Double degrees: double the advantage?

Posted October 13, 2011, by Mike Kermode

Also called dual, combined or joint degrees, these university programs allow you to study two degrees at once, and are most commonly completed in a shorter time than it would take to complete them one after the other. On completion of the program, you graduate with two degrees. Voila! Today, almost 10 per cent of enrolments in Australian universities are double degrees.

How much longer does it take?

Double degrees usually take a couple of years longer than a normal, three-to-four year bachelor degree. For example, a double degree may take five to six years, while it would take seven or eight years to complete two individual degrees studied separately.

Why do a double degree?

Quite simply, you learn more. Learning in two areas that you’re passionate about means you can walk both roads without sacrificing your potential in either. Importantly, this can mean a richer, rounder education, and in some cases gives you more of a practical or business-oriented edge – for example, if you add a commerce or law degree to a more arts-oriented one.

That means you’ll be more competitive. It can be incredibly beneficial entering a field with competencies in more than one area. Business/Law, for example, is a cherished degree for those working in both business/finance and legal fields, and management types who need to be able to understand and talk the language of contracts and legislation. Armed with these dual competencies, you’re more competitive, and your skill set has a broader scope. You’ll have the flexibility to traverse across and integrate different disciplines and industries – and that gives you options.

It also tells employers you’re serious. Studying a double degree is a challenge, and in that way it signals to employers that you are committed and have a strong work ethic – characteristics that are transferable and attractive to any organisation.

What kind of course combinations are possible?

Almost any you can think of. Some degrees that would otherwise seem diametrically opposed gain a special coherence under a double degree, and in some cases, cater to specialised occupations.

For example, studying a Bachelor of Languages and International Business degree gives you the language skills to conduct business internationally and opens up the opportunity to work overseas. Studying arts/law gives you both legal skills and broad-based knowledge in the humanities, making you a perfect fit for a career in marketing, PR, journalism, arts policy or management, entertainment law, or legal practice itself. Completing an arts/education degree provides you with an understanding of teaching with the grounding in the humanities to give your lessons the informed and cultured context they demand.

What are the downsides?

Double degrees cost more and take longer – but not much more, and not much longer. If you’re seriously considering a double degree, you’ll have to weigh this tension up – between spending less money and less time studying; and spending more money and time, and emerging with two, not one, degrees.

You’ll need to keep two heads and be extremely good at managing your time and priorities, and be able to quickly switch modes. Because you’re studying two subject areas, you could be sitting a law exam one day and writing an essay on Wordsworth the next. This will be refreshing for some, and may even help you gain perspective on each field, but for others it will be a strain to keep focused on both subjects simultaneously. If you do manage, however, it means you’re an expert juggler – something that will make you a great asset to any employer.

Where can I study a combined degree?

Most universities offer a host of combined programs to cater for a wide range of interests and career paths. The University of New England, for example, offers a wide variety of double degrees, including a Bachelor of Agriculture/Business, Business/Economics, Environmental Science/Laws, IT/Teaching, and Special Education/Disability Studies.

So come enrolment time, consider taking a double degree. Whether you want that competitive edge or just seek a more complete tertiary education, it could pack a double punch when you graduate and embark on your career.

Check out our full range of university courses and double degrees.

Mike Kermode

AIM Business School
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