Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Double Majoring

I'd venture to say that most of us know what double majoring is. What isn't clear is how much work it takes, when/ if it should be done, and how it affects job offers and graduate school applications.

DISCLAIMER: I'm neither an employer or admission counselor, but I did interview several of each on this topic. Furthermore, as with most decisions, I encourage people considering double majoring to seek many sources of advice, not just one.

So with that out of the way, let's go (after a calming look at Noble, one of my favorite dogs ever).

Why Double Major?
Double majoring can be a great way to marry two disciplines. More and more, fields are becoming interdisciplinary. For example, if you are interested in genetic counseling, you might want to double major in Biology and Psychology to have a thorough understanding of the science and people. You could also do Biology and Religious Studies to enhance your understanding of cultural influence on medical decisions. Really, the options are endless because you can combine different studies to shape the knowledge base that will most benefit you.

An Idea of the Work Load
A major is about thirty credits, and a student requires 120 to graduate. If you choose to double major, you can easily get it done in the allotted four years. What you sacrifice is breadth of education. By choosing two fields to devote time to, you are opting to explore less. Some people don't mind this; they know what they want. That's fine, but if you are not an Echols Scholar or did not come in with a sizable number of transfer credits, just know that your first few semesters will be requirements and most everything else will be your two majors. You will have time to explore--just less than someone who isn't double majoring.

Why I Didn't Double Major
When I sat down and looked at the options (major; major/minor; major, major/ minor; etc.), I decided that I wanted skill sets--not listed degrees. What I mean is that I wanted a dynamic background strong in math with attention to computer science, psychology, and ethics. I wanted more flexibility than a double major in biology plus any of the above fields could give me. Moreover, I didn't need extreme depth in any of the background areas--I just needed basic knowledge. Thus, I've taken a variety of classes that get me very close to fulfilling minors in most of these areas, but I'm taking what I need. I'm not worrying about having the label on a transcript because what's more important to an employer is that I know what I need, not that I have a specific major-minor combination.

1 comment:

  1. As a prospective UVA student interested in genetic counseling, this is really helpful. I'm considering a double major in Psychology and Biology and a minor in Spanish.