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Dual Degree vs. Double Major: What's the Difference?

Because of their wide range of interests, it can become very difficult for some students to pin down on one single choice of major. They may choose one major, but they are reluctant to give up another. There are also many students who want to study popular majors, such as computer science, engineering, business, and psychology, but they are worried that their profile is not competitive enough to apply for these majors, so they will consider applying for relatively “easy” majors.

American universities respect and support students' interests and professional development. Schools not only offer many interdisciplinary majors, but also encourage students to engage in interdisciplinary study. At the same time, schools also go out of their way to provide flexibility for students when it comes to majors, which is why we often come across terms like Dual degree, Double major, and Minor.

So, how are they different from each other? Let's take a closer look.

Dual Degree

Dual Degree means that students study two different academic fields at the same time and earn two different degrees.

When pursuing dual degree, students study two areas of study, usually administered by two different colleges at the university. Therefore, those who want to pursue a dual degree usually have to apply to and be admitted to two colleges/universities separately. For example, the dual degree at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design is quite well-known.


Because each degree program has its own graduation requirements, a dual degree requires more total credits than a single degree program, which also means that students pursuing a dual degree are likely to spend more time completing their studies, usually 5-6 years, depending on the difficulty of the course and the type of degree the student chooses. Therefore, dual degree students spend more on a college education.

Correspondingly, students receive two different degrees after graduation. For example, if a student double majors in psychology and business, they will earn two degrees: a Bachelor of Psychology (BA) and a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA).

Business has always been a popular choice for Dual Degree students, because business is involved in any industry, and it is common for people who are preparing for management positions to return to campus to pursue an advanced degree in business. The well-known Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offers several Dual Degree programs for undergraduates in different directions:

College of Engineering and Business, Biological Sciences and Business Programs, Arts and Sciences and Business Programs, Nursing and Health Management Programs (Nursing and Economics)


Double Major

Unlike dual degree graduates, graduates with a double major receive only one diploma.

Almost all undergraduate majors in universities in the US can double major, so many students choose to study two majors. Double major students can choose majors from two completely different disciplines, and obtain professional knowledge in two different fields at the same time, which means they have more options when they enter the job market.

In most cases, when students choose to double major, they consider two aspects: future employment and interests. Most students will choose two related majors, so coursework won't become too overwhelming. The combination of majors mostly depends on personal choice, but there are also factors like individual college's administration and curriculum design.


Students with a minor take some courses at another department while they complete their major. A student's major is his/her main focus of study, helping to lay a solid foundation of relevant professional knowledge for future career choices or more advanced, graduate level studies.

Usually, a major will require at least 60 or 70 credits, that is to say, about 15 major-related courses, accounting for 2/3 of the total credits earned during four years of college. Engineering majors often require more credits.

In contrast, completing a Minor generally takes only 18 - 24 credits. Students pay the same amount of tuition fee, and they can take one more discipline. For those students whose majors already come with heavy course loads, choosing an additional minor allow them to take a few basic and advanced courses in another department, and gain the knowledge and professional skills of another discipline.

Choosing an appropriate Minor will not hinder students' study in their majors. Instead, picking a minor can further advance their major studies, giving students access to a wider range and deeper understanding of knowledge.

Some Popular Major+Minor Combinations:

Economics + Psychology

Economics + Applied Math

Economics + Environmental Studies

Psychology + Marketing

Psychology + Business Analytics

Computer Science + Applied Math

Computer Science + Finance

Communication + Public Policy

Communication + Marketing


As the single most popular field of study, engineering and computer science are many students' first choice when considering a minor or double major. UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business (ranked #8 in the nation's business schools) and the School of Engineering (ranked #2 in the best engineering schools in the United States) have established their joint Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology program (MET), providing the following seven academic programs.

  • Engineering Undeclared + Business

  • Bioengineering + Business

  • Civil Engineering + Business

  • Electrical Engineering & Computer Science + Business

  • Industrial Engineering & Operations Research + Business

  • Materials Science & Engineering + Business

  • Mechanical Engineering + Business

When applying to colleges, choice of major can be far more significant than many assume. Although an applicant's choice of major does not reflect his or her academic performance or leadership, the choice of major will often decide how the rest of the application is read by admission officers.

Every student has a different profile, and therefore it is crucial that they choose a major that is fittest to their existing academic record, activities, and interests. At Enlighteens, our consultants have worked with students with all kinds of backgrounds and interests. We believe that every student has a unique set of strengths, and we provide students and their families with our best assistance to show that to our students' dream schools.

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