Dual Degree vs. Double Major: What's the Difference?

Liz Heintz

Written By: Liz Heintz

Published: 9/21/2022

If you're interested in more than one major and feel they will benefit your career, you may consider enrolling in either a dual degree or double major program. For example, you can select two majors that complement each other such as accounting and finance, or two seemingly unrelated fields, such as business and art, that enable you to specialize your skill set creatively for your career.

Regardless of your choice, you'll need to understand how dual degrees and double majors differ to make the best choice for you and your future.

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What Is a Dual Degree?

A dual degree is an undergraduate or graduate-level interdisciplinary approach to declaring two majors and earning two degrees simultaneously. For example, you can choose two majors within the same degree level, earn a bachelor's degree while earning a master's, or complete a master's and doctoral degree at the same time.



A dual degree is an undergraduate or graduate-level interdisciplinary approach to declaring two majors and earning two degrees simultaneously.

While the two degrees may be distinct, they often complement each other. For example, you could earn a bachelor's of science in marketing while earning a bachelor's of arts in communications. Or, you may earn a graduate degree such as an MBA with a bachelor's of science in finance, because having both may increase your job opportunities.

How Do Dual Degrees Work?

You may have to apply twice for a dual degree, especially if your degrees are in different departments or schools. Some schools may require you to wait until you've earned at least 70 credit hours in one discipline before applying to a dual degree program for the second. In general, you'll need to complete more credits — usually a minimum of 30 — than you would for a single degree, totalling between 140 and 220 credit hours. You'll also need to meet graduation requirements for both majors (practicums, internships, capstone projects) — an academic advisor can help you determine what you'll need to graduate.

It may take five to six years to complete a dual degree program. While it generally takes longer to complete than a single bachelor's degree program, earning a dual degree may actually save you time and money versus completing two separate degree programs. Schools may waive duplications in coursework across majors and any related tuition and fees.

Popular Dual Degree Combinations

We've identified several popular dual degree combinations. However, you can work with your advisor if you want to choose other degrees that may make more sense for your career goals – pursuing a dual degree may allow room for innovation as you work to build your ideal program.

Nursing and Business

Biology and Computer Science

MBA and Engineering

Engineering and Music

Computer Science and Art

Engineering and Liberal Arts

Statistics and Computer Science

Economics and Environmental Science

Philosophy and Economics

What Is a Double Major?

Unlike a dual degree, a double major is only available at the undergraduate level. You'll essentially earn one degree with two areas of specialization. You can choose two majors within the same degree that may not necessarily seem related but help with career growth. For example, you may want to work in government affairs in communities where English is the second language. In that case, you may choose to earn a bachelor's of arts in political science and a foreign language. A double major can help you concentrate or specialize in specific areas for a more robust education.



You can choose two majors within the same degree that may not necessarily seem related but help with career growth.

How Do Double Majors Work?

You only have to complete one entrance exam to double major, if required, as part of the school's application process. You'll need to declare a double major after you declare your first by completing a petition to have the double major approved by the registrar's office. You'll complete about 120 credit hours, similar to a single major, and only one set of graduation requirements (practicums, internships, capstone projects). It will take about four years to complete a double major if you attend full time. However, you may not take as many elective courses as students who single major, because you'll use those credit hours to meet graduation requirements for each degree's upper division (300 and 400-level classes).

Popular Double Major Combinations

There are several popular double major combinations to choose from:

Accounting and Economics

Accounting and Finance

Criminal Justice and Psychology

Business and Accounting

Marketing and Communications

Economics and Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management and Computer Information Systems

Accounting and Computer Information Systems

Political Science and Economics

Statistics and Economics

Law and Accounting

Philosophy and Political Science

Business and Communications

Economics and Finance

Biology and Chemistry

Communications and Psychology

Economics and Math

Statistics and Public Health

Foreign Language and Business

Art and Business

What Are The Differences Between A Dual Degree and A Double Major?

Here's an overview of the major differences between a dual degree and double major:

Dual Degree vs Double Major Differences

Dual Degree Double Major
Undergraduate and graduate Undergraduate only
Possibly two enrollment applications One enrollment application
4-6 Years (full time) 4 Years (full time)
160-220 credit hours 120 credit hours
Requires the completion of any practicums, internships, or capstone projects for each degree, though this may vary Requires the completion of only one set of graduation requirements, though this may vary
May result in increased tuition costs to complete additional credits though you may not be charged for overlapping classes Costs the same as a single degree program
Two degrees One degree with two specializations

Is A Dual Degree or Double Major Better?

Whether a dual major or double degree is better depends on your interests, career goals, financial situation, and the amount of time you're willing to invest. For example, you may be interested in receiving two degrees and are willing to put in the extra time and money as an undergraduate or graduate student. In that case, you may want to consider a dual degree program.

On the other hand, if you are an undergraduate student interested in two fields of study without the added time and expense of earning a dual degree, you may want to consider a double major. However, you will only receive one degree when you graduate.

There are also alternatives to both programs that may enable you to achieve similar outcomes.

Is a Dual Degree or Double Major Worth It?

Potential Benefits of a Dual Degree:

You'll gain knowledge and expertise in two disciplines and earn two degrees, potentially at the undergraduate and graduate degree level at the same time.

A multidisciplinary education and skill set may be appealing to employers.

It may be more cost-effective than earning the two degrees separately because you may be able to avoid duplicating classes and other expenses.

Potential Benefits of a Double Major:

It enables you to specialize in two areas that may complement each other and increase your range of skills.

It can save the extra time and money it may take to earn a dual degree, because it may not take longer than earning a single degree.

It can help becoming pigeonholed into one specific field which may increase your marketability and earnings potential.

Potential Drawbacks of a Dual Degree:

A dual degree requires two separate admissions processes.

You'll probably be in school longer than you would earning a single degree.

While having a dual degree may increase job opportunities, it does not guarantee a higher salary.

Potential Drawbacks of a Double Major:

If your majors don't complement each other, it may make studying more difficult.

You may not have the bandwidth to explore other interests by taking as many electives as you would in a single major program.

An employer may not be interested, especially if one of your majors is not related to your job.

Financial Aid for a Dual Degree or Double Major

You can qualify for federal financial aid for either program. However, it's crucial to work with your academic advisor to plan which classes to take each term to maximize your aid. The best approach is to schedule classes from both majors each term to remain eligible for assistance. Once you complete one degree, aid is limited to federal work-study programs and direct loans. As a result, you will no longer be eligible for federal scholarships or grants. However, you may still qualify for institutional and state financial aid.

Your school's financial aid office can talk to you about financing a dual degree or double major to help you minimize the burden of student loan debt. Additionally, the school may have programs and policies to help students complete more than one major and scholarships for qualified students.

How To Choose a Dual Degree or Double Major Program

You'll want to consider your career goals when choosing a dual degree or double major program — industry standards may dictate what is required for employment and career growth. Once you determine that you need a dual degree or double major, you'll want to research schools you may be interested in to see which programs they offer. You'll also want to consider if they are accredited, affordable, and offer the flexibility of attending online. Each school may have different offerings and graduation requirements, so you'll want to check with the admissions office or program advisor to help you decide what's best for you.

Alternatives to a Dual Degree and Double Major

You may have alternate options to choose from if you are not interested in a dual degree or double major but want to benefit from the study of two subjects:

Pursue a minor. Choosing a minor can enable you to concentrate or specialize in an additional subject. A major is a more specialized subset of classes that can provide an area of focus.

Choose a concentration. You may be able to choose a concentration that accounts for about 30% of your major requirements. You'll be able to hone in on an area of interest within your major.

Earn a certificate. You can earn a certificate at the undergraduate or graduate level, often while completing your degree. You may not even have to enroll in additional classes, because certificate courses may fulfill degree electives. Or, you may already have graduated from a bachelor's degree program and be interested in earning a graduate certificate without enrolling in a master's degree program.

Consider a bridge degree program. A bridge program may work well if your majors are in the same discipline. These are particularly popular in registered nursing programs. You can bridge an RN with a BSN or a RN with an MSN, saving time and money by completing both degrees simultaneously.

Complete an integrated degree program. An integrated degree program is a bridge program that allows you to complete master's-level courses when enrolled in a bachelor's program so you can transition from one program to the other more efficiently. An example would be an undergraduate science student completing master's-level engineering courses to transition into an engineering graduate program.

Managing a Dual Degree or Double Major Program

Either program can be rigorous, so it helps to understand program outcomes. You'll be studying more than one subject simultaneously, which may seem confusing and overwhelming sometimes – even more so if you work full-time and have other responsibilities. However, if you become familiar with the expectations and understand your strengths and limitations, you can devise a plan that helps you develop habits to study and stay on track with as little stress as possible.

Five Tips for Managing a Dual Degree or Double Major

1

Keep time in mind. While your first impulse may be to graduate as soon as possible, it may not be realistic. Delaying graduation by one or two terms may help lighten the load throughout the program, alleviating undue stress and pressure.

2

Keep in touch with your academic advisor. You'll want to make sure you check in regularly, so you are sure you are meeting graduation requirements, your GPA is strong, and you'll be able to complete the program on time. It can also help to be accountable to someone other than yourself.

3

Pick majors from related fields. While it can be tempting to stray if you have diverse interests, picking related majors can help make studying easier. Lessons in one course may help you prepare for another or demystify concepts you don't fully understand. It can also show prospective employers that you are focused.

4

Complete your general education courses early. Completing requirements unrelated to your field of study at the beginning can help you focus on your majors later. You'll also have time to develop good study habits when you're ready to take more intensive courses.

5

Consider courses that may meet more than one requirement. You may be able to take classes that meet multiple requirements within one major or across two, which can save time and money. However, always check with your program advisor to avoid assumptions.

FAQs About Dual Degrees and Double Major

How Much Time Does It Take To Earn a Dual Degree or Double Major?


It can take up to six years for full-time students to complete a dual degree of the need to fulfill both majors' graduation requirements. It usually takes full-time students no longer to complete a double major program as it does a single major.

Does It Cost More To Earn a Dual Degree or Double Major?


It may cost more to earn a dual degree than a single degree because you'll have to pay for the additional credit hours you'll need to complete. However, schools won't charge for overlapping classes which can save some money. A double major typically costs the same as a single degree because you probably won't have to take extra courses.

Is Earning a Dual Degree or Double Major Hard?


Double majoring can be tricky. It can be difficult figuring out what majors to choose that complement each other for your desired career, and it can be challenging to balance the workload. However, double majoring can be done with innovation and if you're willing to invest the time and effort.

Is Earning a Dual Degree or Double Major a Good Idea?


A double major may be a good idea if knowledge in both majors can lead to career advancement. In addition, it may give you a competitive edge, so you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs. A 2016 survey found that double majoring in a STEM field and business may also lead to a higher salary.

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