Double Major: The Ultimate Guide

Mar 26, 2021

These days students face a never-ending series of decisions. It all begins while choosing a school and continues until your graduation. One of the most prominent students face is picking a major.

Students usually spend the first few years examining different subjects. These general education provisions provide students with a balanced education and help them guide in the study direction.

However, many students are confused and are not able to decide or want to pursue multiple majors? Many colleges and universities allow double majors or dual degree programs. In this article, we will talk about what exactly is a double major? And how does one goes about pursuing a double major?

What is a Double Major?

If you choose a double major, you’ll need to complete the requirements for two different disciplines, but you’ll only earn one degree. For example, if you want expertise in botany and biology, generally, you’ll need to complete two separate degrees. Though, with a double major, you can combine credits to earn both at the same time.

Students should know the difference between double majoring and minoring. Usually, you’ll need to get about 18 to 30 credits to fulfill a minor. By difference, finishing a major often requires earning 40 to 50 credits. 

The objective of majors and minors also differ. A major develop skills in a specific area and prepares students for a career in the future. A minor may supplement a major, or students could choose to explore other interests. If you are a science student who wants to learn how to play the guitar, you do not want to double major. Then you can instead opt to minor in music.

The method of choosing a double major varies from college to college. However, most colleges and universities require students to meet with a counselor before making a decision. If approved, you can then contact the university’s registration office to declare your double major before moving forward.

Why Obtain a Double Major?

Many students choose to double major because they hold a passion for education and want to get the most out of their undergraduate experience. Simultaneously, some students go for this option because they developed an interest in multiple subjects and want to stick with both. Many others see a double major as an opportunity to specialize, gain a competitive edge in the job market, and easily ride the success ladder.

Double majoring makes sense only if you are planning to attend graduate school. If you add a second major, you’ll get more opportunities while pursuing an advanced degree. 

A student who picks two different majors gives themselves more options for studying areas in grad school. Those who choose two similar majors benefit as well. For example, an undergraduate who double-majored in psychology and geology holds a good chance of being accepted into a master’s scientific investigation program.

Research suggests that double majoring can give you a financial hike. One study even discovered that innovation increased in students who double major. Researchers defined “innovative” as a set of skills including networking, efficient communication, working with different teams, and a willingness to take risks. 

The other benefits also include the ability to connect dispersed material across different courses. When you take a double major, you take classes in multiple disciplines, improving your network.

The data varies, but approximately 20% of all college students decide to double major. That amounts to about one in four. 

The question is, why is the amount so low? Well, it is simple to understand. Double majoring becomes difficult. The explanation for double majoring varies from student to student. Even so, scholars who research higher education say double majors display specific characteristics, including a desire to set and achieve goals.

What is the Process to Double Major?

The student can start formalizing a double major starts near the end of the second year in college. You can contact and talk to an advisor if you know what you want to study or if you need help in deciding. 

Faculty can also help students who want to learn more about the possibilities within a given field. Students can also contact their peers to know the pros and cons and find out their double majoring experience.

Advisors help students plan a course through their majors and describe any required courses. This guidance proves relevant, especially in specific situations, such as when a required course fills up. Advisors help students with finding alternatives that meet their major requirements.

Many universities ask students to submit an application that includes a roadmap and a statement of purpose. The school uses the statement of intent to determine why a particular student wants to double major and plan to achieve this goal. Usually, a student cannot begin work on a double major until they receive approval.

How Do Credit Hours Work in Double Majors?

Many students think that double majoring means more time in college, but that is entirely not true. Thoughtful planning and attention to detail can boost a student’s chances of finishing in four years. 

To begin, students should work with their counselors to find out what courses work for both majors. Also, most colleges require students to take about 30 credits worth of electives. Some of these classes can also help in major requirements.

Transfer students need to put more effort into research. Most credits transfer if a straight transfer agreement exists between schools. Also, transfers may not meet a major’s required needs when starting at a new institution. 

In such a situation, you can opt to take these courses. On the other hand, you can contact your institution early in their academic careers to determine which courses transfer and count as prerequisites. This only makes sense if you know ahead of time where you want to move.

For example, UC San Diego follows many of the guidelines mentioned above, but with some exceptions. Students need to complete both majors within six quarters after coming to campus. 

Also, students must get approval from the university’s undergraduate council if they want to pursue two majors within the same department.

Cons of Double Majoring 

The college takes time and energy. Getting a double major takes more time and more effort. If you choose this path, you should expect to take a full course load most quarters or semesters to graduate on time.

Also, double majoring is more expensive and takes longer to complete. Though, this depends on the student and how well they plan. A double major works as an excellent way to build expertise in a field, but it comes with a cost. Many students who use electives to fulfill major requirements get less of an opportunity to diversify into other subjects.

Students who double major also need to take summer courses to stay on schedule. The extra workload and pressure can also make it harder to pursue internships, extracurricular activities,  and other outside-the-classroom activities like playing sports, helping the community, or applying for study abroad programs.

If you are looking for a less intense and little fun college experience, you should think twice before pursuing a double major. Likewise, if you are looking for a more robust experience, such as joining clubs or participating in student government, you may need to limit your activities. 

This option is only suitable for those looking to specialize in a particular field or plan to pursue graduate school. Students not in these sections may want to consider other options.

What are Other Options Besides a Double Major?

Students can explore many other options besides a double major. For instance, students can decide to declare a minor. This approach provides some of the depth found in a major without as many courses. 

Students looking to develop a niche should contemplate specializing within their major. For instance, a biology major could decide to specialize in biochemistry or organic chemistry.

Students can also opt to study abroad; this gives them a  chance to see the world while still taking classes. Such programs often include a theme, such as the University of Texas’ Italian Approaches to Early Childhood Education program. Programs like these can serve as a great addition to a student’s education. 

One excellent option is students can do internships to connect their knowledge of the classroom to the working world. Plus, an internship looks great on a resume.

Double Major vs. Dual Degree

Double majoring means obtaining the essential amount of credits in two majors. A student who double majors earn only one degree but with two specializations. And, students enrolled in a dual-degree program graduate with two separate degrees.

Dual-degree programs usually take longer and cost more money than other traditional options. However, completing two degrees at once can often help you financially — rather than completing a second degree at a later date. 

Dual-degree programs lack affability regarding what classes students can take, whereas universities often let double majors design their plans.

Students who complete a double major or a dual-degree program enter the working world with more edge than others who do not have the same qualifications. The dual degree has more advantages compared to a double major.

If you’re confused about which path to take, you have to decide considering your long-term goals. Lawyers, doctors, investment bankers, etc., or those looking to work in business should consider a dual-degree program. 

This is the right approach for you because it builds expertise and makes you more competitive in the graduate admissions process. If you’re interested in careers that require specialization but not necessarily an advanced degree, you can go for double majoring.

Essential Tips for Managing a Double Major

Stress, pressure, anxiety, and busy schedules go hand-in-hand with double majoring. Still, students need to see this as a long road and not a short path. First, get some sleep. Research shows a similarity between an inconsistent sleep schedule and a drop in GPA. Lack of sleep can also cause stress, anxiety, and depression.

You have to plan to incorporate exercise into their system, and not just for physical health reasons. Running, biking, or playing a sport or other physical activities get endorphins flowing, helping relieve stress and anxiety. You can also practice mindfulness with yoga and meditation, which will help you relax, calm your mind, and focus for long hours without getting burned out and many other benefits. 

You should also make time in your schedule to socialize and hang out with friends. It is essential to take a break.  A body of research suggests that people benefit from taking regular brain breaks. Many colleges and universities provide gym facilities and health centers with licensed medical professionals, including counselors. Many schools also offer academic support, such as tutors or advisors. 

These traditional options might not be helpful for everyone, so students should consider alternatives. For example, students seeking a double major may benefit from forming a regular study group with other students on a similar track.

The best way to deal with a double major is developing a schedule and performing things like exercise, meditation, or take breaks to see friends. 

Luckily, students receive a valuable tool to support this process at the start of every quarter or semester. The syllabus describes everything that happens in a class. Take a look and note the deadlines for the big assignments and the tests. Insert this information into your calendar to understand the plan. This helps in two significant ways. First, students can design an outline of what they need to study and when. Second, students can see the difficult times in advance and can proactively put together a stress-reduction plan B.

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