• 2 years ago •
Admissions Advice

What's the difference between double major and dual major? Which one is better?

I'm an upcoming high school freshman and I can't decide what to major in (I know it's still really early to decide, but I want to get a head start and be prepared for when I do need to choose a major.) As of right now, I want to become a neonatologist or a pediatrician. I was thinking about what I would want to major in and I narrowed it down to two, Human Development, Family Studies and Related Services, and Human Biology. So, as I was reading into both of these majors I found out that I can do a double major or a dual major. I was confused on what double and dual majors are, what's the main differences? Is one better than the other? If so, which one and why? What do you recommend I major in? Are there any classes that you think I should take in High School to start preparing in for these majors? Also, is it possible for me to be both a neonatologist and a pediatrician?


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• 2 years ago[edited]

So to understand the difference, you have to understand how universities or structured. Most universities are built out of smaller "internal colleges" that specialize in certain fields—like a College of Engineering, a College of Business, or a College of Arts and Sciences (which is usually the place in a big research university that houses all the liberal arts, social sciences, and non-engineering science majors). Each "internal college" offers its own degree (A B.S., B.A, B.F.A., etc.), and has its own set of requirements for graduation—for example, a College of Engineering will likely require you to take far fewer liberal arts classes than a College of Arts and Sciences.

Now, when you want to study two majors that are both housed in the same college; for example, if you're in a College of Arts and Sciences and want to do Psychology and English, or Sociology and Chemistry, or History and Physics, that will typically be a double major. If, on the flipside, you want to study two majors that are housed in different colleges, like you want to do Creative Writing and Mechanical Engineering, then you need to do a dual degree program where you get a degree from each internal college. To do so, you need to fulfill the requirements for both, which means that dual degrees often take longer to complete than double majors. (For instance, Cornell requires dual degree students to study for 5 years instead of 4.)

And sometimes, majors will be offered across multiple colleges—like a school might have a College of Life Sciences and a College of Arts & Sciences, and you would be able to take Biology in both of them. So that's when you would have the option.

So there's not one option that's necessarily better than the other, but they are different. Dual degrees will take longer to complete (and thus be significantly more expensive, because financial aid usually won't carry into a 5th year) and likely have more requirements you have to fulfill, but can often expose you to a different set of faculty and will award you two degrees. Double majors can usually be done in 4 years if you start early, will only have one set of requirements, and will be a bit more efficient because you're only housed in one college, but they can also be a bit more limited in scope.

As for classes you should take in high school, just try to go as far in Biology, Chemistry, and maybe Physics (but at a lower priority than the other two) as your school allows. Especially if you can take AP Bio and AP Chem, because those are the two subjects you'll need the most knowledge of to go into medicine.

Also yes—I believe neonatology is a specialization that pediatricians can choose. So you could be both, but if it's your specialization, it's probably what you would end of spending most of your time doing. So you wouldn't both be working in a hospital with newborns and in a clinic seeing older kids, for example.

• 2 years ago

This site explains the difference well: https://blog.prepscholar.com/dual-degree-vs-double-major

As for your other questions, try to take AP/IB/Honors math and science courses in hs. As for major, that depends on what you think will best prepare you for medical school and your future career. You can be both, but you'll have more years of training.


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