A young man sitting on a round gray ottoman, using a laptop. He is casually dressed in a green t-shirt and jeans, smiling as he looks at the screen. A speech bubble next to him reads, "What is the difference between a dual degree and a double major?"

If you’re torn between two career options or you’re passionate about multiple subjects, you may be considering a collegiate path that will allow you to focus on more than one area of study. Two such options are a double major and a dual degree. 

These options are similar in that they allow you to graduate with more expertise than you would with a single degree or major, but there are some important distinctions between them to be aware of. We’ll explain the difference between a dual degree and a double major and lay out some factors to consider when deciding which route is best for you. 

What is a double major?

A double major is when a student completes the requirements of two majors within a single degree program. An example would be obtaining a Bachelor of Science with majors in Economics and Math or a Bachelor of Arts with majors in English and Education. 

Double majors often complement one another, as in the examples above. However, it’s also possible to major in two very different fields, like Dance and Biology or Music and Computer Science. The possibilities, as well as the practicality of a specific double major combination, will vary depending on the requirements of the college you’re looking at.

Double major examples

Here are some common examples of double majors:

  • Business and marketing
  • Marketing and psychology
  • Business and communications
  • Business and foreign language
  • Economics and political science
  • Political science and history
  • History and archaeology
  • History and anthropology
  • Journalism and law
  • Finance and accounting
  • Chemistry and biology
  • Music and theater
  • Art and art history

Related: How to Choose a College Major

What is a dual degree?

A dual degree is when a student fulfills the requirements for two distinct degrees, like a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Business Administration. Instead of receiving one degree with two majors, students who get a dual degree receive two separate diplomas. 

Sometimes, pursuing a dual degree instead of a double major is necessary if the fields you want to study are part of different degree programs. An example would be art history, which is typically a BA degree, together with chemistry, which is a BS degree.

Differences between a dual degree and a double major

There are several key distinctions between a dual degree and a double major. Here are the ways in which they differ:


Though double majoring involves two areas of specialization, you’ll graduate with a single degree. A dual major yields two separate degrees. The latter may be considered more valuable in the eyes of employers, especially if both degrees are relevant to the position you’re seeking. 


A double major can sometimes be completed with the same number of credits as just one major. This is because there’s a lot of overlap in the general education credits you’ll complete during your freshman and sophomore years. To round out the course requirements that are specific to each major, you can use the credit hours that would otherwise be free for electives. So, though it can be challenging, it’s realistic to complete a double major in the standard four years. 

Dual degrees typically require more credits because there’s not as much overlap between the course lists; you have more requirements to fulfill with a second-degree program. This means you may need to complete an additional year or more of study. In fact, some schools mandate it.


Because some double majors can be completed with the same number of credits as a single major, it’s possible that you can get two majors for the price of one–a.k.a. without incurring any additional costs. Since a dual degree usually requires more credit hours and more time, it will cost more. How much more depends on several factors–how your school charges for tuition, whether you’ll need to pay rent and cover living expenses for additional semesters, whether you’ll be working on top of going to school, etc. 

Benefits of getting a double major or dual degree

Access more career opportunities

Most of the time, holding a degree in a specific area is one of the primary requirements to qualify for a job. If you have completed more than one field of study, you’ll meet the requirements for twice as many job openings and may enjoy a wider range of positions that fit your credentials well. 

Reduce unemployment risk

In the world of finance, diversifying your investments protects your portfolio against risk. If one investment fails, you still have others to fall back on. It’s the same way with education credentials; having more than one major or degree can be a risk-mitigation plan for your career. If one industry experiences layoffs or other setbacks, you have a “fallback” in another area of expertise where you can seek alternative employment.  

Pursue your passions

One of the main reasons students opt to pursue a dual degree or double major is simply that they’re interested in more than one field. Oftentimes, one field is the ‘practical’ choice (computer science, business), and the other field is the ‘passionate’ choice (music, art, philosophy, etc.). Pursuing dual areas of study allows you to follow your heart while still obtaining a degree that sets you up for strong job prospects. 

Downsides of getting a double major or dual degree

Heavy academic course load

College is a chance to explore your interests. For many students, that means taking fun and unique elective classes like beekeeping, mythology, and golf. Unfortunately, as a double major or dual degree student, you won’t have a lot of time in your schedule for non-essential courses. You’ll be busy completing your degree requirements, which means a heavier academic course load and fewer electives.

Pressure to decide early

Another downside of having more required courses is that you have less wiggle room during your first two years of school. During this time, it’s common for students to change majors or wait to declare one as they get a feel for what they want to do. However, if you want to avoid tacking on additional years to your collegiate life, you’ll need to decide early about your academic path. 

No guarantees

Having a dual degree or double major doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get a job in either of your fields of study. In fact, some employers are placing less emphasis on education and even scrapping educational requirements altogether in favor of skills and experience. There are no guarantees your hard work will pay off in the form of a better job or a higher salary. 

Should I get a double major or a dual degree?

Choosing whether to pursue a double major or a dual degree is a personal decision that will come down to your goals for your time in college and afterward. As you weigh your options, here are some factors to think about:

Desired career

Your career goals are the biggest factor that will inform whether pursuing a double major or a dual degree makes more sense. Do some research on the job titles you’re interested in. Look at entry-level job listings in your desired field to see which education credentials the postings call for most frequently. Check out the LinkedIn profiles of people with the job you want and see what degrees they hold, in which majors. 

If you’re considering a dual educational path because you’re torn between two different careers, spend some time considering whether you’re equally interested in both or if one option is the stronger fit. This is where an advisor from your school’s career center can be an excellent resource. They can shed light on the real-world paths that will help you accomplish your goals and may be able to suggest alternative ideas you hadn’t thought of or weren’t aware of. 


Every school approaches dual majors and degrees a little differently. Hence, it’s very important to consider both the school and the degree program you’re interested in when deciding. Not every school offers every combination you might want. For example, business and engineering would be double majors at some universities, whereas at others, they would require a dual degree. 

You’ll also want to research the school’s strengths in each area you’re interested in. Ideally, you’ll want to find a college with reputable programs for both of your desired fields of study.


Completing one major for a single degree is a challenge on its own. Consider whether you’re up for the added intensity a double major or dual degree will add to your studies. In addition to a course schedule heavier on academics, you may also need to find time for twice the amount of lab work or complete two capstone projects that are due at the same time. 

Other commitments

If you plan to be very involved in something other than academics–playing a collegiate sport, holding a student government office, or working while you’re in school, for example–you’ll want to think carefully about how feasible it would be to pursue two specializations on top of that. 

Inclination for continued learning

Remember that if you continue to have a strong interest in more than one field, your education needn’t be completed right now. It’s become more common than ever for adults to go back to school, with approximately 37% of college students being 25 or older. Getting that second degree may be more practical after you’ve gained a few years of experience in the workforce and zeroed in on what you ultimately want to do. 

There are also endless options for continuing education that don’t involve a formal degree but that can still bolster your resume. Professional certifications, workshops, e-learning programs, and internships can all arm you with valuable knowledge to enhance your skills and expand your job prospects.  

With proper preparation, a double major or a dual degree can be a way to expand your academic and professional horizons while keeping your passions at the forefront. Leveraging the resources that are available to you through your school, mentors, and online can help you make an informed decision that will lead you to the degree(s) and career you want. 

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn