Double Major vs. Minor: Which is Right For You?
Along with choosing which school to go to, deciding what to major in at college is one of the most important decisions to make. When you understand which academic path works best for your goals, and interests you will get the most out of your investment with a rich, meaningful education. How do you choose the right combination of education and expertise? This guide will help you choose which path is right for you.
A double major entails taking on two areas of study at one time, either within the same field of
study or something adjacent to it. For example, marketing majors might choose to double major in a marketing degree and a business management degree. STEM fields might choose to double major in engineering and advanced mathematics. In any case, double majors allow students to explore two undergrad majors while earning one degree. This is different from a dual degree, which allows students to earn two separate degrees by the end of their academic career.
Deciding to double major presents you with a wider choice of entry-level positions you can accept upon graduation, simply because you have a more expansive breadth of knowledge and a wider range of education. In this way, double majoring allows you to stand out from the competition. It further improves your job prospects and even potentially increases your earning potential over time.
Double majoring is also an ideal choice for students looking to go to graduate school, law school, or other forms of post-grad education. Like potential employers, directors look at a student’s academic background to determine whether they will be a right fit for their program; a double major demonstrates not only an expansive knowledge set, but also a serious commitment to academic studies.
Double majoring requires serious commitment, both in terms of the numerous college-level classes to take as well as the amount of time you may need to dedicate to complete those classes’ coursework. This will likely mean that you will spend more time taking extra classes, dual credit classes, or honors classes. It also means you may spend more time in school than the four-year timeframe that a college degree typically requires. Of course, there are outliers; with rigorous time management, planning, and working closely with both student advisors and school consultants, graduating with a double major within four years is entirely possible.
Because double majoring requires so much time and planning, you will likely not have the option to change majors once you begin your academic career; students should ensure that they truly want to commit themselves to the fields of study they have chosen. Double majoring also means less flexibility in what you can choose to double major in; because both majors will be in the same or similar departments, your selection of classes will be more limited than someone with a singular major, who will have more flexibility in choosing other classes not related to their primary field of choice.
Similar to double majors, a minor degree allows you to gain specialized knowledge in a field of discipline. However, the academic requirements to graduate with a minor are less than those in a second major. This means that students can take specialized classes in different subjects while still allowing their singular major to be the primary focus of their college education.
Unlike double majors, minors do not necessarily have to be related to your current major. This means you have a wider selection of classes to choose from each academic year, and it gives you the ability to explore fields of knowledge that you might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue, such as more creative classes or niche fields of discipline. For example, a student undertaking a political science degree may choose to enhance their normal major by minoring in psychology to better understand how politics impact everyday behaviors. This also means that a college student pursuing an economics degree might choose to pursue a minor in music because they will be unlikely to take music classes during the course of their singular degree. Students can also readily complete a minor, or even two minors, during the course of a four-year period.
Also like double majors, minors look good to employers, grad schools, and other advanced degree programs upon graduation, meaning increased prospects on entry-level positions and standing out on academic applications. Minors give students broader education in a field of knowledge that their coworkers or colleagues might not have otherwise.
Like deciding to double major, taking up a minor takes commitment and lessens your ability to take other classes you might want to pursue. This is especially true if the field you decide to minor in relates to your major in some way. Also like a double major, minors have their own academic requirements that students must meet before they can add that minor to their college degree; if a student plans poorly or decides late in their academic career that they want a minor, it might be difficult to accommodate without needing to take extra classes or additional time in school to complete their entire degree. This is why it is important that undergrad students speak to academic advisors and educational consultants while at school for advice, as they provide valuable insights to students.
Minors also have the potential to offer specializations and separate classes that students cannot major in. Many schools offer minor programs that are too niche to dedicate as an individual major. Although this can be seen as a pro, it might mean that you do not get as much knowledge, experience, or opportunity as individuals who decide to double major in that field or something similar to it.
Which Should You Choose?
Choosing to either double major or minor depends heavily on your educational and career goals. If your prospective career field emphasizes knowledge in two areas of research, such as a specialized form of business, then double majoring might be worthwhile considering. If you can enhance your singular degree by specializing in a minor that might not otherwise be available as a major, especially in a niche program or a very limited specialty, then a minor will probably be more worthwhile. You may also want to check out 4+1 programs that allow you to complete one major, and then earn a masters degree in a different or similar area of study.
Remember, your time spent in school positions you for a life of work beyond the classroom; with careful planning and commitment, you can achieve any educational path you set your mind to.