With double majors come double work, the chances of getting a high GPA decreases. However, your chances of getting employed becomes much higher, writes Atia Rabbani

One of the biggest problem students face when entering universities is choosing majors. Double majors in universities are fairly uncommon.

Should they be introduced widely throughout the country? What are its merits and demerits? Notes finds out.

Double majors consist of two majors attached to a single degree, as opposed to two separate degrees each with its own field of study.

A double major should not be confused with a double-degree programme, which involves a student working for two different university degrees in parallel, either at the same institution or at different institutions (sometimes in different countries) completing them in less time than it would take to earn them separately.

Do university professors encourage or discourage double majoring?

Bill Skidmore, a professor at Carleton University in Canada, said, "I teach in the human rights BA programme at Carleton, and all students in that discipline are required to do a double major.

"I teach many students who are pursuing a double major."

He said, double majoring is "a good option, depending on particular students' needs. As an adviser I would first discuss with students their interests, aspirations, and goals, prior to making recommendations as to the programme(s) of study they might follow."

Students speak from experience
As you can imagine, with double majors come double work. Zahira Sarwar, a political science student at Carleton University, said, "I won't think of double majoring again. I did a double major in my first year and it was very difficult to maintain a reasonable GPA with double the workload."

Another opinion on double majoring
Most students are satisfied with their current majors and don't feel the need to major in another field.

Shefali Sarna, a student at Carleton University, studying public affairs and policy management, said, "I'm not thinking of taking a double major, my programme is an interdisciplinary one and it satisfies all my needs."

Sarna added, "Even though I am not double majoring, I still find that trying to balance work, family life, a social life, extra-curricular activities and school leaves very little time to oneself."

Its advantages
Most professors stress on the point that a double major takes more time than a single one.

A single major normally requires students to take nine or 10 credits in the major discipline. While a double major means fewer courses in each major subject, students still usually find they are suitably prepared for graduate school.

An advantage of the double major is that students gain a wider exposure to subject matter, and in greater depth than simply taking 10 free electives alongside a single major.

It also enables them to explore their various interests, rather than focusing on a single discipline.

This in turn may lead them to opportunities they would otherwise not have considered had they done a single major," said Skidmore.

"I think the best thing about taking a double major is that you may have better job opportunities," added Sarwar.

Sarna agreed, "Double majoring provides the student with more opportunities to diversify with regards to their areas of study - so it would make sense that the more background you have, the higher the chances of acquiring gainful employment.

"I cannot be entirely sure because I am not double majoring, but the logic seems sound."

Guidelines for those wishing to do a double major

  • Know the potential degrees: Will taking a double majoring give you two degrees or one degree? Most students think that a double major will give them two separate diplomas but this is not the case.
  • Pick majors that mix well together: Different majors have varying levels of difficulty.
  • Pick majors that can relate closely. Taking engineering and international relations might not be such a good idea, but engineering and marketing might work.
  • Talk to college advisers before taking any major decisions.

Students speak

It seems that many students have this idea that double majoring can increase your chances at jobs.

Mohammad Ali Joher, finance and banking student at the American University of Dubai (AUD), said, "I'm thinking of double majoring because I think it helps a lot when hunting for jobs. Organisations prefer students with double major as they are 'handy'."

Zoia Naseem Khan, mjoring in finance in AUD, said, "I have always have the thought of doing a double major, because it would allow me to specialise in different fields and would ensure better job opportunities in the future. Most importantly it will expand my knowledge."

She added, "Double majoring allows you to specialise in more than one concentration. This helps you get better job opportunities.

"Yet at the same time I feel that having two different majors as your concentrations, is better than having two similar concentrations."

Amina Zia, a marketing communications student from AUD, disagrees. She said, "I think it depends on what your major is and what field you are going into. Personally I don't think that a double major would provide more opportunities to students."

Ataya told Notes some of the demerits of double majoring, "First of all, it's costly because you would have to pay for more courses.

Secondly, you have to concentrate on two majors instead of one. Thus you need to work twice as hard. Most importantly, you need to be at a 3.0 GPA level to do graduate school."

Facts on double majoring

It's not every day that we see students graduating in double majors. Lynda Ataya, registrar at the American University in Sharjah, said, "To do a double major, you have to be very focused.

"The past spring graduation, out of the 440 graduates, only three students graduated with a double major," she added.

"To do a double major you need to meet the requirements of both subjects. This means adding on an extra year, possible more, and you receive only one diploma not two."

Some students want to do masters degree or pursue their careers. Reem Mohammad, an advertising student at the AUS, said, "I want to graduate early so I can pursue a masters degree and maybe get a PhD."

Ataya agreed. She said, "I think it's more convenient to do masters degree in the time spent to get a double major."

Mohammad concluded, " I believe a person should double major, if they are not planning to finish their graduate degrees."

Ebrahim Sadek, associate dean of mass communications at AUS, had a similar view. He said, "Double majoring helps students in finding jobs easily. Employers will know that they have more knowledge about two different fields."

The writer is a graduate of the American University of Sharjah