When it comes to education strategy, looking at career interests is always first. Then look at the career’s educational requirements and talk to people in the career for additional insight. Find out what education will make you the most attractive to employers for the career you are most interest in pursuing. Students who graduate with a double major tend to be more attractive than students with a single major and those with a major/minor combination.
To be fair, there are some careers that require a labor-intensive college degree such as nursing, engineering and possibly business. Double majoring for those may be difficult or impossible. Declaring these majors up front through your college admissions application will likely block any consideration of a double degree going in. Also, pursuing two majors from two different colleges will have its challenges as well. The more academic overlap between the two majors, the less course hours you’ll have to complete.
However, putting aside the labor-intensive degrees, all others are ideally suited for anyone to obtain a double degree in four years. So here is a short list of reasons why you should double major:
- If you plan from the beginning (starting in high school), you’ll find college academic planning for a double major will result in no or very little additional coursework
- A double major expands your opportunity to “find” a specific career direction within a general career direction
- A double major is more attractive to employers. It shows diversity of interests and knowledge and shows you are not one to do the minimum amount of work
- A double major will very likely set you up for more rapid advancement once you are working
- If you do decide to change your career direction, a double major has positioned you to make the least amount of academic changes
There are some watch-outs when considering a double major:
- Internships are practically a must – more valuable than a double major. So don’t think a double major gives you the freedom to relax about internships. Keep your GPA above 3.0 and you’ll likely be attractive to internship providers after four semesters. You must pursue internships, they won’t pursue you.
- Don’t avoid labor-intensive courses. Most double majors won’t kill you. The tendency to select courses that require minimum work out of a fear of being overloaded is a bad strategy. Pick courses that you feel will be best for your career, without consideration of the amount of work. Some semesters will be harder than others but they won’t all be hard.
- Some universities have a special honors/scholars program for incoming Freshman within specific colleges, but especially the humanities. Apply for these and discuss their fit to your goal of completing a double major within four years. As many students have stated about these programs, “the scholars program was a GPA buster but well worth it for what I gained“. OK, so instead of a 4.0 for those four classes over two semesters, you received a 3.8. Employers won’t care about the GPA impact but they will be impressed with a double major and scholars program recipient.
If you are considering a double major, the time to decide is between your senior year of high school and the end of your Freshman year of college.
Ideally, going in with the decision already made will enable you to assert your desires on your academic advisers from the beginning. But to do that means you’ve really done your work to flush out career interests. Some universities embrace and encourage double majors and some do not. For some, they won’t let you declare the second major until your sophomore year. The greater the clarity you have at the beginning, the better your questions and decisions as you step through the college selection and enrollment process as well.
Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works. Assessment and coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.