Dual-Degree Program Guide

Discover the benefits and differences of dual-degree programs and how they can enhance your academic and career opportunities in this comprehensive guide.
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Updated on May 15, 2024
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Dual-degree programs offer you the opportunity to earn two different degrees simultaneously. This comprehensive approach to education can broaden your skill set and diversify your experiences, making you more competitive in the job market.

Some schools offer predetermined dual-degree pathways, while others encourage students to create their own programs. Many options enable students to earn two degrees in a relatively short amount of time. For example, 4+1 programs lead to both a bachelor's and master's degree in just five years instead of the traditional six.

Here's a closer look at what dual-degree programs are, how they differ from double majors, and some popular programs students choose.

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What Is a Dual-Degree Program?

A dual-degree program is an academic path that allows you to pursue two different degrees at the same time. Instead of focusing on one major, you'll immerse yourself in two programs, earning a separate degree for each.

This could involve two bachelor's degrees, a bachelor's and a master's, or even two graduate degrees in different fields. For example, some dual-degree students complete two bachelor's-level majors simultaneously (like business and economics), while others obtain more than one degree in the same field (like a bachelor's and a master's in nursing).

Unlike double majors, where you earn one degree with two specialties, dual-degree programs result in two separate diplomas. This academic journey is rigorous and rewarding, offering you an effective way to broaden your expertise and expand your educational credentials.

What's the Difference Between a Dual Degree and a Double Major?

Though both dual degrees and double majors allow you to explore two academic disciplines, they differ in their structure and outcome.

A double major leads to one degree with two majors, which you can typically complete within the standard four-year study period.

A dual degree program, however, results in two separate degrees, often extending your time in school. For instance, if you pursued a dual degree in computer science and history, you'd receive two diplomas. In contrast, a double major in the same subjects would yield one diploma for both majors.

With a double major, you can create a flexible, customized course of study based on your interests. These programs are typically only available at the bachelor's level.

Why Choose a Dual-Degree Program?

A dual-degree program can be a useful move if you have clear career goals and a passion for two distinct academic fields. A dual-degree program offers a comprehensive, economical, and efficient way for you to learn two different subjects, possibly preparing you for two different careers or a highly specialized role in one career.

Benefits of a Dual-Degree Program

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    You can earn two separate degrees more efficiently and economically than pursuing them separately.
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    You'll gain a broader skill set and a more diverse academic experience.
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    You'll stand out to potential employers due to the advanced skills and training you receive.

Potential Challenges of a Dual-Degree Program

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    The increased workload can lead to high levels of stress, as you'll need to manage the requirements of two separate degrees.
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    You might not achieve the same depth of knowledge in two fields compared to focusing on just one degree.
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    Dual degree programs often extend the time to graduation, potentially delaying entry into the job market and creating additional financial implications.
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    You'll have limited flexibility in course selection, as you'll need to follow a predetermined structure, which may limit your ability to explore individual interests through elective courses.

Bachelor's-Master's Dual Degrees

Bachelor's and master's dual degrees offer you an accelerated pathway to earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree. This is an appealing option if you want to enter the workforce with advanced qualifications faster without having to apply for another degree program after graduating with your bachelor's.

Popular combinations include a BS in public health and a master of public health, a bachelor of social work and a master of social work, or a BA in international relations and an MA in international affairs.

Explore Online Master's Degree Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Popular Dual-Degree Program Combinations

While there are many different dual-degree combinations, certain pairings are particularly popular due to their market relevance and compatible coursework.

Business and Computer Science

A dual degree in business and computer science equips you with a formidable skill set that pairs technical expertise with business acumen.

You'll develop an entrepreneurial mindset with a solid business foundation, enabling you to identify and seize entrepreneurial opportunities. Expect a rigorous workload and an interdisciplinary curriculum that integrates computer science principles with business applications.

Public Health and Social Work

A dual-degree program in public health and social work integrates the study of human and societal health with research skills and statistical analysis.

This program prepares you to work in roles that serve the public interest, including as a behavioral health professional, crisis counselor, community health worker, or program coordinator.

Education and Psychology

A dual-degree program in education and psychology equips you with a comprehensive understanding of human development and learning processes. You'll be able to address the diverse learning needs of students by understanding their developmental stages and individual needs, working closely with professionals and families.

Graduates are equipped to undertake a variety of specialized roles in education, making this dual-degree program an excellent choice if you're passionate about improving educational outcomes.

What to Expect in a Dual-Degree Program

Enrolling in a dual-degree program is an exciting and challenging academic journey. You'll tackle coursework from two separate disciplines, commit to a rigorous study schedule, and learn to balance the demands of your dual-degree program.

Coursework

In a dual-degree program, your coursework involves studying two distinct academic fields, leading to the award of two separate degrees.

The specific coursework depends on the combination of degrees you choose. The coursework in these programs is often rigorous and integrated to meet the requirements for both degrees, with some classes counting toward both degrees.

Time Commitment

The time commitment for a dual-degree program can vary depending on your starting point, the number of credits you've completed prior to entering the program, and the specific degree requirements.

Generally, dual-degree programs take 9-11 terms to complete, but you also have the option to take additional coursework during the summer terms in order to finish faster.

Balancing Two Areas of Study

Balancing two areas of study in a dual-degree program requires careful planning and time management.

Some strategies to help you succeed include planning early to meet the requirements of both degrees, meeting regularly with your academic adviser, developing effective study methods, and picking related majors to maximize course overlap between degrees.


Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed May 13, 2024.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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