Dual Degree vs. Double Major: What's the Difference?
In college, many people pick their major based on their passions or career goals. But what if you have two fields you're equally passionate about — or if there are multiple career paths that interest you?
If this sounds like you, you might want to consider a dual degree or a double major.
What is the Difference Between a Combined Degree and Double Major?
Double majoring and getting a combined/dual degree are two options available if you want to deepen your studies during college.
According to Jessica Erb SHRM-CP, GCDF, career advisor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), when you get a dual degree, you complete two degrees in two separate programs. If you decide to do a double major, on the other hand, you complete one degree while taking enough classes to satisfy the requirements of two majors.
With a dual degree being two separate degree programs, a major difference between that and a double major is the number of credits you'll need.
“A dual degree requires 15 additional institution credits for the associate program and 30 additional institutional credits for the bachelor’s program,” said Jenifer Chabot, academic advisor at SNHU. While both associate and bachelor’s students can complete a dual degree, you can only can go for a double major if you're completing your bachelor's degree.
Chabot has personal experience with dual degrees as well. “During my undergrad, I chose to earn more than one bachelor's degree,” said Chabot. “As an academic advisor, I’ve had students request additional information on the differences between a double major versus a dual degree, and I feel like I was in a unique position to provide guidance due to my experience.”
Do Double Majors Get Two Separate Degrees?
You may have noticed that it's called a double major, but a dual degree. It may seem small, but it does lead to a difference on your transcript and your diploma. “A student completing a double major only receives one degree, with their primary major listed on their diploma,” said Chabot.
Even though you don’t receive two separate degrees with a double major, your transcript will show both majors. This is different from a dual degree, where you do receive two diplomas that list your degrees separately.
What are Common Double Major and Dual Degree Combinations?
At SNHU, there are many dual degree and double major options. These options allow you to choose a course of study that fits your interests and career goals.
As a career advisor, Erb sees lots of these different combinations. One common double major she sees includes business administration, which provides 14 concentration options and pairs well with many other majors, like sports management or communication. Double majors require fewer credits than a dual degree, so it can be helpful for your two majors to have overlap in the courses you need. Some double major combos that Erb often sees include:
- Data Analytics and Computer Science: A data analytics major can be added to any degree, as data analytics is a versatile skill and touches every industry. “Employers highly value candidates who possess the ability to understand and interpret data,” said Erb.
- Healthcare Administration and Human Resources: A double major in healthcare administration and human resources can be a good combination. According to Erb, these can provide a solid foundation in both fields, allowing graduates to lead and manage healthcare organizations efficiently.
- Environmental Science and Business Administration: These two majors are another combo Erb sees often. Together, they can help a student bridge the gap between environmental awareness and business acumen. “This can be beneficial for careers that entail green entrepreneurship, corporate sustainability or sustainable business practices,” she said.
When it comes to dual degrees, your options are limited only by your interests and imagination — though some degree combinations are more common than others. Certain programs complement each other or make sense for specific career paths you might be interested in.
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What are the Benefits and Disadvantages of Doing a Dual Degree?
Both a dual degree and a double major can be beneficial if you're interested in multiple fields or career paths. You might choose a dual degree if you want to study two fields that are very different and don't have a lot of classes in common.
If you're earning a dual degree, you may need to factor in the additional time that comes with getting two degrees instead of one. “Juggling the course requirements for two programs will require more time than a single degree, which can delay starting a new job,” said Chabot. You may decide that a double major is a better option because it lets you complete more than one major while maintaining a lower credit requirement and time commitment.
You'll also need to consider the additional cost that comes with a dual degree. More credits mean more courses, which increases tuition and textbook costs, said Chabot. For these reasons, completing a dual degree is often perceived as more challenging than a double major.
Whether a dual degree is a good fit depends on the student. “The benefits may outweigh the disadvantages for some students, as a dual degree can provide a competitive advantage in the job market with its unique skill set and interdisciplinary focus,” said Erb. “This is especially true for career paths seeking candidates who can collaborate across different areas of expertise, such as healthcare or technology.”
How to Decide if a Dual Degree or Double Major Is Right for You
Deciding between a double major, a dual major, or even grad school or a minor instead will depend on your personal interests and goals.
“Curiosity, discipline, motivation and passion are some of the characteristics of students that pursue double majors or dual degrees,” said Chabot.
Both Chabot and Erb recommend meeting with your school's Career Services office when making a decision between a dual or double major.
“A career advisor can help students identify and clarify career goals and interests,” said Erb. “They can provide valuable insights to help you assess whether pursuing a dual degree or a double major would better align with your long-term career goals. This personalized support ensures that your academic courses align with the skills and expertise needed for success in your chosen field.”
If you're looking to increase your education and career options through multiple areas of study, a double major or dual degree may be a great next step.
Meg Palmer '18 is a Southern New Hampshire University graduate and a writer, who also teaches English at the university level.
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About Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.