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  • A dual degree allows you to earn two different degrees at the same time.
  • Double majoring results in a single degree that has two specialty areas.
  • Both are worth considering if you’re interested in two academic areas that have overlapping course requirements.

Whether you’re earning an undergraduate degree or pursuing a master’s, your primary area of study might overlap with another academic area. That may have you wondering if you should pursue a double major or dual degree. Both allow you to explore different academic specialties—and may give you a potential edge in the job market—but they’re structured a little differently. Here’s a closer look at how it all works.

What is a dual degree?

A dual degree program allows you to graduate with two different degrees or credentials. You’ll study both areas during your college experience, but will likely finish faster than if you’d pursued each degree separately. You might graduate with:

  • Two bachelor’s degrees: That might be a bachelor’s in business and another in art and design.
  • A bachelor’s degree and a separate master’s degree: For example, you could earn both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in engineering.
  • Two graduate degrees: An example would be a master’s in environmental studies and a JD (Juris Doctor).

Some schools allow you to create your own dual degree pathway, while others offer only predetermined pairings. A dual degree can make sense if your college offers a relevant program that’s in line with your career goals.

What does it mean to double major?

Like a dual degree, a double major allows you to study two different academic areas at the same time—but you’ll graduate with a single degree that reflects those two specialty areas. Double majoring is flexible in that you can typically choose whichever majors you want. If you’re working toward a degree that has a lot of overlap with another major, you could double major just by adding a few courses.

You could also graduate with a unique skill set that gives you a leg up with employers. Double majoring in business analytics and finance, for example, could make you an attractive job candidate. It’s worth noting that double majoring usually applies at the undergraduate level only. In graduate school, dual degree programs are more common. If double majoring feels like too much, you could always consider making one subject your college minor.

Dual degree versus double major

  Dual degree Double major
How it works You earn two different degrees at the same time. You earn a single degree that has two specialty areas.
Time in college It’s typically five years but can vary based on the school and type of degrees. Depending on the two majors and the amount of overlap, you may be able to graduate within a four-year timeline.
Who it’s best for Undergraduate and graduate students can take advantage of dual degree programs. Double majoring is usually only an option for undergraduate students.

Possible benefits of a dual degree or double major

Here are some of the advantages of pursuing a dual degree or double major.

Standing out to potential employers

Graduating with one of these distinctions could expand your skills and make you an attractive job candidate. You may be better qualified than your competition, thanks to the additional academic focus.

Pursuing another passion

Double majoring or earning a dual degree may allow you to pursue a subject area you’re curious or passionate about. That can ultimately lead to greater personal satisfaction in your career.

Potentially saving money

Many dual degree programs have a condensed timeline that could reduce your overall college costs when compared to pursuing one degree at a time. You could also end up saving money if there’s a lot of overlap in coursework that counts toward both degrees or majors.

Potential drawbacks of a dual degree or double major 

Whether you’re considering a dual degree or double major, understanding the possible downsides can help you make an informed decision.

Financial impact 

While there are potential savings, earning a dual degree is still an expense. Your final cost will depend on your school’s tuition rates and the length of your program. The same goes for double majoring.

Focusing on two areas of study that aren’t closely related might require you to take more courses. However, a larger course load doesn’t always mean increased costs. You might only incur higher fees if you exceed a certain number of credits per semester—or need more time at school than expected.

Longer graduation timeline

Pursuing a single degree or major will likely be quicker than earning a dual degree or double major. The time commitment is worth considering, especially if you’re also juggling a family or a job.

Potential stress

Adding another major or degree could put a strain on your mental health. Before moving forward, be sure to clarify the requirements. For example, you may have to complete two practicums and capstones for a dual degree. Weigh the pros and cons to make sure you have the bandwidth.

Choosing between a dual degree or double major

The first step is to find out what your options are. An academic counselor on campus can be a great resource here. Some things to discuss include:

  • Does the school offer dual degree programs? If so, are there predetermined tracks, or can you create your own?
  • How much course overlap is there between the two academic areas you want to focus on?
  • Given your academic focus and career goals, does it make more sense to double major or earn a dual degree program?

The right choice for you will depend on your situation. When in doubt, lean into your campus resources. You can also consider reaching out to a student who’s been in your shoes and can offer some guidance. Connecting with someone who’s double majoring or in a dual degree program could provide valuable firsthand insights.

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