Doing Away with the Double Major

A double major - getting credit for intensely studying two different areas - is a popular choice among students who want to be skilled in more than one area, but critics say it's not an efficient way of spending college. Here are the pros and cons.

PROS: Graduating with a double major shows an ability to handle a heavier course load while becoming knowledgeable in two separate areas. The flexibility can open up more career doors than usual, or make a graduate twice as attractive in one area for being able to apply cross-skills in their career.

For example, if a student double majors in business and biochemistry, they'll be ready to tackle both the professional and practical sides of their career. As well, employers are now demanding that their employees be skilled and trained in more than one area. Jobs are moving toward a broader spectrum in which people are expected to be jacks of all trades instead of masters of one.

Double major students are also more likely to finish their degree in four years, as opposed to the five or six years that students usually take with a single major degree. This doesn't necessarily mean that a double major is a surefire recipe for four-year success, but that students who undertake double majors are probably more motivated to begin with.

CONS: There's a lot more work involved. A major by itself requires taking a certain number of courses in one area, with a double major almost equalling that. Many schools might not require the same amount of credits for both majors as they would if the student were doing a single major, but the course load is increased. This also leaves a lot less room for "fun" courses that the student might want to take--only electives and gen eds tend to be left, with maybe room for a small handful of choice courses.

Another concern is cost: if the school doesn't offer two study areas as a double major, students risk having to shell out more to fulfill the requirements for each major. This is especially a problem for students with loans, as lenders may be a bit sticky with their policies. It's best to check with the financial aid advisor at the school to be certain if and how much debt would be incurred.

A double major isn't for everyone, as the heavier course load and possibly higher costs may make it prohibitive. But for those who do decide on a double major, it can open doors the way other degrees just can't.