The Pros and Cons of A Double Major

A double major in college seems like a no brainer to many students today, who want to capture a competitive advantage in the work world.

Some academics, however, argue that double majoring doesn’t necessarily provide that edge. Even worse, double majoring keeps many students from graduating on time.

The double major issue came up when I was talking to a professor at the University of California, San Diego, about why it’s taking so long for kids to get college degrees today.

At UCSD the four-year graduation rate is 53%. While that number is underwhelming, the national average for public universities is far worse — 28%. (Here is where you can find the graduation rates for any school.)

The UCSD professor told me that the popularity of double majors is one significant reason why students at her institution — and I assume elsewhere — aren’t graduating on time. Underfunded state schools are struggling to usher students through with one major and adding an extra major gums up the system.

Double Major Advice

Here’s the professor’s suggestion for students who are contemplating double majoring: If graduating in four years is impossible or extremely difficult for double majors at a particular institution, students should consider focusing on one major and then spending the extra year or two getting a master’s degree.

Last year, The New York Times explored why students consider a double major. While the article clearly captured the belief of students that a double major is a way to separate them from the crowd of high achieving graduates, some academics call that conventional wisdom baloney.

A few years ago, Bowdoin College, which is a prestigious liberal arts college in Maine, got three professors together to discuss the pros and cons of a double major. Regardless of your intended college major,  I’d suggest that you read the recap if you are considering a double major.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and an eBook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Price of a Bachelor’s Degree.

Read more:

The Double Major Bind

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