Is a Double Major Worth It?

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Colleges of Distinction »

On average, 58% of part-time college freshmen drop out in their first year of study. One contributor is the inability to juggle part-time school and other commitments like family, work, and friends. The balancing act becomes even more precarious for students endeavoring a double major.

Double major degrees are enticing to prospective college students who want to make the most out of their time in college. Double majors make graduates more competitive in the job market because they satisfy the requirements of two programs of study.

But is double majoring worth it? In this article, we examine that difficult decision by weighing the benefits and the academic commitment required to pursue a double major to assess whether it’s right for you as a prospective college student.

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What Is a Double Major?

A traditional four-year degree focuses on one field of study. A double major, on the other hand, is a study program that requires the student to satisfy course requirements for two separate fields. Like traditional programs, double major students will still earn a bachelor of science degree or bachelor of arts degree after the four-year program.

Double-major combinations for a humanities major may be English and Sociology. A foreign language major may choose Mandarin and East Asian Studies. No matter the major combinations, one thing all double major students have in common is that they are earning one degree with two specializations in different disciplines. 

Similar to a double major, a degree with a minor results in a single degree. There are, however, fewer requirements to complete the minor discipline than that of a double major.Dual-degree programs are different in that they result in the graduate finishing school with separate degrees, not just one with multiple specializations.

Double Major Study Program Decision: Common Combinations

Whether in the liberal arts field or the STEM field, you’ll find certain related-subject combinations more advantageous than others. Humanities combinations often include a STEM component for a well-rounded educational experience. 

Science majors will find studying complementary disciplines helpful after graduation. For example, a popular science double major is environmental science and marine biology. Finally, a communications or economics major will go well with a business education.

How to Double Major in College

Some colleges have requirements for students to complete before entering a double major. For example, the University of Illinois at Chicago requires freshmen to complete a certain number of credits before entering a dual major. They also require the student to fulfill all the course requirements for both majors at one university—that may be a deal-breaker for transfer students.

However, each university has different requirements for its double major programs. That’s why you should understand your university’s double major policy before entering your program of study. Try consulting with your academic advisor for more information.

The Pros of Double Majoring

Earning a double major degree has some serious personal and professional advantages. The best reasons to pursue a double major in college are:

1. Double Majors are Doubly Enriching

Earning a double major degree can help you explore your interests. You get input from many perspectives by earning credits in multiple fields of study. In addition to impacting your personal growth, it may help you find a new career path more suited to your interests.

2. Earn a Competitive Edge

Double majors give you more exposure to different fields of study and related knowledge. So, when applying for jobs post-graduation, you’ll have a leg up on your competition. You’ll impress employers with your breadth of knowledge and expertise.

“A double major is valuable on a résumé, particularly if that added dimension is a good fit for individual employers. It can also be important if you are considering going on to a graduate program, particularly in competitive programs that evaluate student fit with current faculty research interests,” said Eric Sykes, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Elmira College.

3. Gain More Life Skills

Double major programs can help you develop leadership, organization, and time management skills. You can use these qualities to pursue personal goals and professional advancement post-graduation. “At Belhaven University, we want you to fuel your academic passion and help maximize your success. That’s why we offer a double major promise,” said Suzanne Sullivan, Associate Vice President for Enrollment.

4. Become an Expert in Your Niche Field

Double majors deepen your understanding of a field by combining two related, but not redundant, majors. For example, majoring in business and art could make you an expert museum curator after you graduate.

The Cons of Double Majoring

You should only choose a double major if the benefits outweigh the cons. Some challenging aspects of double majors include the following:

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1. Double Majors Can Take Longer

You can reduce the workload of your double major by spreading your degree over a more extended period. But this can impact your plans: choosing a double major may force you to re-evaluate your incumbent 5-year plan to accommodate the extra college courses.“Many Elmira College students complete double majors within four years thanks to our unique three-term schedule, which makes managing the extra course loads easier,” said Sykes. “Students also use the third term to pursue their diverse interests and passions in ways that are complementary to their career interests, such as traveling abroad.”

2. Double Major Education Courses Are Strenuous

A double major requires students to commit to a collection of courses from unrelated fields. The extra work can strain one’s ability to fulfill academic demands. So, you may find yourself wound up, overwhelmed, and exhausted throughout your time in school.

3. The Academic Commitment

Academic commitment is the most challenging aspect worth expanding upon regarding double majors. Before choosing a major, you must consider your own personal bandwidth. Many students find maintaining even part-time employment while working on a double major degree difficult.

Double majors have a higher time and energy commitment because you’re working to fulfill two sets of degree requirements. Some of those requirements may overlap, like gen-eds and elective courses. However, in non-redundant course programs, the upper-division courses require separate credits. Therefore, double major students find themselves taking double the amount of credits as single major students.

Students must be proactive about time management to stay on top of all the necessary coursework. It also means that any extracurricular activities will be more challenging to manage than if you were focusing on one major.

Before committing to a double major, take a critical look at your social and professional commitments. Think about whether you are able or willing to let go of some of those to pursue a double major. This is also an excellent opportunity to learn and practice optimal time management skills.

Is a Double Major Worth It?

Deciding whether a double major is worth the commitment depends on your academic goals, career aspirations, and how much time you can commit to school work. Before deciding whether a double major is worth it, ask yourself questions like:

  • Is the additional major a vital part of my academic goals?
  • Will the additional major help in my professional field?
  • Can I afford to study full-time for four or more years?
  • Will a double major be redundant?
  • Is student life/participating in student organizations important to me?
  • Would participating in partner programs or a career bridge program be more advantageous than a double major?
  • Will graduate schools accept my double major degree?

Take these answers into consideration when choosing your academic path. Sometimes, a minor may be more appropriate than a double major. Consult your academic advisor and other accessible resources to help guide your decisions if you still have doubts.

“We believe it is worth it! At Belhaven, we allow you to double major and if you need a 5th year to complete both, the 5th year is tuition free,” said Sullivan. For more information regarding Belhaven’s double major promise, check out their website:

Find The Best College For Your Double Major

Now that you can make an informed decision regarding your double major, it’s time to consider larger decisions like which college is right for you. Some colleges are better than others in specific categories. For example, Amherst College is a relevant school for liberal arts, while MIT is great for STEM.But you don’t have to sort through lists of colleges and reviews to choose the best university for your double major. You can use Colleges of Distinction’s school search feature to pinpoint the right college based on program and location. Browse school rankings to find your best college today.