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Should You Double Down on Two Degrees? : Dual Degree vs Double Major

Published: March 7, 2024

Published: March 7, 2024

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Selecting a college degree program is a pivotal decision that can set the trajectory for your professional future. When selecting a program, you should consider your interests, strengths, and career aspirations. However, when your interests span two distinct disciplines, the decision becomes much more complex. 

For instance, you might be torn between a passion for art and a knack for computers. Both fields offer unique intellectual challenges and career opportunities. Discussing your options with academic counselors, industry professionals, and current students will provide valuable insights, but if you can’t make a decision, it may be your signal to earn either a dual degree or a double major.

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What is the difference between a combined degree and a double major?

For students drawn to two different programs, pursuing a dual degree or a double major might be the solution that allows you to explore both fields without compromise. A dual degree program involves completing two separate degrees, while a double major offers the opportunity to gain a breadth of knowledge in two subjects within the same degree framework. Let’s take a closer look at both of these options.

When earning a dual degree, you will complete coursework for two distinct degrees concurrently. Your degrees can be in related or completely different fields. This might be a combination of undergraduate and graduate studies (like a bachelor of science degree in Business Administration followed by an MBA) or two undergraduate degrees in different disciplines (like a BA in English and a BS in Chemistry). Combined degree programs typically take longer to complete than a single degree or a double major and result in two separate diplomas upon graduation, one for each degree.

When you double major, you will be completing two sets of requirements for two different majors within the same degree, leading to one diploma. For example, you may pursue a double major in business administration and computer science within a Bachelor of Sciences program. This path allows you to gain expertise in two distinct academic fields but does not necessarily require more credits than a single major. Instead, you will work with your advisor to carefully plan your courses, ensuring that you fulfill both majors’ requirements within a standard timeframe for a degree.

Is it a good idea to earn either a dual degree or a dual major?

The choice of whether you should pursue either type of double degree depends on your individual academic and professional goals. For some career paths, especially those that are interdisciplinary in nature or where expertise in two fields is highly valued, a double degree can be particularly advantageous. For instance, combining a degree in computer science with a degree in business could be beneficial for someone aiming to hold a leadership position in a technical company.

Additionally, a double degree can be a powerful differentiator in the job market. It signals to employers that you are a candidate with a work ethic, time management skills, and the ability to handle complex, demanding tasks. With qualifications in two fields, you will have a wider range of job opportunities available to you and will be better positioned to take on roles that require diverse skill sets or to pivot between industries.

Moreover, the personal growth experienced through managing the rigors of a double degree cannot be understated. It demands a high level of discipline and organization, traits that are invaluable in any professional setting. The pursuit of a double degree can also be a journey of passion, allowing you to follow two academic paths that you are equally passionate about without having to forsake one for the other.

For some, the double degree path can also lead to unique networking opportunities, connecting you with a broader range of peers, professionals, and alumni. It can open doors to interdisciplinary research opportunities and collaborative projects that might not be accessible to those with a single-degree focus.

However, before deciding to complete a double degree, you should also consider your capacity to handle the demands of a double program.

 Pursuing a double degree is an ambitious educational path that comes with a unique set of challenges, chief among them being the significant time commitment required. Unlike a standard degree program that typically spans four years for an undergraduate, a double degree can extend a student’s time in academia by a year or more. This extended period of study means that you will delay your entry into the workforce or other postgraduate opportunities. 

Scheduling classes can also be a logistical challenge. Coordinating the requirements of two different degree programs may lead to conflicts that can complicate or prolong your academic journey. Moreover, the intensive workload necessitates excellent time management skills, as you balance the demands of two curricula with overlapping deadlines and exams. 

Double-degree students face a heavier academic workload, requiring sustained effort and discipline. The increased number of courses and the potential for higher-level classes in two separate disciplines can be demanding and overwhelming. This can lead to a more stressful college experience, with less time for extracurricular activities, part-time work, or leisure, which are also important aspects of a well-rounded university life.

The financial costs associated with a double degree program are also considerable. A double degree often incurs additional tuition fees for the extra semesters or years of study, as well as increased costs for textbooks, materials, and other educational resources. There’s also the opportunity cost to consider; spending additional time in school delays earning a full-time salary and gaining work experience. 

Furthermore, the financial burden can be exacerbated if the additional time in school leads to increased student loan debt, which can have long-term financial implications for graduates. If you are considering a double degree, contemplate the challenges carefully to ensure the benefits justify the extra investment of time, effort, and finances.

So is it a good idea to pursue a double degree? As we discussed above, a double degree can be rewarding if it aligns clearly with your career objectives if you are prepared for the challenges, and if the advantages of the combined skill set outweigh the extra time and cost needed to complete the program. It will be a personal decision for each student.

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How should I list my double degree on my resume?

On a resume, it is crucial that you accurately represent your educational background. Whether you should say “dual degree” or “double major” depends on what you earned. Employers value clarity and precision in resumes. You should represent your academic achievements correctly to showcase your qualifications and prevent misunderstandings about your educational background.

If you completed two separate degree programs, resulting in two distinct diplomas, you would list this as a “dual degree” to reflect the breadth and depth of your studies across different disciplines or levels. This distinction underscores your commitment to your education and the academic rigor involved in pursuing two degrees simultaneously.

Conversely, if you fulfilled the requirements for two majors within a single degree program, you should list this as a “double major.” This indicates a concentration in two academic areas without the implication of two separate degrees. 

Both “dual degree” and “double major” have their own merits and can be seen as impressive accomplishments, but it is the honesty and accuracy of your resume that will speak volumes to potential employers.

As we have discussed, a dual degree and a double major are two different approaches to pursuing academic breadth and depth within a higher education framework. Students who choose a double degree might do so to gain a competitive edge in the job market, to prepare for diverse career options, or to deeply explore two fields that interest them.

Both paths require a high degree of organization and commitment, but they can significantly enhance a graduate’s versatility and adaptability in the evolving job market. Through discussions with advisors, colleagues, and friends, along with personal discernment about your ultimate career aspirations, you can make an informed decision about whether pursuing a double degree is the correct step for you.