You've probably heard of a double major, but have you heard of a dual degree? In a dual degree program, you'll study two academic fields at once, earn you two separate degrees.
Below, we explain what a dual degree is and show you several examples of the different types of dual degree programs available. We also go over the pros and cons of getting a dual degree, and give you tips to help you decide whether a dual degree is right for you.
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What Is a Dual Degree? Overview
A dual degree, or double degree, is when you study two, usually very different, fields at the same time and receive two separate degrees (one per discipline). For example, if you studied psychology and business in a dual degree program, you'd graduate with two degrees (that is, two diplomas): a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology and a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA).
Dual degrees typically confer two different types of degrees, such as a BA/BS combo, a BS/BFA, a BS/BBA, etc. (Some dual degree programs will award you an undergraduate bachelor's degree and a graduate degree—we'll talk more about these types of programs in a moment.)
In addition, the two fields of study in a dual degree program are usually housed in two different schools at the university. As a result, those wanting to pursue a dual degree typically must apply and get admitted to both schools individually. The deadline by when you must apply for admission will vary depending on the university.
Dual degrees require more credits than single degrees. The total number of credits you'll need will depend on the university you attend and whether it uses the semester or quarter system. But generally speaking, you'll need anywhere from 140 to 225 credits to graduate.
Finally, because you're working on two degrees simultaneously and need more credits than you would for a single degree, you'll very likely need to spend more time in college, often five to six years. This also means you'll be spending more money on your college education since you'll have to pay for additional courses/credits, books, housing, etc.
How Does a Dual Degree Differ From a Double Major?
You might be wondering how a dual degree differs from a double major. After all, both academic options allow you to study two fields at once, right? While that's true, the two paths are actually quite different from each other.
In a dual degree program, you're studying two (likely different) fields in order to earn two separate degrees. These are usually different types of degrees, too, such as a BA and a BS. However, with a double major, you're studying two related fields to earn a single degree. This also means that you're receiving just one type of degree, such as a BA, BS, BFA, etc.
Essentially, a double major is when you're studying two fields in one degree program, and a dual degree is when you're studying two fields in two separate degree programs. This is the biggest difference between a dual degree and a double major—but there are many more ways to distinguish the two options.
For example, with double majors, a student's two majors are often housed in the same school or college and will grant you the same type of degree, such as a BS or BFA.
In addition, a double major doesn't typically require extra coursework (or at least not as much as a dual degree program does!) and can normally be completed within four years.
You can read more about the similarities and differences between double majors and dual degrees in our in-depth dual degree vs double major guide.
You'll get two of these when you graduate from a dual degree program.
What Kinds of Dual Degree Programs Are There?
Because there's such a big array of majors and fields you can combine for a dual degree, it can be difficult to determine how many types of dual degree programs there actually are.
The easiest way to categorize them is to look at them by the types of degrees they confer. We can therefore say that there are three main types of dual degree programs:
- Programs that confer two bachelor's degrees
- Programs that confer a bachelor's degree and a master's degree
- Programs that confer two graduate/professional degrees
We look at each of these in more detail below.
#1: Programs That Confer Two Bachelor's Degrees
This type of dual degree program, which awards two bachelor's degrees, is fairly common and available at many universities in the US.
With this program, you could earn any combination of bachelor's degrees. Here are some of the most common bachelor's degrees conferred in undergraduate dual degree programs:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Bachelor of Science (BS)
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
- Bachelor of Music (BM)
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
As stated previously, the two bachelor's degrees you choose to get in your dual degree program will most likely be based in different schools, so you'll typically need to apply and be admitted to both schools in order to do the program.
Not every university offers dual degree programs, so check with your university before you decide you want to do a dual degree. In addition, the options for dual degrees will vary depending on the university, so be sure that the specific combo of degrees you want is available at your school.
The period during which you may apply for a dual degree program will vary depending on the university. Some schools allow you to apply for a dual degree before you even start college, whereas others will only let you apply after you've been in college for at least a year or two.
The following chart lists some examples of popular universities offering dual degree programs that confer two bachelor's degrees:
|University||Bachelor's Degree Combos Offered||Notes|
|Boston University||BA/BS, BA/BFA, BA/BM, BS/BFA, BS/BM||Credit requirements vary. Open to specific major combos only.|
|Brown University||BA/BS||Minimum 38 credits and 10 semesters (five years).|
|Cornell University||BA/BS in Engineering, BA/BFA in Art, BA/BS in Urban and Regional Studies||Minimum 150 credits. Open to specific major combos only.|
|Northwestern University||BA/BS, BA/BM||For BA/BS program, minimum 12 quarters and 42 credits. For BA/BM program, minimum 60 courses.|
|Stanford University||BA/BS||Minimum 225 credits.|
|University of Alabama||BA/BS||Minimum 30 additional credit hours.|
|University of Denver||BA/BS, BA/BFA, BS/BFA, BA/BM, BS/BM, BFA/BM, etc.||Minimum 228 quarter hours. Many combinations of bachelor's degrees possible.|
|University of Maryland, Baltimore County||BA/BA, BS/BS, BA/BS||Minimum 150 credits. Note that combinations of same degree types are possible.|
|University of Michigan||BA/BS, BA/BFA, BA/BMA*, BA/BTA**, etc.||Credit requirements vary. May choose an established program or create own.|
|University of Notre Dame||BA/BS||Generally requires 45 additional credit hours. Five-year program.|
*BMA = Bachelor of Musical Arts
**BTA = Bachelor of Theatre Arts
Getting a master's degree = getting to wear a cool, colorful hood. (Illinois Springfield/Flickr)
#2: Programs That Confer a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree
The second type of dual degree program awards you a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, usually within five to six years.
This program differs from the one described above in that you get to do graduate-level coursework while taking undergraduate classes. Upon graduation, you'll receive both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. (With some dual degree programs, you'll get your undergraduate degree first and then your graduate degree a year or so later.)
These dual bachelor's/master's programs are popular because they can save you both time and money when it comes to a graduate-level education. Instead of having to finish your bachelor's degree and then apply for a master's, you can work on both degrees at the same time. This usually means you can have some classes count toward both degrees.
Here are some of the most common types of bachelor's and master's degrees combined in dual degree programs:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Bachelor of Science (BS)
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Engineering (ME)
- Master of Public Policy (MPP)
- Master of Public Administration (MPA)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
The chart below shows some examples of popular bachelor's/master's dual degree programs:
|University||Bachelor's and Master's Degree Combos Offered||Notes|
|American University||Varies||Must have earned at least 75 credits in order to apply.|
|Boston University||BA/MA, BA/MS||144-160 credits required (varies depending on program).|
|The George Washington University||Varies||Offers both joint programs (in which you earn both degrees at the same time) and dual programs (in which you earn your degrees at different times).|
|Harvard University||Liberal arts degrees (BA, BS, MA, MS, etc.)||Limited to those with "at least five years of full-time, paid, professional work experience."|
|Johns Hopkins University||BS/MS in Engineering||All students enrolled are awarded a half-tuition Dean's Master's Fellowship.|
|New York University||BA/MPA, BA/MUP*, BS/MUP||Must be majoring in public administration or urban planning.|
|Northwestern University||Varies||"Limited to certain degree programs within the University." Must submit a combined degree application to admitting program.|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||BS/MS, BS/ME, MBA||Students may propose own dual degree program.|
|University of Chicago||BA/MA, BA/MAT**, BA/MPP, BA/MS, BS/MS||Four- and five- year programs available. Credit requirements vary depending on program.|
|University of Georgia||BS/MS, Engineering/MBA, BBA/MAcc***||Limited to specific fields of study.|
*MUP = Master of Urban Planning
**MAT = Master of Arts in Teaching
***MAcc = Master of Accountancy
#3: Programs That Confer Two Graduate/Professional Degrees
The third and final type of dual degree program is one that confers only graduate degrees. These can be a combination of two different master's degrees or a master's and a professional or doctoral degree.
For example, several law schools offer dual degree programs so that students can earn a master's or doctoral degree (usually in a field in which they want to practice law) along with their Juris Doctor (JD).
While many universities offer formal dual degree graduate programs that dictate which programs/fields you can earn your two graduate degrees in, others allow students to create their own graduate-level dual degree programs.
Here are some common graduate and professional degrees that can be combined in dual degree programs:
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Public Policy (MPP)
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)
- Master of Social Work (MSW)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Juris Doctor (JD)
- Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Some of the most common degree combinations include MA/PhD, MS/PhD, MA/JD, MBA/JD, JD/PhD, and MPH/MD. Below are some examples of popular graduate-level dual degree programs:
|University||Graduate Degree Combos Offered||Notes|
|Duke University||Master's/Master's, MBA/Master's, Master's/JD, PhD/JD, Master's/PhD, Master's/MD, PhD/MD||Must be admitted to both programs|
|Georgetown University||Master's/Master's, MBA/Master's, Master's/JD, PhD/JD, Master's/PhD, Master's/MD, PhD/MD||Limited to specific fields of study.|
|Rutgers University||Several combinations with JD, including MD, MA, MBA, MPH, PhD, MSW, etc.||"A law student may create a dual-degree with another graduate degree offered by Rutgers or another institution."|
|Stanford University||JD/MBA, MA/MBA, MPP/MBA, MS/MBA, MD/MBA||Credit requirements vary depending on program.|
|Suffolk University||MBA/JD, LLM*/JD, MPA/JD, MS/JD||Limited to specific fields of study. Credit requirements and length of program vary.|
|University of Arizona||MAcc/MBA, MS/MS, MS/MBA, MS/JD, MA/JD, PhD/PhD, PhD/MD, PhD/JD, etc.||Limited to specific fields of study. "Students cannot invent their own dual degrees."|
|University of Cincinnati||MBA/MS, MBA/MA, MBA/MSN**, JD/MA, JD/MBA, JD/PhD, etc.||"The applicant must be accepted by both programs."|
|University of Colorado Boulder||MA/MBA, MS/MBA, MA/MA, MBA/JD, JD/PhD, JD/MD, MS/JD, JD/MPA, etc.||Limited to specific fields of study. Credit requirements vary depending on program.|
|University of Illinois||Varies; includes combos with MA, MS, MArch, MBA, MPH, MSW, JD, PhD, MD, etc.||"A student who wishes to enter a joint degree program must be admitted separately to each program as a joint degree candidate."|
|University of Michigan||Varies; includes combos with MA, MS, MPH, MPP, MUP, MBA, JD, PhD, MD, etc.||Students may propose own dual degree program.|
|University of Texas at Austin||Master's and professional degrees only; includes combos with MA, MS, MBA, MSE, JD, etc.||Limited to specific fields of study.|
*LLM = Master of Laws
**MSN = Master of Science in Nursing
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The Pros and Cons of Dual Degree Programs
Now that we've shown you what types of dual degree programs there are, let's take a look at the biggest pros and cons of doing a dual degree program.
Advantages of Getting a Dual Degree
- You'll broaden your knowledge and skill sets. Perhaps the biggest benefit of a dual degree program is that you get to learn more and become an expert in more than one field of study. This can help you feel more fulfilled since you'll be able to study both fields you're interested in.
- You'll have more choices in terms of potential career paths. Studying two fields equally means you'll acquire lots of experience with and knowledge of them both. As a result, you'll have a higher number of relevant job options available to you after graduation.
- You'll save money on a graduate degree. If you're doing a combined bachelor's/master's or graduate/graduate dual degree program, you'll actually be saving money on what you would have spent had you pursued each degree separately. This is because most dual degree programs allow (and encourage) overlapping classes—i.e., classes that count toward both of your degrees.
Disadvantages of Getting a Dual Degree
- You're spending more time in school without stopping. For some people, this factor alone can be a deal-breaker. With a dual degree program, regardless of the types of degrees you're pursuing, you'll be spending more time in school without the chance to take a break and fit in some work experience.
- You're spending more money at once. Even though you'll likely be saving money in the long run by getting a dual degree, you still have to spend a lot of money upfront for things such as credits, tuition, and housing.
- It might not increase your earning potential. While a dual degree can broaden your career prospects, it doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll earn a higher income than if you'd opted for a single degree. However, this depends a lot on what fields you're studying and what degrees you're getting (for example, there's a big difference between getting two BAs and getting a JD and a PhD!).
An equation we can all relate to.
Is a Dual Degree Right for You? 4 Key Questions to Consider
When it comes down to it, is a dual degree the best option for you? Here are four critical questions to ask yourself to help you figure out whether or not you should pursue a dual degree.
#1: Are You Equally Interested in Two (Different) Fields of Study?
If you're not equally passionate about both fields you plan to study, a dual degree might not be the best choice for you. Remember that with a dual degree, you're studying your two chosen fields equally—after all, you're earning a degree in each!
If you're more interested in one field than you are in the other you want to study, consider making the latter a secondary field of study. You could do this by declaring it as a minor instead of a major if you're an undergrad, or by taking or auditing some classes in it if you're a (prospective) graduate student.
#2: Are You OK With Staying in School Longer?
A dual degree program means you'll typically be staying in college or grad school at least an extra year or two depending on the program you're doing and the degree types you're getting. Therefore, it's important for you to determine whether you'd rather spend this time doing more school or going out into the world and doing other activities such as working or traveling.
Remember that even if you decide to forego a graduate dual degree program for now, you can always enter a grad program in the future at a later date!
#3: Will Money Be an Issue?
If money might pose a problem for you, a dual degree might not be a good idea since it'll require a lot of money outright (even though it technically saves you money in the long run, especially if you're earning a bachelor's degree and a master's degree or two graduate degrees).
#4: Do You Have a Clear Plan for Your Future?
Dual degree programs are solid options for those who have a clear plan for their future career and occupational desires. For example, if you want to be a lawyer who specializes in Chinese law, a dual degree program that earns you a JD and an MA in Chinese Studies would be an ideal combo that perfectly suits your professional aspirations.
On the other hand, if you're not entirely sure what you want to do with a dual degree or what kind of career you want to have after graduation, it might not be worth devoting several years and a lot of money to such a program.
Recall that a dual degree does not ensure a higher salary, so it's important that you're willing to weigh these risks before deciding to enroll in a dual degree program.
Recap: What Is a Dual Degree and Should You Get One?
Dual degree programs are academic programs that confer two degrees at the same time. This can be a combination of two bachelor's degrees, a bachelor's and a master's degree, or two graduate/professional degrees.
Since you're studying two (different) fields and earning two separate degrees, you'll need to stay in school longer—usually an extra one to two years for an undergraduate dual degree program.
Dual degrees have both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, a dual degree lets you broaden your knowledge of two fields you're equally passionate about, saves you money on grad school, and expands your career options.
That being said, you will have to spend more time in school without a break and pay more money upfront for your education. A dual degree also won't necessarily increase your income potential.
Ultimately, whether a dual degree is right for you depends on four main factors:
- Whether you're equally interested in two (different) fields of study
- Whether you're OK with staying in school for a longer period of time
- Whether money will pose a challenge for you
- Whether you have a clear plan for your future
After reading this article, you should now have a much better idea of what a dual degree actually is and how it can benefit you.
While you can get a dual degree that includes a Master of Arts in Teaching, is it necessary? Find out if you need a teaching degree in this article.
A dual degree isn't the same as a double major. But just how are they different? Check out our extensive guide to dual degrees vs double majors to learn more about how the two options are different—and alike.
Not sure what you want to major in? Don't worry! With our advice, you'll figure out what you should study as an undergrad in no time at all.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.