Double majors: worth the work?
We’ve all toyed with the idea: should I double major? Sure it looks impressive on a resume, but what are the pros and cons? With 26% of this years’ seniors double majoring, it seems important to investigate why so many choose to honor such a commitment, especially at a liberal arts institution.
Some feel their majors compliment one another well. Carter Stevens ’13, a government and history double major, German minor, agreed with this sentiment. “The two subject areas work together rather well, since many political issues are rooted in history, and history itself involves analyzing different governmental structure,” he said. “They have imparted onto me different perspectives for studying important issues, and I wouldn’t have found that in either field by itself.”
Ellicott Dandy ’13 and Lauren McCrary ’12 found themselves in similar situations. Dandy, an anthropology and Latin American studies double major, believes it is this combination that has made her realize it is the anthropology of Latin America that most interests her. Similarly, McCrary, a music and psychology double major, expressed that she is “especially interested in a job that could combine the two disciplines, such as a music therapist.” Though these subjects are not traditionally related, McCrary tries to “incorporate the two whenever possible; for instance, by using music in psychology experiments, or teaching songs to children with mental and physical disabilities.”
Others simply found themselves interested in two separate fields. Molly Hodson ’13, for example, is a sociology and art double major. “It is this ability to double major, particularly across disciplines, that drew me to a small liberal arts school in the first place,” she said. Though she hasn’t found as much overlap between the two subjects as she would like, she thoroughly enjoys both areas of study.
Despite the credibility of these examples, there has been much speculation that students tack on multiple majors for job security and credentials. “I think among many double majors there is a tendency to have one major for economic security or competitiveness in the job market, and another major in a field they personally enjoy,” Katie Peterson ’11 said, a history and East Asian studies double major. This tendency may be due to the uneasy state of the economy, as students are more anxious about procuring a job after graduation. An anonymous source states, “I am a little hesitant in solely majoring in anthropology, so I am considering double majoring in a more economically viable discipline such as government.”
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government Sandy Maisel criticizes such rationale. “When students double major for the sake of credentials, they always end up taking one or two courses they are not interested in,” Maisel said. “Unless you’re interested in a class, you shouldn’t take it. There are other ways to convey to a potential employer that you have expertise in a field, and I know of no evidence that an employer thinks your major is significantly important.”
What is generally agreed upon is that double majoring is difficult. “A lot of the time, classes I want or need to take for one department will conflict with classes I want or need to take for another,” Hodson said. Many have had to take on a proactive approach to their course selections, as planning seems to be key in successfully completing both majors. McCrary has had to put forth an effort to fit all of her classes in. “I created a four-year plan my freshman year, which I update every semester,” she said. “Due to scheduling conflicts, I will be taking courses for my distribution requirements until the day I graduate. But since I am genuinely interested in these subjects, I do not see the obstacles ahead as a disadvantage.”