Double majors are on the rise at colleges and universities all over the country, including Virginia Tech.
Tech has seen an 84 percent increase in the amount of double majors over the past 10 years.
According to research conducted at Vanderbilt University by sociology associate professors Richard Pitt and Steven Tepper, the national rate of double majors is about nine percent.
However, Pitt suggests that the national percentage may be much higher because many schools may still not have a way to record students’ second majors in their computer systems.
This semester, double majors at Tech make up approximately 6.4 percent of the 31,087 enrolled students on- and off-campus. While it may seem like a small percentage, the number is almost double what it was ten years ago.
Why Students Double Major
Pitt found that students are motivated primarily to do double majors by instrumental reasons. They pick majors based on how well they complement one another, how much their requirements overlap and how the two majors combined will better prepare them to be competitive in their careers.
Eric Lord, a senior psychology and philosophy double major, chose his majors because he hopes they will help him gain a people perspective that he can use in an advertisement design career.
“I’ve always just had a thing for people, so psychology was a given from the get-go,” Lord said. “Then, I had to take a philosophy course to fulfill my psych requirement, and I just ended up loving it.”
Taking on more than one major can also be an opportunity to fill a student’s schedule only with classes that they are specifically interested in.
“The workload is more, but it’s more stuff I like so I’m not stuck with classes I don’t appreciate and don’t want to put the effort into,” Lord said.
The choice of majors is also tied to identity building. Students pick subjects that they have a personal relationship, stemming from experiences from high school or family.
At Tech, some students, such as Stephanie Walton, a senior psychology and human development major, choose two subjects in order to study different aspects of a particular career.
“I want to be a speech language pathologist, but Tech didn’t have that major, and I’ve always wanted to come here,” Walton said. “Psych allows me to learn the biology behind it and all the brain structures, and human development gives me the opportunity to have experience with children and learn about their developmental processes.”
According to research, there's also a sense of hierarchy to majors for many students.
“When a student is a double major and they’re talking to other people about their majors, talking to their parents, they tend to mention the high-status major,” Pitt said.
According to Pitt the students tend to view science majors as “higher-status.”
However, those students also tend to feel that their second, non-science, major may reflect more about who they are.