The Double Major Dilemma – Is It Worth the Extra Effort?

POSTED ON 03/04/2024 BY The Red Pen

The Double Major Dilemma - Is It Worth the Extra Effort?

When it comes to mapping out your undergraduate journey, the choice of a major is pivotal. While many students opt for a single major, potentially coupled with a minor, pursuing a double major is a compelling and increasingly popular alternative worth considering. The College Board’s statistics reveal that roughly 25 percent of college students pursue a double major.

This blog provides a comprehensive overview of double majoring, helping you make informed decisions that align with your aspirations and prospects.

What is a double major?

A double major is an academic programme offered at many US colleges where you can concurrently study and fulfil the requirements for two distinct undergraduate majors, typically within the same institution. It allows you to gain expertise in two fields and graduate with proficiency in both areas. Double majoring requires careful planning to meet the course requirements for both majors while maintaining a manageable workload.

For instance, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, you can pursue a double major in finance and data science with one Bachelor of Science degree. Requiring a minimum of 124 credit hours to graduate, this double major programme augments finance expertise while building a robust foundation in data science.

Double major vs dual degree

Although dual degrees and double majors might seem similar, they have distinct differences. Let’s first understand what a degree and a major are to distinguish between a double major and a dual degree. A degree is a formal recognition of qualification, while a major denotes the specific field of study you focus on within your degree programme. In essence, your major is the subject you specialise in to earn your degree—for example, a Bachelor of Arts degree with an economics major.

A double major results in a single bachelor’s degree acknowledging both majors. For example, a bachelor of arts double majoring in communication and psychology.

On the other hand, a dual degree awards two distinct degrees. For instance, you can simultaneously pursue dual degrees: a BS in Economics from the Wharton School and a BSE or BAS from the School of Engineering and Applied Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Dual degrees can be two bachelor’s degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s, or various other combinations. 30 percent of Penn’s Wharton School of Business students pursue more than one degree.

The total number of credits needed for a double major is usually the same as for a single major, which means you can graduate without extending your time in school if you plan carefully. To earn a double major at Stanford University, you must complete a minimum of 180 credit units, the same as for a single major degree.

However, dual degrees require additional time as they encompass two different degree programs. The dual degrees at Stanford University typically require around 225 credit units for graduation.

Therefore, pursuing a dual degree results in higher total tuition expenses than a double major.

Advantages of Pursuing a Double Major

Pursuing a double major isn’t just an academic choice; it’s a transformative journey that expands your horizons and unlocks many opportunities. Double majors can benefit your educational and professional life by:

Fostering Expertise and Interdisciplinary Mastery: Double majoring fosters expertise in two fields, nurturing interdisciplinary skills relevant to diverse career paths. For example, combining Political Science and a foreign language equips you with valuable diplomacy, international relations, research, and education skills.

Enhancing Career Opportunities and Marketability: Double majors boost career prospects and offer a competitive edge. The term ‘Purple people,’ coined by Deloitte, exemplifies that combining technical and business education provides a distinct advantage in the job market.

Maximising Income Potential: Double majoring can increase your income potential. According to the Columbia Economic Review, individuals with double majors earn twice as much as those with single majors, especially in STEM and business.

Broadening networking opportunities: Engaging in multiple academic fields enables you to connect with a broader range of professors, classmates, and professionals, expanding your network.

Demonstrating Commitment: Completing a double major showcases your dedication to your education and ability to manage a demanding workload, which can appeal to future employers or graduate schools.

When considering a double major, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, inadequate planning can lead to longer time spent in college and higher tuition expenses. Secondly, a double major typically involves a heavier workload, making balancing your academic and personal life challenging.

Promising double major combinations

The value of a double major largely depends on the specific degrees chosen for pairing. While combinations of STEM and business degrees are often the most financially rewarding, certain degrees combined with arts and humanities can also provide a substantial economic advantage.

Accounting and Finance: Combining Accounting and Finance is a lucrative option, especially for those interested in pursuing a career in investment banking. Northeastern University offers a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). 

Computer Information Systems and Supply Chain Management: Opting for a double major in Supply Chain Management and Computer Information Systems provides a holistic understanding of logistics, information technology, and fundamental economics. This combination suits individuals aspiring to purchasing, procurement, and logistics careers. The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, offers a double major in Information Systems and Supply Chain Management.

Statistics and Economics: A double major in Statistics and Economics opens doors to lucrative career opportunities in computational finance and financial engineering, as statistics plays a significant role in commerce. The University of Pittsburgh offers a Bachelor of Science in Economics-Statistics degree through its Department of Economics.

Marketing and Communication: A double major in Marketing and Communication is advantageous for those pursuing careers in social media, public relations, branding, and diverse communication roles, offering versatility across responsibilities. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, you can pursue a double major in Communication and Marketing by fulfilling the requirements of both majors.

Art and Business: A double major in Art and Business offers a versatile and popular choice, combining creative talents with practical business skills. For those with artistic inclinations, pairing it with a Business major can pave the way for a fulfilling career. The University of Michigan allows students pursuing a BA/BS degree to integrate business studies as a second major.

Pursuing a double major is the right choice if you’re interested in diverse subjects or want to enhance your career. It is advisable to approach a double major carefully, with the guidance of a parent or counsellor. At The Red Pen, we assist you in identifying and choosing the colleges and majors that align with your goals and interests. You can read our blogs on Choosing the Right Undergraduate Admissions Consultant and Unique Advantages of STEM Majors in the US.

If you need help with undergraduate applications, please contact us. Our admission specialists look forward to assisting you.