Double Degree vs Double Major: A comprehensive breakdown

As our world gets more volatile and uncertain, new jobs are being created every year while others are becoming obsolete. To stay relevant in the job market and widen employment options, students are starting to explore double major and double degrees.

What does taking a double degree or double major mean? Does it cost more? Will I need a longer time to graduate? Understanding the pros and cons of double degrees and majors is helpful in deciding your choice of university too!

What does it mean to take a double major or double degree

Students who take a double degree will graduate with two different degrees, which means they will receive two separate degree certificates.

  • Example: Bachelor of Business, major in Finance and Bachelor of Social Sciences, major in Political Science

Students who take a double major will graduate with one degree and will receive only one degree certificate, but their two majors will be reflected on their academic transcript.

  • Example: Bachelor of Business, major in Finance and Political Science

Workload differences for double major and double degree

Double degree vs double major

For double majors, your second major will have fewer requirements than your first major. Most of the time unless in special cases, double major students will clear the same number of modules as a single major.

The reason why they clear a similar number of modules is because instead of taking free/unrestricted electives like students taking a single major, double major students will take modules specifically related to their second major to clear those additional requirements.

Although the number of modules is the same, single major students have the freedom to pick lighter and fun modules like language modules, food-related or hobby-related modules, which could translate into a lighter workload overall.

For double degrees, there is an increase in the number of modules to clear as you are completing two full majors. Except, you will not have to clear the university core modules twice.

Your workload essentially depends on how fast you want to graduate, since the number of modules you take in university is mostly self-planned. However, to graduate within 4-5 years as most double degree students do, you will likely need to overload some of your semesters.

Graduation requirements to fulfill across different universities (NUS/NTU/SMU)

NUS:

NTU:

  • For NTU, the number of module units to clear varies widely according to the course you take. The table below will only show an average to give an idea of the difference.
  • Total module units to clear:

SMU:

  • Double degree: attain minimum grades for specific modules and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.4 for the first 2 years (3 years for Law only) and a cumulative 3.0 GPA throughout the rest of the course
  • Total module units to clear:

How long would it take to graduate if I take a double major or double degree

Double major students can graduate within the same timeframe as single major students, which is 3 to 4 years depending on your degree.

For double degrees, it also depends on which degree you are pursuing, but are on average, completed within 4 to 5 years.

How taking a double major or double degree can affect employability

Compared to a single major, if a student’s second major or degree adds value to the job, they will make a more attractive pick.

With a double degree, you are potentially open to more career pathways since you will have extensive knowledge of two fields of study.

A double major could also provide similar opportunities except if two students apply for the same job, it is only logical for employers to pick the double degree student over the double major student, ceteris paribus, since they essentially have more knowledge in the field.

However, many jobs factor in GPA in their employment decisions too. Hence, if you foresee a double degree or major being too stressful to the point that your GPA drops significantly, graduating with a single major and high GPA may work better for you in terms of employment.

How to qualify for double major or double degree

Students’ academic results are the main qualifying factor for the two programmes but compared to double majors, double degrees have fewer vacancies and stricter requirements.

NUS

For direct admission to NUS double major and double degree programmes, students need to attain good to excellent grades in all subjects and fulfil other subject prerequisites.

Current NUS students who wish to apply for a double major have to do so within the first five semesters of study and will be assessed based on certain criteria, including your CAP.

Students can also apply for a double degree in NUS during their course of study, usually by the end of their second year, but exceptions are made for later admissions too. A good way to find out if you are eligible is to check with your academic counselor.

Fundamentally, the basic qualifications to transfer to a double degree includes taking modules related to the second degree for the school to assess your ability in that subject, and a minimum CAP of 3.7.

NTU

NTU double degree programmes can only be entered via direct admission and the option to change to a double degree from a single degree during the course is not available. The acceptance will be based on good academic grades.

For NTU double majors, you can either be accepted upon admission based on good academic grades or be offered at the end of year 1 if you attain a cumulative GPA of 4.0 and above.

SMU

For SMU, all students have the option to take up a double major programme. Students who are interested are to declare it after entering the university, by their second year.

To get a double degree in SMU, you can either apply for it through direct admission with good academic results or apply for it by the end of your second year. To qualify, you will need a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 and minimum grades for specific required subjects, depending on your course.

Cost of double major and double degree programmes

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The costs of double major programmes do not differ from single major programmes.

The costs of double degree programmes can differ slightly, but the increased costs are usually due to the length of the course more than the course itself. As double degree programmes usually take longer to complete, you will need to pay for the additional semesters you are in school, amounting to a larger total sum.

On the bright side, the fees for the additional semesters are also subsidized. Only when you exceed the normal candidature period of your degree will you be required to pay partial or non-subsidized fees.

However, there are slight nuances across each school.

In NUS, double degree students are to pay tuition fees according to their primary degree during the stipulated normal candidature. Exceeding that, fees will only be partially subsidized.

In NTU, the tuition fees for the double degree programmes are the same as their Business Degree and Accountancy Degree, which is slightly pricier than their other single degrees. Similar to NUS, fees will only receive less subsidy if the normal candidature period is exceeded.

In SMU, if the double degree programmes are priced differently, the fee paid by the student is based on the degree that costs more. Besides a double degree involving Law which has an expected duration of 5 years, SMU double degree students can expect to complete their programme in 4 years.

Are the double major and degree combinations fixed or flexible

For NUS, students can pick their second major from a wide range of disciplines.

For their double degree programmes, NUS offers 9 different combinations to direct admission double degree students and 5 more available only to non-direct admission applications, which are those who have completed their first year of study.

Even so, students are allowed to initiate their own combinations if they meet certain criteria which include a minimum GPA and the completion of a certain number of modules.

For NTU, their double degree and major programme combinations are slightly rigid but are specially curated to ensure industrial relevance and academic rigor. Currently, they are offering about 15 different double degree combinations and 50 over double major or second major programmes.

For SMU, as they strongly encourage students to graduate with multiple disciplines, their offerings for a double major and degree tracks are extremely flexible. This allows students to freely design their own preferred programme combination.

Is it possible to take double degrees in the same faculty

As different schools may define the word “faculty” differently, it can be confusing to understand it from this perspective.

The bottom line is that your two degrees have to be from two different disciplines. For example, Bachelor of Social Sciences and Bachelor of Science is possible but Bachelor of Business and another Bachelor of Business is not.

If you wish to specialize in two different majors in the same degree, like specializing in both Psychology and Sociology under Bachelor of Social Science, go for a double major instead!

Is it possible to upgrade from double major to double degree

You cannot “upgrade” from a double major per se, but it is possible to apply for a transition to a double degree programme during your course of study.

This option is open to single major students as well, as long as the requirements are met. You may refer to the admission requirements mentioned above for more information.


That’s all!

Hope this article helped to answer your questions about double degrees and double majors and in deciding the best combination of subjects for yourself! If you need more information on the respective universities, check out our freshmen guides for NUS, NTU and SMU!

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