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Is a Double Major Worth It?

two students work together on group project for their college major

If you are headed to college, chances are you are thinking about your major. For many, it’s not an easy decision. You may know what interests you, but you may have several areas of interest you want to study. The good news is you aren’t necessarily limited to one field of study. You might consider pursuing a double major.

My daughter was interested in marketing but also loved writing and literature. Both those majors complimented one another and offered her the opportunity to pursue a double major. As she searched for colleges, she looked at programs that focused on these areas of study.

What is a double major?

A student who chooses to double major will earn one degree in two academic disciplines. This means students pursue two fields of study and must fulfill requirements for both majors. Students who double major typically choose complementary academic fields, although it is not a requirement. Depending on what you study, earning a double major should take the same amount of time as earning a single major if you stay on track and apply yourself.

Though the exact number can vary from school to school, the number of students who choose a double major typically ranges somewhere between 10% to 25% of the enrolled student body.

Is double majoring worth it?

Most agree that having a double major means you can be more competitive after graduation as you enter the workforce. It could also mean you have a higher earning potential.

Students have different reasons for choosing double majors. Some pursue them to increase their employment opportunities for a specific career. Others see the double major as a backup in case one does not work out. Still others pursue double majors because they are passionate about two disciplines and want to explore them, as my daughter did with marketing and English.

It’s important to note that a double major will require you to be academically focused. You are studying for two majors and there will most likely be extra courses and workload to juggle. It’s also possible it will take longer to complete your degree which means additional tuition, room, and board. You will have less free time for extracurricular activities and need more study time than those who are pursuing a single degree. Look for majors with course requirements that overlap to cut down on the extra work.

Connor Williams, an education researcher at Bowdoin College, said in an interview with U.S. News,

“If there is a downside to double majoring, it’s energy, stress, and time in your young early-career moment. Frankly, that’s when you have the energy, so why not invest heavily? Why not do the extra major when you’re young and can handle staying up late and getting a little bit of extra work done? It’s going to be a lot harder to pick up those skills in your 40s.”

If you are wise and choose the majors that complement one another, commit to study, and work hard, the double major will be worth the investment of your time and money.

How many majors can you have?

Having two majors is most common, but it is possible to triple major. Triple majoring is not for the faint of heart, however. Most colleges would discourage this option, but if you are pursuing a career that would benefit from three majors, you might consider it. For instance, if you are interested in foreign policy, you could major in international relations, a foreign language, and public policy. This would give you multiple career options.

Is double majoring available at every college?

While most schools allow you to double major, some don’t. For example, Princeton University doesn’t allow students to double major, although students may earn certificates alongside a degree. If you’re interested in double-majoring in college, be sure to research the options at the schools on your list.

Also, be aware that some schools within larger universities allow double majors, while other schools at the same university will not.

When do you declare a double major?

Schools usually don’t require students to declare a major until the end of sophomore year. There are benefits, however, to declaring early because advisers can help students map out a strategy. Experts recommend having an adviser for each degree path and that at least one of them pays attention to your general education requirements.

What is an alternative to double majoring?

If you are interested in two areas of study but don’t want to commit to a double major, you might consider a minor. An academic minor is a group of classes in a particular subject area taken in addition to classes required for the major. Minors show employers that the student is intellectually engaged and able to handle an additional workload.

One student I counseled was interested in majoring in business but wanted to take his degree and work internationally. He majored in Business with a minor in International Affairs. This gave him an advantage over the usual business graduate when interviewing in the international job market after he graduated.

Dual degree vs double major—what is the difference?

Students who are highly motivated might consider a dual-degree program. The two degrees are distinct but may complement each other. The dual degree will usually include some course overlap that reduces the number of credits. Dual-degree programs are available at all educational levels: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and professional.

These programs require additional credit hours to complete. Not every college or university offers dual degrees, and even when they do, the types of degrees or majors may be limited. There are also several undergraduate-to-graduate dual degree programs that decrease the amount of time it takes to earn each type of degree individually.

What are some double majors that work well together?

The value of a double major rests in the types of degrees that are paired together. Pairing business with a STEM major leads to the highest earnings. Another good pairing would be a STEM major with an arts and humanities major.

Here are a few samples of double major pairings that could be advantageous when entering the job market:

  • Biology and Communications

Medical schools and organizations want employees who can communicate effectively and compassionately with patients and clients beyond clinical interactions. A communications double major can help you understand how to work with others.

  • Political Science and Foreign Language

Students hoping to enter an increasingly globalized workforce will benefit from studying political science as well as a foreign language, especially one spoken in many different countries. Both majors teach students about history, culture, politics, and economics.

  • Economics and Psychology

Like political science and foreign languages, economics and psychology are relevant and widely applicable. Economics majors learn about the history of economic systems, as well as finance and business skills. Psychology offers important insights into the mind. Both disciplines complement each other by revealing key things about the other. This combination is helpful in fields such as marketing, advertising, management, and consulting.

  • Environmental Science and Public Policy

For students looking to make a positive change in the world, understanding public policy is crucial. If you're looking to enter the public arena, you need to be well-versed in environmental issues. Environmental protection and preservation organizations need public policy experts, and governmental agencies need environmental advocates.

  • Accounting and Computer Information Systems

This combination prepares students for careers in IT consulting and technological research, which are booming fields that will continue to grow. Furthermore, if accounting is your passion, pair your degree with one in computer information systems to show employers that you are tech-savvy. 

Next steps for considering a major

Now that you know what double majors are and if they're worth it, it's time to find out which majors are perfect for you and your future goals. With our College Major Quiz, you can answer a few short questions and learn about the best majors for you. Just click the button below to get started. It's quick and easy!

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