Double Major Guide
By Erika Riley
Published on September 21, 2021
Choosing a major marks one of the most critical and complex decisions college students face. For many, the difficulty lies in narrowing down their many interests to just one. But students do not need to limit themselves to just one major. Many schools offer students the opportunity to double major. Students who choose this path graduate with one degree in two different concentrations.
The portion of students who pursue double majors differs at each school. The College Board reports that about a quarter of all college students double major. That percentage rises to about 30-40% at more selective institutions.
Students must consider many factors when deciding whether to double major, including employment outcomes and course workloads. In this guide, we offer the information students need to weigh their options, and to learn how to double major.
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What Is a Double Major?
Students who pursue a double major need to complete the requirements for both majors or concentrations to earn their degree. They will still receive one diploma but with two majors listed.
Double majors often require additional planning to meet all their requirements in four years. Students usually need over 60 credits between their two majors, which is no small task. Double majors might not pursue as many electives as students with just one major, who enjoy more "wiggle room" to try new things. Students who declare their majors earlier will likely have more success than those who plan late.
Why Earn a Double Major?
Students pursue double majors for various reasons. Many students want to prepare themselves well for the workforce or graduate school by combining their skill sets. For example, a student interested in both business and computer science could strengthen their chances at jobs that require coding and business sense by majoring in both.
Majors also do not need to relate to each other. Students interested in seemingly opposite paths, like art and science, can still acquire majors in both fields to better reflect their interests and career aspirations.
Students who double major can declare both majors simultaneously or at separate times. Additionally, students with a major and a minor could eventually turn their minor into a second major.
Different schools maintain varying declaration deadlines. As a good rule of thumb, students should consider declaring a major by the end of their second year. Many schools, however, allow learners to declare a second major later, allowing students to try out classes in the major before deciding.
Some schools require students to get department approval before enrolling in both majors. Students must speak with their academic advisors to ensure they can major in both of their desired concentrations. They may also need to provide an additional statement of purpose or roadmap to declare their second major.
How Do Credit Hours Work in a Double Major?
Like students who declare one major, double majors usually need to complete 120 credit hours to earn a bachelor's degree. Students do not need more time to finish a second major if they plan accordingly. However, double majors generally must complete a longer list of required courses than single-major students.
Each school holds different requirements for its majors. Students should speak with their advisors about the specific requirements and what classes fulfill obligations for both majors. For example, a political science major and a sociology major might both require the same statistics course. A student would only need to take the course once to meet each major's requirement.
Double majors graduate with one degree in two disciplines. Students who earn dual degrees graduate with two degrees in two different fields.
Undergraduate programs usually offer double majors, while graduate schools typically offer dual degrees. Some undergraduate schools also feature dual-degree programs, but these often take more time than a double major. For example, a student could earn two degrees, such as a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science, and need more credit hours to do so. Typically, students earning two bachelor's degrees take five years to graduate.
Some schools offer dual-degree programs that combine undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students start in undergraduate classes and then graduate with a master's degree, usually in five or six years. These programs can save students time and money because they do not need to apply to graduate school, and instruction is generally condensed.
Master's programs can also offer dual degrees that save students time and money, including programs that provide students with a degree and a certification.
Tips for Managing a Double Major
Double majors have a lot more on their plate than their single major counterparts when it comes to choosing what classes to take, graduating in four years, and managing their time. Students can use various ways to stay on track. Below we offer a few tips.
- Speak With an Advisor
- Advisors act as students' guides through their academic careers. Learners should prioritize finding an advisor who understands how to navigate a double major. Ask older double major students who they recommend. Once a student selects their advisor, they can sit down together to make a road map and plan their course load.
- Manage Your Time
- Time management is especially vital for double majors. Students need to find a planning system that works for their needs. Examples include a paper planner, Google calendar, or a unique productivity tool. Learners can benefit from finding a routine for time management and carving out space in their schedule to study.
- Double Check the Requirements
- Double majors possess twice the amount of requirements than students with just one major. Learners should consider printing out each major's requirements and keeping them somewhere they will see them often. Then, when class enrollment comes around, they can easily find what they still need to take.
More Frequently Asked Questions
Graduate schools typically offer dual-degree programs, which sometimes combine graduate and undergraduate programs. However, many graduate programs exist that allow students to graduate with two degrees, like Stony Brook University's master's in teaching English as a second language. This program offers students an opportunity to earn a teaching certificate.
Medical schools typically look at applicants' GPA and MCAT scores above all else, so many experts advise not to double major unless students can keep their grades up. Admissions counselors also value the type of classes applicants take, a course's rigor, and how well students perform in classes. A double major does not necessarily mean an application will stand out.
Law schools place high importance on GPAs and LSAT scores, so students should not feel pressured to double major if doing so could lower their grades or scores. Some schools bluntly say that a double major will not help an applicant's chances. However, some schools look for varied educational experiences, especially ones that combine qualitative and quantitative reasoning.
Applicants newly out of school should put their education at the top of their resume. They should also consider bolding or italicizing their majors to make them stand out. Typically, the best way to highlight a double major is to write "Double major in…" or "Majors in…" next to the name of the degree. Good practice also involves putting the major more relevant to the job first.
Many schools allow students to pick up more than one minor since they require much fewer credits than a major. Students may unknowingly complete a minor, and like majors, many minors can overlap in requirements. Students with a double minor would graduate with a degree in their major and with minors in two different disciplines.
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