Make Sense to Double Major?

Coalition App vs. Common Application:
Which One is Better?
February 17, 2021
dual major and studies

You may already have plans for your career and plenty of career goals. Maybe you are looking to work in a specific field, but you know you will need knowledge from an intersecting field. If you think you can handle two majors at once, which will take careful management, it might not be a bad idea to double major.

You can make this decision by first asking yourself a few questions and answering them in writing to make sure you’ve really thought it through. If you know your upcoming career will be well-served by increasing your breadth of knowledge, or even if you are passionate about multiple fields, then a double major could give you the push to get into a truly rewarding field, but managing the assignments for both won’t be easy.

Knowing this, would earning a double major be a realistic goal? Would it be worth all the extra effort? Or, would choosing one field for your major and the second for a minor be more workable? If, for instance, you are interested in social work and writing, it may be difficult to complete both of those as majors because they are so different. (This would also be a dual degree rather than a double major. This will be explained more in depth a little later.) However, you could major in social work and minor in journalism without adding an excessive number of credit hours required to graduate. Once you graduate, you may be in a position to work as a social worker and/or write about child/adult protective services practices and policies.

Degrees & Career Paths


What is a Double Major?


A double is one degree with two majors included. The student who has declared a double major has selected a primary major (such as Psychology or Social Work) along with a secondary major (such as Criminal Justice).

In the primary major, the student has to complete every degree requirement, as shown on the curriculum page. For the secondary major, the student completes only the major courses that are listed on the curriculum page. Anything else, such as general education, advised or free electives, don’t always need to be taken. This may depend on the school attended. Some schools may require you to take all electives for your second major as well, especially if they are significantly different from one another. The general education courses will, of course, only need to be taken once no matter what school you attend. This cuts back significantly on the expected course load for a second major and may make it much less intimidating to consider. To qualify as a primary major, at least 50% of the major requirements have to be different from the requirements or discipline of the secondary major.

What is a Dual Degree?


Remember when I said that earning a social work degree and a writing degree would be a dual degree rather than a double major? That has to do with the fact that these are two totally different degrees. While psychology and social work, or even psychology and criminal justice, may have some overlapping electives, psychology and writing are nowhere close to each other. They fall within different departments and would therefore constitute a dual degree, whereas a major in social work and psychology would more likely fall under the umbrella of a double major.

Before you decide to jump into a dual degree effort, you need to know whether it’s the right move for you. You’ll need to commit considerable time to studying for both degrees and passing the courses. You need to have the money to pay for each degree. Finally, you need to know what your career plans are so that you know your two degrees fit them. Also, it could take you an extra year or more to complete both degrees, especially if you are unwilling or unable to take extra credits each semester.

What is the Difference Between a Dual Degree and Double Major?


The largest difference between double and dual degrees is that students declaring double majors will combine two different majors into a single bachelor’s degree. You graduate with a single degree, say, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminal Justice. With a dual degree, students are actually working to earn two separate bachelor’s degrees. You could earn a Bachelor of Arts in Photography and a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. Now, this could translate into nothing but a hobby and a career in biological sciences or you could work for National Geographic in one of the most coveted positions in the world. Students earning a double major will earn one diploma for both majors while students earning a dual degree will be awarded two diplomas.

Students may apply the same courses in satisfying the requirements for both majors of a double major. In contrast, the student working toward a dual degree will take on a heavier course load to earn their second degree. By the time they graduate, they will have completed an average of at least 30 more credits over the required credits for the degree program that requires a lower number of credit hours.

In rare instances, a student may have applied for a double major. However, they may have earned sufficient credits for a dual degree. If this happens, they will have to apply for dual bachelor’s degrees to be eligible to receive two diplomas. Because their academic records will be especially complex, they should go to their assistant dean’s office to fill out paper copies of two applications for graduation.

To be eligible to earn a dual degree, students are required to be currently enrolled and still working toward their first bachelor’s degree.

Pros and Cons of Double Majoring


Pros


  • Widening Your Horizons
    If you are interested in more than one career field, taking this significant step and earning your double major may help you to open up your career choices. A good example would be if you chose to earn a BA in Journalism along with a BA in Political Science; you may eventually find yourself working in foreign countries and reporting events in their governments.
  • Maximizing Your Tuition and Education
    In a way, you’re adding more value to the tuition paid for your education. Earning a double major doesn’t cost much more than earning just the usual bachelor’s degree, especially since you will only need to complete one set of general education courses, which are at least half the classes you’ll take in your four years. Your other college costs also won’t change, such as meals and transportation.
  • Distinguish Yourself from Other Students
    Not many students declare double majors. The total who did was about 12% in 2015 but some schools do report a larger number. It’s unusual for students to take on a double major, which means you’ll quickly show employers that you are different from other students, making them interested in learning more about you. When many students have graduated with a degree in communication or another major, it’s hard to stand out. This is an easy way to do so.

Cons


  • Take your time on deciding if you really want to declare a double major. While it distinguishes you from other students, it’s a long, hard slog to graduation. Earning a double major isn’t easy and you’re going to work hard to complete all of your degree requirements.
  • More Study Time
    You’re going to spend much more time in your dorm room or at the university library, studying for routine assignments, completing research for term papers, and studying for midterms and finals.
  • Less Time for Extracurricular Activities
    Spending so much more time studying means you won’t be able to drop your pen or laptop and go out with your friends quite as often as you might otherwise. And, if you want to go out to a bar with a date, you might be hard-pressed to justify the time away from your desk.
  • Spend More Time at School
    Even with the best of intentions, you may not be able to complete all degree requirements for one of your two majors within a four-year time frame. This could mean spending another semester at school.
  • No Time to Take Elective Courses
    Interested in music? You may not be able to take the elective courses you otherwise would in something like music that would help you satisfy your urge to learn more. Your choices may be somewhat limited in this regard.

How to Double Major


If you are considering a double major, you should begin to prepare long before actually declaring those majors. You must be in good standing with your university. Be aware that any classes you take to fulfill lower-division requirements may be repeated in each major; you will not be required to take those lower-division classes again for your second major. Also, the two majors you want should be in the same school (Sciences or Humanities, for instance).

  • Declaring a Double Major
    Be ready to complete requirements for both majors. This includes those upper-division credits that may be specific to each major. Finish both majors in the required amount of time for your university (requirements for transfer students may be different).
  • Get a Double Major Petition
    Complete the petition, usually in PDF format. You’ll also have to complete an academic planning worksheet, list every requirement for both majors along with college and university requirements, list all courses you are taking and those have completed or propose to take, you may also need to write out a short statement of purpose that explains your reasons for completing two majors.
  • Submit Your Petition
    You’ll need to submit every document to the degree programs so they can review them. If your petition is approved, then submit all documents to your academic advising office for additional review.
  • Check the Progress of Your Petition
    The academic advising office should notify you about the status of your request.

Other Options


Choosing a double major may not be an option for you due to the difficulty of your major. Despite any grand plans you want to realize, there is only so much one person can do. Or you may simply be curious about another degree field and want to take a look at it.

If a double major isn’t realistic for you, consider applying for a minor. Instead of having to earn sufficient credits to complete another full major (up to 30 credit hours), a minor only requires you to satisfactorily complete 15 to 18 credit hours.

The good thing about a minor is, you don’t have to choose from the same college (Arts and Sciences or another undergraduate college, for example). For instance, if you have played music since you were a young child and you want to learn more about a particular instrument, you could easily add a minor to your science major. You can ask your advisor about available minors.

FAQ


Does it cost more than usual to double major?

If it takes you longer to graduate with a double major, you or your family will have to pay slightly more tuition for those added semesters you’ll be in school. Since most tuition is based on the number of credit hours you take in a semester, such as 15 for each half year, then taking more classes will, of course, increase your tuition costs. If you are partially responsible for your tuition, you may need to request more money in student loans.

If your second degree program is more challenging, you may find that, in order to satisfy the degree requirements, you will have to stay in school for at least one more semester.

How hard is it to double major?

Adding significantly more credit hours and studying to your course load means that you are going to have to carefully juggle your classes and study time. Time management will be critical. You may need to sacrifice time with friends or even holidays you might usually spend at home.

Can I graduate on time if I double major?

Yes, you can. As long as you have completed all graduation requirements in your two majors, you can graduate on time. To have more assurance of completing both degrees, you should declare both majors within the posted deadlines. Adding minors or majors late in your academic career can certainly delay your graduation.

What are the Best Double Major Combos?


Biology/Neuroscience double major with Behavioral and Cognitive concentration

Biology allows you to develop a broad foundation that can lead you into many career fields, such as medicine. Neuroscience and a Behavioral and Cognitive concentration takes you deeper into one area of biology: neuroanatomy, perception, sensation, and memory. If you plan a career in medicine or psychology, this will be an excellent beginning for your future.

Computer Information Systems/Accounting double major

This combination allows you to keep your options open for either a career in information technology (IT) or accounting. Today’s IT specialists have begun to learn programming and computer languages that, should they decide on a career change, will help them understand the process and assist in building accounting programs.

Such a double major also supports a future career in auditing, where an accounting professional works closely with every step of a company’s finance process.

Ecosystem Science and Sustainability/Journalism and Media Communication double major

With a love of the environment and sustainability as well writing and communications, you can easily create a niche for yourself once you graduate. Consider that, with your journalism degree, you’ll be an attractive prospect to an environmental organization that needs someone who can write with expertise on issues surrounding sustainability and the environment. The scientific nature of ESS, along with the creative aspect of journalism, mean you’ll be able to put your primary degree to good use.

Marketing/Communication Studies double major

Combining a liberal arts secondary major with your primary business major means that, while you’ll be working in the trenches at first, in a few years you may be able to manage a public relations firm or work as a campaign manager for a political candidate. These two degrees complement each other because you’ll be able to use all of your skills in tandem.

Accounting/Law double major

This is a natural combination. Combining accounting, with its heavy focus on financial compliance regulations with a law degree gives you a unique ability to understand financial compliance regulations. If you plan to eventually earn a CPA, holding a juris doctor degree will make you highly attractive to law or accounting firms. You could even consider a concurrent JD/MBA program.