The Low-Down on Double Majors
Choosing one major can be stressful enough; is it worthwhile to choose two? The value of a double major depends on your goals, how far along in college you are and your personal circumstances. If you are thinking about a double major, consider these points.
1. What are your goals?
You might have several reasons for considering two majors. Some of the most common reasons, and related considerations, are:
- You have strong interests in two different fields. Think about whether you are better served by studying both fields in-depth or by choosing one. Some students successfully explore two fields by declaring a double major early and then dropping the less-desirable major or reducing it to a minor later in their college careers. If you choose a single major, you could still minor or choose electives in the other area. A double major often limits your ability to choose electives that don’t fit with either major.
- You have a specific career in mind that crosses two areas of study. Many careers have interdisciplinary aspects. Consider whether the extra time, effort and expense to complete two majors provides an advantage over one or more concentrations or minors that complement a single major. Also find out whether your institution allows students to create custom majors if specific needs aren’t addressed by the standard offerings.
- You want to set yourself apart in the job market. While many career options require a college degree, many don’t require a specific major, much less two. Although a high GPA in two different majors can demonstrate your abilities to work hard and prioritize, employers may prefer experience gained through internships or co-ops, volunteering or working while focusing on one major.
- You already have credits that fit two specific areas of study. If you have accumulated enough credits outside your major requirements that fit together, you may find it worthwhile to take a few additional classes to complete a second major. If doing so will mean delaying graduation, consider the costs of paying for additional semesters.
2. Where are you in your college career?
It often works best to declare a double major within the first year or two of college for the reasons below.
- Your college may limit the number or type of classes that can be used for both majors, even if your majors are closely related. If the number of upper-level classes that apply to both majors is limited, it may be harder to find or schedule enough classes for both majors.
- Your majors may have different elective requirements. While it is generally easier to use general education credits for two majors, each major may have its own graduation requirements. (For example, one major may require one semester of a certain type of elective, while the other major may require four.) So declaring a second major late in your college career may require you to delay graduation—and spend more on college—while you meet requirements for both majors.
- You may have more difficulty graduating on time because of scheduling difficulties and the extra rigor involved with double majors. If you will end up graduating in five or six years instead of four to accommodate a double major, consider whether an undergraduate degree in one field and a graduate degree in the other over the same amount of time would serve you better. Many graduate programs do not require a specific undergraduate major for admission. Depending on your career choice, a grad degree may enable you to earn more in your first job after college, helping to offset the cost of additional semesters.
- You may want to take a range of electives. With the number of required classes for both majors, many students find that a double major limits their ability to take electives they like or that provide a wider range of knowledge.
3. What do others say?
Rely on the resources below to guide you.
- Your academic adviser, as well as advisers for both majors, will be able to assist you in determining how difficult a specific double major could be, as well as any constraints you haven’t previously considered.
- Current students in both majors can provide insight about their experiences. You may be able to find another student who either is pursuing or initially considered the same two majors. These students can also help you determine if a double major is feasible for your situation.
- College graduates who are working now can advise whether the type or number of majors helped them in their job search.
- Employers may also have valuable input. Ask employers in your fields of interest how beneficial a double major would be if you were to apply for a job at their workplace. You may find that focusing on a more specialized major with some electives or experience in the other area is sufficient. If you are concerned about your ability to maintain a high GPA in two majors, find out if lower grades would be a deterrent from the employer’s standpoint.