The Downfalls of a Double Major
Equally important to why college students choose to double major is why they choose not to.
Kenna Day, a senior English major, also majored in art until she found that she was not getting the experience she wanted from the major. Because she plans to become a professor in literature, Day felt that it was better for her to focus on that particular subject.
“I’m not double-majoring because employers are more interested in the actual classes that I’ve taken than in the title on the piece of paper that I get as a degree when I graduate,” Day said. “It’s more about the actual experience that you have while you’re in college than what you’ve convinced the college to write on a piece of paper for you.”
According to Pitt, one downside to double majors could be the combination of subjects chosen.
While students who major in one science major and one non-science major graduate with more breadth of experience, students who double major in subjects that are similar can end up appearing one-dimensional.
“One of the things that is challenging is that it is not a benefit for students in terms of being able to actually combine the majors,” Pitt said.
Majors such as American studies at other schools, which combines history and English, and neuroscience, which combines psychology and biology, are already double majors within themselves. Trying to replicate the connections made in these types of single majors by majoring in two subjects can often come up short.
“Because it’s an interdisciplinary major, the faculty ... put a lot of thought into integrating ... in a way that sort of comes out as a coherent set of skills,” Pitt said. “Students often say that they go in wanting that, but they don’t actually come out with that because there’s very few opportunities in school to actually put the two things together.”
Students who choose to double major in hopes of getting a larger salary may be disappointed to learn that Pitt and Tepper's research concludes that double majors report lower annual incomes than their single major peers on average.
However, double-major combinations of high-earning majors, such as engineering and natural sciences, could increase earnings by about 3 percent. But, the study also showed that engineering students are least likely to double major.
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