Are you struggling to choose just one area to focus your studies on? Maybe your dream job combines two areas, like a journalist who covers international politics, or an entrepreneur who runs a sustainable fashion company. Or maybe you're passionate about theatre, but your parents want you to major in economics. Or, maybe you just love learning! If any of these sound like you, you may want to consider a double major.
What Is a Double Major?
A double major gives you one degree with a specialization in two fields at the same school or institution. The disciplines usually have many overlapping areas. It is not the same as a dual degree, which is when a student completes two completely separate degrees at one time and may be done at the same or different institutions.
Why Double Major?
Declaring a double major may mean adding more requirements to earn your degree, which can sometimes add time or money to your degree. Some careful planning can minimize this risk, however, and evidence shows that declaring a double major may pay off over time. Research and analysis conducted by Christos A. Makridis, a professor at MIT, suggests that students that double majored in a liberal arts and STEM field earned about 9.2 percent more than those who chose a liberal arts field alone, and those that majored in a liberal arts field and business earned about 7.9 percent more than their liberal arts-only peers. Some employers also seem to prefer candidates with double majors, which may suggest a commitment to learning and because candidates with double majors offer a unique combination of knowledge and skills.
10 Tips for Successful Double Majoring
1. Choose Your Study Areas Wisely
It's not easy to study for a double major, so Take your time to decide which areas excite you.
- Choose something you like. The best combination is your hobby plus your profession. If you have a passion, be sure to choose it as one of your future degrees. Students often shy away from creative disciplines that promise lower salaries. But if you have an Arts degree and a degree in business or a technological sphere, you may open doors to higher-paying jobs in a field you love.
- Think strategically. Overlapping courses mean that you will have to deal with them only once. The more subjects that are the same, the easier your studies will be. For instance, a foreign language and journalism have many disciplines that count toward both degrees.
- Visualize your future career. Which fields does it use? With rare exceptions, most people work at one job at a time. Try to imagine how you will apply both degrees or majors at one workplace. Note that if you can't use the full scope of your studies, you might feel underpaid and unappreciated. Search for job offerings to understand what skills you'll need after graduation.
Popular combinations for double majors include:
- Political Science + Foreign Language: The political sphere is globalized and well-paid. Although English is an international language, speaking a foreign language can be valuable in this field. It's a good idea to choose a language that is spoken in several countries. Students who pursue these majors are usually focused on humanitarian ideals, i.e., teaching culture, history, politics, and economics. Additionally, if you have a chance to do your internship abroad, consider replacing the foreign language component with a different discipline.
- Business + Art: This combination is probably one of the most versatile double major options. You could start a business selling pieces of art. Alternatively, you could work at a company as an artist, designer, or other creative specialist. If you choose business as your focus, your creative side will always be a benefit for the employer, and vice versa.
- Biology + Communications: Medical organizations look for client-oriented specialists. The communications component of this degree will teach you how to deal with other people in various (and often stressful) situations. This combination works well for administration personnel at hospitals or clinics. However, if you are sure that medicine is your vocation, try combining biology with business instead.
- Economics + Psychology: In many ways, economics is the psychology of business. A more in-depth insight into human motivation and relationships can make you a better economist, so these two spheres complement each other nicely. This combination works well for marketing, management, advertising, and consulting.
2. Plan Your Studies
Since double majors have more requirements, careful planning is key. Most universities expect you to plan your courses. They are ready to provide advice, but you are the one to organize your schedule. Tuition fees may depend on how many years you spend at the given institution and how many courses you take while enrolled, so prioritize courses that count towards one or both majors.
- Make a road map of your studies. Inevitably, your studies will require more time and effort than you first planned. However, it's essential to plan for the shortest amount of time in order to save money. If you are prepared to study for five years, but it can be done in four, make up a plan for the latter.
- Stick to your plan. Make a list of reasons why you might need to delay your credits. Each time you procrastinate, read it through for motivation. If you have a gap in classes, use it wisely!
- Double dip when you can. Negotiate with your institution to see if you can count courses towards both of your degrees. The best time to settle these issues is at the beginning of your studies. By doing so, you can plan your time wisely and get acquainted with your future professors.
3. Make Friends With Your Advisors
Be aware that your workload will be heavy most of the time. For this reason, good relationships with your tutors and degree counselors will make your life easier and more pleasurable.
- Meet your academic counselors on a regular basis. Many students put off these consultations until the end of the semester when advisors have less time. Select your courses for the next semester in the middle of the current one. By that time, you will have an idea of what you prefer studying, and your academic counselor will be free enough to answer all of your questions.
- Prepare for these meetings and ask for help if needed. Degree advisors do not tell you which classes to attend. They help you make up your mind about what courses best fit into your career plans. Put in some time beforehand studying the description of the classes and coming to the meeting with a list of the preferred ones.
4. Take Care of Yourself
The rule of thumb is not to overstretch yourself. Education is a small part of your life, and some failures are inevitable. These two pieces of advice can facilitate the life of the busiest student.
- Plan your sleep. If you do not include enough sleep hours into your schedule, you will burn out sooner or later. Sufficient sleep raises your productivity and helps you enjoy your studying. Sleep is as essential as your studies.
- Plan your days off. At least one day of the week should be study-free. Do not even think about your classes during this day. As a rule, students use their days off to study. Try to plan your work to have one day free for pursuing a hobby, spending time with friends, or reading and watching films.
A version of this article previously appeared on StudyCorgi.com