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Guide to Double Major

By Zach Skillings

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: October 17th, 2023
Guide to Double Major

As a college student, declaring a major is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. If you’re interested in multiple fields of study, though, you may be asking yourself “should I double major?” Many students decide to double major in order to pursue multiple academic disciplines. 

But what is a double major? We’ll break it down for you, so keep reading below! 

What is a double major?

Students who double major complete the requirements for two separate disciplines and graduate with one bachelor’s degree. This allows students to pursue two fields of study during their college career. 

Some students double major in related fields that support each other such as accounting and finance. A double major like this can give students a leg up when entering the job market. 

Keep in mind that double majors don’t have to be related. Say a student is equally interested in philosophy and international studies. Rather than just picking one discipline to focus on, that student can study them both by double majoring. 

Why should I double major?

Students choose to pursue a double major for a variety of reasons. Below are some of the most common motivators for double majoring:

Get the most bang for your buck 

College isn’t cheap, so many students choose to get the most out of their academic career by majoring in two disciplines. Students who are passionate about separate areas of study can maximize their educational experience by taking on a double major. 

Interested in marketing and art history? Why not study them both? Double majoring is a surefire way to obtain a more well-rounded education. 

Gain an edge in the job market

A more well-rounded education provides a broader set of skills, which oftentimes leads to a leg up in the job market. Since a bachelor’s degree is the norm for many areas of the professional world, a double major can be a great way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Double majoring can also open doors to a wider range of career paths. Say you’re passionate about cinema, but you know that jobs in the film industry are highly competitive. Doubling up with a major in business provides you with a backup plan and a higher chance of finding employment. 

Not to mention, research suggests that double majoring can increase your future earning potential. A study by The Conversation shows that college graduates who double majored generally have a higher annual salary than their single major counterparts.

Learn more: What is the average starting salary out of college?

Set yourself up for grad school 

Double majoring also makes sense for students planning on attending graduate school. Adding a second major can set you up for more opportunities when pursuing an advanced degree. For instance, an undergraduate who majors in psychology and sociology has a good chance of being accepted into a master’s program for social work.  Double majoring can also give you exposure to the rigor of work needed to be successful in graduate school. 

Drawbacks of double major

Double majoring sounds great, so why doesn’t every student go this route? Well, there’s a reason why the majority of college students stick with one major. Double majoring is hard work! Below are the biggest drawbacks of a double major:

Double the work

The amount of studying a double major requires is the main factor that discourages students from taking this path. Students who double major should expect a full course load most (or all) semesters in order to graduate on time. Summer courses may even be required to stay on schedule. 

As a result, you likely won’t have as much time to devote to extracurricular activities and socializing with friends. Not to mention, a double major will eat up most of your academic schedule and leave you with less flexibility to explore elective classes. 

Can lengthen your time in school 

You may find that the demands of a double major require you to spend an extra semester or two in school. Pushing back your graduation date will likely leave you with additional tuition expenses. Even if you do graduate on time, it’s possible that your expenses end up a bit higher than you initially expected due to the additional courses you had to complete. 

Learn more: How to choose a major

How do I double major?

If you think that double majoring is the right path for you, consider the following suggestions:

Consult others

A double major requires a carefully constructed plan that can be daunting to put together by yourself. The best way to ensure you have a solid roadmap is to meet with your academic advisor. Talking to an advisor is a great way to ensure you have a plan that includes all your required courses. 

Professors can also be a valuable resource if you’re looking to learn more about the possibilities within a given field. Also consider talking to your peers to find out how they manage the heavy workload that comes with a double major. 

Oftentimes, you can sit in for classes for other majors to assess if you want to add on to your course load. It’ll also get you familiar with the teaching styles of other professors and the material that’s covered. 

Know the required credits 

One of the most important things you’ll discuss with your academic advisor is credit hours. Whatever you decide to double major in, make sure you understand the course requirements for both fields. 

When constructing a plan, it’s important to know which courses you can take that will count towards both majors. Be sure to get in writing what your course requirements are for each major, so check your college for your degree audit. 

If you’re majoring in two disciplines that both fall under the same umbrella category, it’s likely you’ll have a lot of overlap between required courses. For instance, journalism and public relations will share many of the same required courses since they’re both communications majors. 

On the other hand, two disparate majors such as Spanish and economics will have few required courses in common. As such, double majoring in two unrelated fields can require more attention to detail to ensure you obtain all the necessary credits. 

Alternatives to Double Major

A double major isn’t the only way to achieve a well-rounded education and a rewarding academic career. For example, online platforms such as Coursera offer classes and certificates online. Consider the following options if you’d like to add some depth to your college experience without taking on the demands of a double major. 

See also: Guide to Coursera Scholarships & Financial Aid

Declare a minor…or two or three

A minor offers some of the depth of a major without as many courses. Students generally need about 18 to 30 credits to fulfill a minor. By contrast, a major typically requires 40 to 50 credits. 

Students can even pick up multiple minors due to the minimal credit hours required. The flexibility of minors allows students to scratch the surface of multiple fields of study without going too in-depth. Sometimes, students even start to fulfill minors without even realizing it, so talk with your advisor about minor options. 

Complete an internship

While a double major may give you an edge in the job hunt, internships can prove just as valuable. Sticking to one major will likely give you more time to take on internships during your time in college. Demonstrating to employers that you’ve already had hands-on experience in your field will greatly increase your chances of securing a job after graduation or getting accepted into graduate school. 

See also: How To Write a Cover Letter for an Internship

Study Abroad

Depending on your double major, you may not have the opportunity to study abroad due to schedule conflicts or course offerings at overseas universities. For many students, studying abroad is an invaluable experience that exposes them to new ways of life. Study abroad experiences can even prove useful in the job market. For instance, Spanish majors who study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country may increase their chance of finding employment in their desired field. 

See also: Top Study Abroad Scholarships

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Frequently asked questions about double majoring

Is a double major the same as two degrees?

No, double majoring means earning one degree with two concentrations. By contrast, dual degree programs are designed for students to graduate with two separate degrees. Students who take the dual degree route often study two very different fields and end up with two different types of degrees. 

For instance, if you studied history and business in a dual degree program, you’d end up with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in History and a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). On the other hand, if you double major in history and business, you’ll end up with a single degree.

Is it hard to double major?

Double majoring is a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The heavy workload of a double major can force you to sacrifice other areas of your college experience. 

A double major is likely to get in the way of extracurricular activities and social time. If you’re looking for a less intense college experience, think carefully about pursuing a double major.

Is a double major double the cost?

Not necessarily. Double majors can extend your time in school, which can result in paying for at least one extra semester. However, you might be able to graduate on time if you decide on your second major early on or if the two majors are related.

Is it possible to triple major?

Yes! Some colleges allow their students to pursue a triple major. You’ll have to study three different disciplines, so it’s important to stay on top of your work and really think about if that’s something you want to pursue.

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