Double Degree: What’s The Point?

Tamorie is a woman of few words. But every word counts.

Love your work!

Aw, shucks…

I have a quick question. What’s the benefit of a second bachelor’s degree? Is there one?

Great question. I’ll assume that what’s given rise to this question is you being in some proximity to students pursuing or discussing double-degree programs.

(I’m also going to skip the obvious situation of people undergoing a career change. For example, if you’re a chemical engineer and you want to become a labor & delivery nurse, you have to get a degree in nursing if you want that to happen for you. )

double degree

Get it, it's a fork in the...oh, never mind.

Quick answer: A second bachelor’s degree may widen your appeal to employers and give you more career options. Is it worth what you’ll pay? Buyer beware. Depends on your situation.

Better answer: If getting a master’s and/or a doctorate is getting a deeper education, then getting two bachelor’s degrees is an example of going wider with your education.

While having a master’s in biology makes you more qualified in biology than someone with a B.S., then having a bachelor’s in biology and a bachelor’s in, say, economics — well, that makes you entry-level qualified for both biology and economics.

Which is definitely not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. I mean, grab an econ grad and a bio grad, and hey, you’re like both of them in one body, right? But I’m just saying that because they’re not closely related fields, it’s unlikely that an employer looking at you for a biology-related job would find a lot of added value with your econ degree. Same as vice versa.

Now, having said that, there are some jobs for which a double degree, even in seemingly unrelated fields, can give you an explosive advantage over others. For example, using the above bio-econ combination, you might make a hellaciously attractive candidate for a job as a stock analyst in the biotechnology sector.

Same with, say, journalism and anything scientific, medical, technological or mathematical. The door to science jobs *might* crack open a little wider with a journalism degree that suggests you can write, but your science-wielding abilities are gonna be the lion’s share of what makes you employable.

However, in journalism, that extra degree is huge. It suggests that you actually have a basis for understanding — and therefore, doing good reporting on — science, technology, math, etc.

The selection of journalism and investing as examples aren’t unintentional. Both are fields chock full of people tasked with understanding, writing about, and making giant decisions about subjects on which they often have zero formal education.

If you waltz in with an actual degree in something that bestows upon you at least the beginnings of an understanding of complex issues, you’re already in short supply, which leads to high demand, which leads to better money.

So don’t get me wrong about divergent fields — sometimes they can lead to great jobs that really merge the two (which I guess turns them into convergent fields, but whatever).

But as you might expect, these jobs are not nearly as numerous as the ones out there that only require one or the other. And if you’re going for one of those, don’t expect the additional, pretty much unrelated degree to bring you a salary bump, because it won’t — not in the same way an advanced degree in the main discipline would.

Now, when is it worth it to do the double-degree thing? I like the idea of it when, a) there’s a lot of crossover between the courses in the two disciplines, and getting both degrees only adds a year or less to your schooling, or b) you have an excellent line on one of those sweet combined-discipline jobs like I mentioned earlier.

Both situations limit your financial risk. The first limits your cost and the second widens your income potential.

I’m not a huge believer in getting a degree in history and a degree in math just because you like history and math. Unless you have unlimited financial resources (in which case, you can pretty much disregard this post and almost everything I write on this site, ever), that’s not a smart choice. You can love both history and math to death and study them deeply your entire life without paying outlandish college costs in order to do so.

— I hope that helps answer your very brief question. :) What about you guys? Any thoughts on particularly good degree combinations? Really bad and financially disastrous ones? Let us know in the comments below.

By Judge Josh on October 27, 2010 · Posted in Articles, College Students, High School Students, Recent/Soon-to-be Grads

39 Comments | Post Comment

Anonymous says:

two degrees are so good,because you shouold be studing while you’re living in this world. that’s mean you’ll never finish with your student untill you die.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Chris says:

Nursing / medicine + public health are pretty common dual degrees, and anything (especially business, etc.) + a foreign language seem like they could take you a long way.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Lori says:

I am in Culinary currently and I am not only going for a dual degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management but also the certificate in Pastry Arts. A couple of the HM and CA classes are offered in both areas as electives so I figured that was a plus and my career goals are to have a catering company and eventually wind up opening my own restaurant. I honestly feel that I need all three of those.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Rachel C. says:

I just received a Bachelor’s in Marketing Management in June of this year. I did a minor in Economics because it was one extra class. Next June I will be receiving a Bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems option in Business Systems. Its only 3 quarters or 30 weeks more of schooling but I hope it will help me land a marketing job in the IT industry. Wish me luck!

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Heather D says:

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Corrections. The job market being what it is in my area, I am unable to locate employment that makes this degree useful. I have returned to college to obtain an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal. These two degrees combined should assist in making my employment possibilities increase dramatically (I hope!).

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Anonymous says:

I have a BS in Biochemistry and Bioprocessing. The dual degrees over qualified me for my job in upstream development. My employers passed over several MS graduates in biochemistry to hire me because of my experience in the bioprocessing program.

If you are adding a second major to enrich your primary major, I highly advise one that would add hands-on experience in your chosen career path.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

A. Nonny Moose says:

I’m personally pursuing an industrial engineering degree with a minor in psychology. While it seems a bit odd at the outset, it will help me get into the design field much easier. (I’m also considering a masters in either program.)
The thing is, it becomes a combined field quite easily. After all, engineers design things that people must use, and use properly. I found out recently that not only is it an interesting idea but that there’s already a whole professional group tied into the idea under the heading of Human Factors.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Anthony says:

I am in my senior year of undergraduate school, about to finish up a double major in Economics/Business and Philosophy, and a minor in Spanish. It was a lot of work. I could have graduated a year early if I dropped one of the majors, but scholarships and grants made the extra year worth it. Furthermore, the implications of a degree in Philosophy on my ability to think critically, act ethically, and communicate effectively set me leaps and bounds above of my single E&B major peers. A Spanish minor doesn’t look to bad in California, either. I totally agree with Judge Josh: 2nd degrees are awesome, if you choose the right one (and you can handle the load).

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Crystal says:

It is very common to see B.Music/B.Education tied together too; however I am not sure that it causes a pay increase once your teaching.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Heather says:

I’d like to point out though that music education itself is a single degree that is offered.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Michael says:

I know many people going in for Chemical Engineering and going into medical school. In other universities, I have read that students are required to major in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Heather says:

I think if you have a good reason to double major, and the extra time to do so, then it can be a good thing! I am double majoring in Music Education and Percussion Performance. It’s stupid to just major in performance even though that is what I enjoy more, but there are all kinds of jobs in music education.

I want to be open to teaching but ultimately I plan to get my masters in performance. While I could just go for the ed degree and still perform and get my masters in performance, there are advantages I have to getting both. In the short term I get more performance opportunities at school as a performance major, and that will help me with grad school. I also know that with my personal work ethic, I would put in the same amount of practice time as a performance major anyway, so why not get both?

The classes overlap so much that adding performance to music ed is literally one extra class, a second recital, and my lessons count for twice the hours, so I find it completely worth it.

Granted, I wouldn’t get a double major just for the sake of having two majors, especially unrelated majors. I’ve put a lot of thought into why I’m doing mine, and I think it is very much worth the extra work for my future goals.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Shantel says:

I am a History and Anthropology major, I figured since I need 120 credits to graduate and I can only take 48 History credits to graduate that rest of my credits will be for Anthropology. Being a double major is more productive, I rather take courses for another degree than take nonsense courses,.

Posted on October 27th, 2010

Abby says:

Good choices (in order of most open doors to least):
Spanish + Anything
Computer Science + Anything
Math + Most things… (like the man said, history is questionable)
English/Journalism + Most things… (like he said, depends on what you want to do)
Any of these four combined with each other!!!
Also, look for majors with an integrated minor–that’s a clue of a good double.

Watch out if you are looking at education. Most content areas in education already have a combined degree. But you might be like me: Most states don’t certify teachers in computer science, so when I was a senior computer science major who wanted to teach, I had to double-degree with math-ed (it added one year plus student teaching to my program).

And I do distinguish between a double degree and a double major. If you are already in school you will probably double major and if you are coming back you might be able to finagle a double major (double major can save you credits and red tape and therefore money!). A double degree tends to happen only if you are coming back and can’t swing a double major, or if you are already in a university but want your other major from a different school within (e.g. my C.S. is from the College of Arts and Sciences and my B.S.Ed. is from the Ed School).

Posted on October 28th, 2010

Dan says:

I have 3 degrees in Criminal Justice/Psychology/Sociology. I currently am a police officer but have been looking to move into something else. I put my feelers out and within a month have had 8 job offers with two being 6 figure. I can’t say I have had any problems finding jobs and I think I owe it to my three degrees that the economy has not had an impact on me other than a 4% mortgage rate lol!

Posted on October 28th, 2010

maria says:

I am working on pursuing animation design, more so flash-animation style. I am currently in school finishing up an Assoc. in Art and will work on an Assoc. in Animation Design. I have been looking into a very expensive, but prestigious private art school in another state and am considering transferring there to earn a Bachelors in Animation and maybe go further.

I was wondering if the Art degree is actually going to help me or if its just going to be overlooked. The thing is, I transferred from another school, which I was working on a Bachelor’s already, but it was a general “digital design” program. With financial issues and a “rethinking” of the general name of the degree versus an assoc. that cleary states “Animation Design,” I transferred to my hometown college and am working on the Assoc. in Art since I didn’t want the classes I earned go to waste. I should be finished very soon with the art degree, then I would focus on the actual degree plan I wanted to begin with. I figured, why not?

Posted on October 28th, 2010

Medical Student says:

If you are refering to medical school requirements… I have never heard of a medical school requiring their applicants to major in Chemical Engineering or Biomedical Engineering. You would think that going into medicine you would need to major in something science related but that is also completely untrue. You can actually major in whatever you want. You just have to have taken a specific set of reauired pre-requisite courses to apply.

Posted on October 28th, 2010

Cori K. says:

A friend of mine was at NU and majored in BME, actually–they were encouraged to take that major as pre-meds. But then again, I’ve had other friends come at med school programs from totally different fields as well, including one in physics and another in criminology. So it seems to largely depend on the individual and the schools.

Posted on October 28th, 2010

Catherine says:

Yes, though getting a double degree is hard work in the long run it pays off!

Posted on October 29th, 2010

tasha says:

My goal is two degrees. I’m almost done with criminal justice….one more class…and then its health info management!!! Two different fields, but I’m hoping it’ll give me a better advantage in career searching. I say go for it….unless you are for sure your one degree will land you a job. It gets pretty scary sometimes, but hey…go for it!!! Besides you don’t want any what if’s in life!!

Posted on November 1st, 2010

Ame' says:

I thought about getting two degrees because I had a lot of credits transfer in from advance placement classes in high school so it wouldn’t have added more time. I also had a full-scholarship which is what ultimately stopped me from going for two instead of one. My scholarship would run out before I could finish the second degree. I decided graduating with no debt was better than graduating with two degrees. Weigh how much debt two degrees would incur against what you would gain by having them.

Posted on November 1st, 2010

Steve says:

Be careful if you double major. The status of two degrees won’t necessarily increase your employability; it can hurt. I double majored in sociology and psychology. The school told me it would increase my employablility with an understanding of group and indivdiual relationships.

Now, If I mention to an employer that I completed both of those academic majors, I am asked a critical question, “WHY?!?” Some laugh, some assume that I sought duplication in coursework to party, others assume that I fell for a marketing trap from a university. If that second major could have been marketed as an applied skill by its title, listing both majors would be more marketable. However, listing two generalist majors indicates to someone that I wasted time and duplicated coursework.

If you do the doulbe major, make sure the second major involves an applied hard skill.

Posted on November 2nd, 2010

Greg says:

1)Would like to ask if business and accountancy is a good double degree combination?

2)Also I would like to know what is the difference between courses in business and business administration?

Thank you!

Posted on December 13th, 2010

JOHN says:

Here’s the problem. I am 1 Semester from Graduating with a B.S. in Biology Pre-Med (my dads idea) I’ve hated it and never want to work in anything relating to or with Bio. or Chem. and in the last couple of semesters my grades have bombed. My over all GPA is still a 3.3 But I want to study Business Marketing and Finance. Hoping one day to work performing Mergers/Acquisitions etc. Should I take the Business common body of Knowledge 33 hrs more qualifying to begin an MBA ) Graduate then MBA OR THE FULL 63 hrs for a second degree BBA in Finance/Marketing graduating then MBA Please Advise

Posted on January 18th, 2011

Steve says:

BA in Sociology and Psychology, the university told me the two majors fit well together, gave strength with further understanding of method, and will get me more jobs.

Shortly after graduation, I learned not say that I had two degrees. Recruiters didn’t think that I was seeking a greater base or more advanced study. Instead, they asked “WHYYYY did you choose a second major that was almost the same thing?!?” I tried to use the pitch the school gave me. It was an in-depth study, a broad understanding, able to fit more fields at the end, greater skills than one degree. All I did was demonstrate that I was duped by the school and I just didn’t know it yet.

I got more employment responses when I took both majors off of my resume and advertised them one ot a time. That was hard for me to do until some recruiters were hones. Some recruiters frankly said that I was too stupid to figure out they were the same thing. Other recruiters said that I tried to extend my party life for another two years. That undergradaute psych degree gets me everywhere that undergraduate soc degree takes me (not very far) and it looks rather foolish that I did them both.

Be careful, if you ask your university for the benefit of a double major, each college will tell you their program compliments the other and will bring you more skills. Keep in mind that they also have to sell their program and if they can sell you both, they will.

Posted on January 23rd, 2011

dinny says:

Working on getting a dual degree presently; one is a Batchlors of Science in History and the other is a Master in Education.

As a working parent and with many years out of school, I did not want to waste anymore years so I entered this dual degree program, in order to complete my Batchlors and Masters without having to pause between them. I also know that more doors of opportunity would be open this way.

With a history degree I can teach social studies subjects, work as a museum curator, librarian (at least a job close to it), archivist; with a Master’s degree I can make more money and work in other positions with the educational system. With a few years of teach history; I could also utilize this experience to move into guidance counselor, consultants, assistant principal (depending on school), private or non-private schools, grades Pre-k to 12, school psychologist (depending on school), Principal (depending on a school’s requirement and/or my performance), etc…

This is why I chose this dual BS/MS combined degrees. What are your comments?

Posted on January 28th, 2011

Collene says:

I just skimmed through the comments, and I don’t think anyone mentioned that with two degrees, you are more marketable as a teacher. For example, if a school has an opening for an English teacher and a math teacher, a person with two degrees could take on both sets of classes. This saves the school money because now they don’t have to pay more money to hire someone else. Also in a school, if say a position in English opens up and you may want to teach math, the English degree can get you in the door and then if/when another math teacher retires or needs to be hired, you can step up and put your two sence in about your additional degree.
So, in other words, one degree can get you in the door and another can push you forward. That may not always happen, but it sure can help.

Posted on February 2nd, 2011

Sara Lanza says:

Im a BSN, RN 100% Bilingual English-Spanish. If you don’t know somebody that knows somebody, Its almost impossible to get a good job.
BTW at the end, I’m thinking of a second degree in Accounting and start my own business. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be a nurse, but an entrepreneur one!

Posted on February 17th, 2011

aaron says:

I have relating majors so i am double majoring so will be graduating with a BS in physiology and a BA in chemistry. It is only two extra courses, so i didnt see why not. Now my qestion is, is there a disadvantage in not having a minor?

Posted on March 25th, 2011

Kristina says:

Hi,
I have an A.S. in biotechnology and am finishing an A.S. in criminal justice. Currently, I’m having a hard time finding work with the biotechnology degree. I have a full-time job, just not involved w/ either field. My goal is to work in forensics, but everyone wants a B.S. or M.S. in biology and 4 yrs. experience. What will these degrees do for me in this economy? Need advice…
Thanks,
Kristina

Posted on June 2nd, 2011

Karmen says:

Wow hope you have success in that. I’m currently in school going to recieve my AAS in Paralegal Studies and going for another AS in Enterprise Develpment(business administration). I plan to get my Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and minor in business, with my ultimate goal being able to manage my career as a paralegal or attorney if I decide to continue that route. As a convicted felon myself, work is hard to find and working for myself and in this field seem to be a great option.

Posted on July 6th, 2011

Anonymous says:

Hi i’m an incoming freshman for college and i was thinking about double majoring or at least major minoring in economics and psychology. is this a good mix or should i just not because the pre reqs and major requirements for both of these majors are completely opposite

Posted on August 3rd, 2011

Anonymous says:

I’m an incoming freshman in college right now and i was thinking about majoring in both economics and psychology. I wanted to take psych cuz i love volunteer work, nonprofits, and i love working with children so i could look into more of the developmental side of psych. Economics, which is the closet thing to business, at my school is something im also really interested and want to pursue especially since the coursework will let me escape the terrible science courses that i hate. is this a good mix or a total waste of time? the pre reqs and major requirements for both of these majors are completely opposite and none of the courses overlap. I’m extremely confused and lost and any advice would help ):

Posted on August 3rd, 2011

Win says:

I’m actually working on my double majors in Rhetoric and Math. They’re both broad but I think that they both hone distinct skills that are fundamental in any discipline. Honestly, I’m spending time in college more than what I initially intended, but when I think about it, I realize that I have time to spare and state money to spare so why not? And really, when I go get a job, what could be better than endorsing analytic problem solving skills and communication skills? I’m leaning towards general business- or government-type careers.

Posted on September 22nd, 2011

Anonymous says:

One tip. Learn to spell the type of degree you’re receiving before teaching anyone else anything.

Posted on October 27th, 2011

Jessica says:

I will be graduating in this December, with a BA in Business Administration. I am considering a Second Bachelor’s degree in Political Science or Communications. I am graduating in December 2011, and I am interested in applying for Fall 2012. I don’t think I could get into grad school because I had a very poor GPA and nothing to make me really stand out. I’m just thinking about it at this point. Do you think that going back to school for a second degree a good idea? I feel like it might be better for me in the long run if I go back to school instead of spending forever in a job where I’m unhappy and there aren’t much prospects for the future. I feel like I could learn a lot and would totally devote myself to my studies, making connections, and getting myself prepared for a career.

Posted on November 15th, 2011

Anonymous says:

get the second major before you graduate…easier to qualify for grants and loans

Posted on November 26th, 2011

Mro says:

I am currently planning to get a double major in History and Biology, any comments/opinions on that?

Posted on January 30th, 2012

WAHAB says:

In May—2012, I will graduate with two degrees including two minors from Washington State University/Pullman: B. A in social sciences and B.S in psychology, a minor in professional writing, and a minor in global studies.
I am looking for a job in the Seattle areas, but I am ready to relocate if any employer is interested in hiring me.

Posted on February 10th, 2012