Many college students study two different fields, but is double majoring worth it? Discover the pros and cons of a double major and what the alternatives are.

Is Double Majoring Worth It?

  • A double major entails studying two separate fields for a single degree.
  • Pros of a double major include potentially higher earnings and a more diverse skill set.
  • Cons include less free time and little flexibility in your class schedule.

Is a double major worth the time and investment? It depends on whom you ask.

In some fields, having a double major on your resume can give you a leg up on the competition and offer the potential to earn a higher salary. But this isn't true for all fields — some employers may not notice or care that you took the time to double major.

The reality is that not everyone agrees on the value of a double major. While some colleges encourage students to pursue two majors, others actively discourage it. Some students believe double majoring was the best decision they ever made, whereas others wish they would have concentrated on just one field.

Whether a double major is worth it for you depends on your choice of career, your interest level in both majors, … and your overall commitment to your education.

There's no right or wrong answer. Whether a double major is worth it for you depends on your choice of career, your interest level in both majors, the requirements you must meet to pursue a double major at your school, and your overall commitment to your education.

Should you decide to double major, you won't be alone. The percentage of students pursuing a double major varies by institution, often ranging from 10-25% of all enrolled students. At some colleges, this percentage is closer to 40%.

The large number of students entering college with advanced placement (AP) credits — which can be used to fulfill institutions' general education requirements — has no doubt made it easier for students to complete a double major within a traditional four-year time frame.

A woman seated at a desk in a library studiously thumbs through a textbook.

What Is a Double Major?

A double major, or dual major, is the act of pursuing two majors, with both typically falling under the same degree. Double majors are normally awarded within the same school or department. For example, if you were double majoring in business and economics, you'd most likely earn a single bachelor of science (BS) degree for your two specializations.

A double major differs from a dual degree. Unlike a double major, which awards a single degree for two areas of study, a dual degree allows a student to earn two separate degrees, such as a BA and a BS. Dual-degree programs usually take longer as well: about five or six years in total.

Double-Major Requirements by School

Below are some examples of the double-major requirements at popular U.S. universities. Because these requirements are subject to change, you should contact the individual institution directly to get the most up-to-date information. Be aware that requirements often vary by school or department within a given institution.

  • University of Texas at Austin

    UT Austin students who wish to double major may declare their second major after completing 30 semester hours of coursework. Students must meet all application requirements for the second major. Approval also hinges on whether the student will be able to graduate within four years.

  • University of California, San Diego

    Any UC San Diego undergraduate in good standing can petition to declare a double major. These students must satisfy the requirements for both majors, which include the completion of 10 upper-division courses unique to each field of study.

  • University of Washington

    UW students who plan to double major must complete a minimum of 180 credits along with any additional major course requirements. Overlapping courses may be permitted depending on the department.

  • Stanford University

    Stanford students who plan to double major must fulfill all requirements for both majors. While overlapping courses do not count unless the student satisfies an introductory skill requirement, exceptions apply within the School of Engineering. Students must also submit a Major-Minor and Multiple Major Course Approval form.

  • Rice University

    At Rice, students follow the same process to declare a second major as they do a first, which involves submitting an Undergraduate Declaration of Major form to the Office of the Registrar along with their advisor's approval and signature.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Double-major candidates at MIT must possess at least a 4.0 cumulative GPA (with some exceptions) and fulfill all General Institute Requirements and any additional major requirements.

    Whereas undergraduates must complete at least three terms, transfer students must complete at least two terms, with one term in a department with a declared major.

  • Northwestern University

    Students who plan to double major at Northwestern need to complete both sets of major requirements. While students must declare their first major by the end of their sophomore year, they may add a second major anytime afterward.

    Generally, double majors are allowed within all schools at Northwestern except the School of Communication.

  • University of Illinois at Chicago

    UIC students hoping to double major must complete all course requirements for both majors within the same college. If the two areas of study contain a high amount of coursework overlap, a double major is generally not permitted.

  • Columbia University

    Undergraduates who double major at Columbia must have a 3.2 GPA and declare their majors before completing 80 credits toward their degree. Students may not declare two majors within the same academic department (e.g., you could not declare a double major in mathematics and applied mathematics, which are both in the Department of Mathematics).

    In addition to possessing a strong academic record, students must demonstrate clear reasoning for choosing to pursue two areas of study.

  • Kent State University

    Students who want to double major at KSU must consult with their advisor(s) to see whether the particular major combination is permitted. Double majors are generally allowed within the same school or department as long as the department offers different majors.

A man in glasses and two polo shirts layered on top of each other reads intently from a textbook a a table in a library.

Pros and Cons of a Double Major

Nearly every choice we make in life comes with pros and cons, and figuring out whether or not to double major is no exception. Before you make your decision, consider the following factors.

Pros of a Double Major

  • It could lead to more job opportunities and higher earnings. A study published by Cambridge University Press found that students who double major in business and a STEM field typically earn more than those who have just one major.
  • You'll get a more well-rounded education and a unique skill set you can use in your career.
  • It can make your resume stand out by emphasizing to potential employers your motivation and range of skills.
  • It can give you more career opportunities and a backup plan should your career path change or you can't land a job. For example, maybe you're passionate about photography, even though photography jobs are severely limited. Doubling up with a major in business could increase your chances of finding employment.
  • You'll learn additional skills, viewpoints, and ideas, which you can then apply to your professional and personal life.

Cons of a Double Major

  • It can lengthen the amount of time you're in school. Be sure you know all the course requirements for each of your majors before making any decisions. AP credits earned in high school may satisfy some of your college's general education requirements. You can also take courses over the summer and apply those credits toward your degree.
  • You might struggle to balance your class schedule, especially if any classes required for your two majors overlap.
  • An extra year or semester in school could put a strain on your finances. Know your financial aid and scholarship details and whether any financial support will carry over should you need to stay in school longer than four years.
  • A double major can eat into your free time. As a result, you may not be able to participate in many extracurricular activities or hang out with friends as often as you'd like.
  • You may be unable to study abroad due to a lack of flexibility in your class schedule.
  • Your course load will likely grow heavier your junior and senior years as you take more advanced classes. Make sure you can handle the added pressure.
  • You likely won't have much room in your schedule to explore elective classes. If you've got your hopes set on exploring new topics and areas of interest, a double major may not be the best choice for you.
  • The split academic focus could affect your GPA. You need to fully commit to both majors and be ready to dedicate ample time to studying and preparing for each.

The Best Combinations of Double Majors

Some double-major combinations hold more professional appeal than others. For example, combining a foreign language major with a political science major works well for students hoping to establish a career in government and foreign relations.

The following list contains some of the best double-major combinations you can choose from.

Accounting and computer information systems Accounting and finance Biology and chemistry
Communications and business Communications and marketing Communications and psychology
Criminal justice and psychology Economics and business Economics and foreign language
Economics and marketing Economics and mathematics Economics and political science
Economics and statistics Economics and supply chain management Education and psychology
Engineering and mathematics Environmental science and marine biology Foreign language and international studies
Foreign language and political science Political science and philosophy Statistics and public health

Alternatives to a Double Major

Those who are unsure about taking on the challenge of a double major may turn to other options to help them get their foot in the door to their chosen career. Alternatives to a double major include the following:

  • Declaring a minor
  • Participating in a study abroad program
  • Completing a paid or unpaid internship
  • Participating in a work-study program
  • Earning a certificate
  • Seeking out volunteer work in the industry or field of study you want to pursue

Deciding whether to double major is a decision that requires careful consideration. What's right for one student may not be right for another. The good news is that you typically don't need to make the decision to double major until after your freshman year.

Before committing to a double major, make sure that you understand the course requirements for each major and that you'll be capable of achieving your goals.

Before committing to a double major, make sure that you understand the course requirements for each major and that you'll be capable of achieving your goals.

You should also talk with your career counselor and/or academic advisor. These people can be great resources and will provide valuable insight into whether a double major can improve your chances at landing a job and succeeding in your chosen field. They can also help you navigate through the specific course and credit requirements at your institution.

Ultimately, a double major can be worth it if you are passionate about the fields you're studying and have a clear vision of how you plan to use your majors in your career.