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Why choose a double degree?

If you’re looking at courses, you’ve probably heard of double degrees and know (roughly) what they involve. But why would you choose one? The following are three of the most common reasons:

  • You want a broad education — perhaps because you’re not quite sure what you want to study. A broad education (perhaps combining two contrasting fields) can help you get the best of both worlds.
  • You have two distinct passions and can’t pick between the two fields. For example, you have your heart set on one degree (such as general humanities) but don’t want to throw sciences out the window. Why not try a combined arts and science degree? Or for a more specialised focus, perhaps a combination of arts and psychology?
  • You may have career goals that combine two different fields. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to work in two different areas; you may choose a double degree because it caters to both the profession and the industry you would like to work in (a combined law and science degree, for example).

Some universities offer their own combinations; others may allow you to choose a combination of your choice. Keep in mind, too, that double degrees are not just the domain of undergraduate study. Many combinations are available at postgraduate level — even in MBA programs, such as an MBA combined with a master of professional accounting.

How long does a double degree take?
A double degree can usually be completed in a shorter time frame than two ‘single degrees’. While a standard single degree usually takes around three years, you can expect a double degree to take a little longer — four years or more, depending on your study mode. It may take even longer depending on the fields you choose to combine — medicine and law, anyone? But keep in mind that you can speed up the process. Many universities offer ‘fast-track’ options such as trimester calendars or summer schools, which can allow you to catch up to your friends completing a single degree.

Employment outcomes for double degree graduates
Although there’s no evidence that employers are more likely to hire a graduate of a double degree, the latest findings from Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) show that students who complete a combined degree are, in fact, more likely to find work. In 2010, 81 per cent of double-degree graduates found full-time employment within four months of course completion, compared to around 76 per cent of single-degree graduates. Many employers are attracted to graduates with a broad education; double-degree graduates will have knowledge and skills in multiple fields that can be applied to many facets within the workplace.

Alternatives to the double degree
If the commitment of a double degree has scared you off, rest assured that there are alternatives. Instead of completing two degrees, you could simply complete two specialisations through a double major (such as a bachelor of arts with majors in languages and history). The catch is that the two specialisations will need to be in the same field of study. Alternatively, you could complete an undergraduate degree in one field and use a postgraduate qualification to complete the second specialisation — often completing the two degrees in a similar time frame to a double degree. If you’re choosing this option, be sure to check that your undergraduate degree meets the entry requirements for potential postgraduate degrees. See the Australian Qualifications Framework for an outline of qualification progression.

If talk of double degrees has got your mind ticking, consider the following:

  • Are you genuinely interested in both fields?
  • Are you willing to commit the extra time required to complete a double degree?
  • How will a double degree improve your job prospects? Is there a combination specific to your chosen industry that will help you stand out in the graduate job market?