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    How Do Interdisciplinary Studies Majors Work?

    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 Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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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: June 25th, 2024
    How Do Interdisciplinary Studies Majors Work?

    Choosing a major can be hard, but the good news is that you don’t have to choose just one field of study. And no, we’re not talking about double majoring. Rather, interdisciplinary studies allow you to combine several fields of study into one major. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about majoring in interdisciplinary studies. 

    Learn more: How to choose a major

    What is an interdisciplinary studies major? 

    Interdisciplinary studies combine multiple academic disciplines into one personalized major. The purpose of the interdisciplinary approach is to allow students to explore a focused topic that spans across multiple fields. These programs are ideal for students who have a variety of interconnected academic interests. They also provide students the chance to tailor their education to better align with their career goals. Let’s go over a few examples of interdisciplinary majors: 

    Art Therapy

    Art therapy majors learn how to use artistic activities to treat people with mental, emotional, or physical problems. This field of study combines art and psychology. Students learn about the theory and history of art therapy, and may take courses related to counseling, social work, and various art forms.

    Gender Studies

    This field of study focuses on how gender roles have developed and evolved over time, and how they vary between cultures. Students in this major combine several academic areas including literature, history, and psychology. 

    International Business

    This major combines the fundamentals of business with the principles of international studies. Students take business courses that cover topics like marketing, finance, management, and accounting. They also gain a deeper understanding of international relations by studying economic, political, and cultural issues around the world. 

    Religious Studies

    This field of study investigates the nature of religious belief and traditions. In order to study different religions around the world, students combine various academic disciplines including history, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and politics. 

    Also see: Should you double major or minor? Everything you need to know

    Tips for majoring in interdisciplinary studies

    Know your options 

    Not every school offers interdisciplinary studies as a major, so be sure to do your research when applying to different colleges. For the schools that do support interdisciplinary studies, you may be faced with a couple different options. Many universities have majors that already fall under the scope of interdisciplinary studies. For instance, some schools actually offer international business as a major. But for the schools that don’t, you may be able to craft your own major by combining international studies and business into one discipline. 

    Consult your advisor 

    If you’re putting together an interdisciplinary major from scratch, you’ll definitely want to lean on your academic advisor for support. You should work with your advisor to tailor your coursework to fit your goals and interests. You’ll still have to meet core requirements in order to graduate, so you’ll need a four-year plan that checks off all the boxes. It’s also helpful to meet with your professors and see how you can make connections between subjects. 

    Be intentional 

    The whole point of interdisciplinary studies is to learn about different subjects that support each other and make sense when paired together. That means you shouldn’t combine random majors just for the sake of it. For instance, combining computer science and cinematography may not be the best use of an interdisciplinary major. It’s perfectly okay to study disparate subjects such as these, but double majoring might be a more effective approach. In the case of interdisciplinary studies, pick subjects that mesh well together and have the potential to advance your career goals. 

    Also read: What is a minor in college?

    Still unsure about your major? Try consulting one of our major guides to get an idea for prospective coursework and career opportunities in each field. And if you are looking to make a practical choice for your career, try our list of the top college majors for the future.

    Next Steps

    Next Steps

    • Narrow down what your interests are, and then research whether they would better suit a traditional major or interdisciplinary studies
    • If you think interdisciplinary studies are a better fit for you, talk with an academic advisor at your school to see what your options are
    • Work with your professors and advisors to carefully plan your major, while making sure to stay on top of graduation requirements
    • In the end, though, taking the interdisciplinary approach is an excellent way to broaden your academic horizons and set you up nicely for post-graduate life

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    Frequently asked questions about interdisciplinary studies

    Can I create an interdisciplinary degree at any university?

    Not necessarily. While there are multiple institutions that will work with you on combining fields of study for an interdisciplinary degree, not every university is as flexible as others. Some universities have whole programs dedicated to developing interdisciplinary studies, such as Auburn University.

    What kind of degree will I get if I pursue interdisciplinary studies?

    On your diploma, it’s likely your major will be listed as interdisciplinary studies, with your specific concentration determining whether it is a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), or a Bachelor of Science (BS).

    How do concentrations work in interdisciplinary studies?

    In most interdisciplinary studies programs, your major is considered “interdisciplinary studies”, but then your concentration is where you’ll get into your specified areas of study. For example, possible concentrations could be business communications, environmental education, or human systems engineering.

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