What is a Dual Degree Program?

A dual degree program is a program that allows students to pursue two different areas of study and earn two different degrees simultaneously. It’s entirely different from earning one degree program after the other by going to college twice.

Students enrolled in a dual degree program may obtain the following combination of degrees:

  • Two different bachelor’s degrees
  • One bachelor’s degree and one master’s degree
  • Two different graduate or professional degrees

Dual degree program students in the US may attend two different schools in the same institution, two different schools in the country, or one local institution and one international school.

Which colleges or universities you can or will have to attend will depend on the dual degree program’s policy.

Interested in enrolling in a dual degree program available at your top-choice school? Read on.

In this post, we will compare a dual degree program with some other academic program options that are similar to it. I will also give you some examples of some of the best dual degree programs out there.

Dual Degree vs. Double Major

A double major is an undergraduate pursuit that results in a single bachelor’s degree even though two areas of specialization are involved. Some students choose to triple or quadruple major instead.

Whether majoring in two or more majors, you will end up with a single degree under your belt.

Attending college full-time will enable you to double major and graduate in four years just like everybody else who chooses a single major only. However, you will have to be wise with your course selections and scheduling.

For instance, instead of taking electives, you should opt for courses that will help you meet graduation requirements.

When it comes to choosing two majors to focus on at the same time, there is no rule that says undergraduates must go for those that are related to one another — you can choose two completely unrelated majors.

However, college- and career-wise, it’s usually beneficial to opt for two complementary majors.

On the other hand, a double degree program usually takes longer to complete than a bachelor’s degree program in which the undergraduate student is committing to two different majors.

Also, a dual degree program results in two degrees instead of just a single one.

Dual Degree vs. Joint Degree

A joint degree is a single degree with a specialization in two different fields, more often than not related ones.

So, in other words, enrolling in a joint degree program will involve you focusing on two areas of discipline throughout your studies and graduating with just a single degree to your name.

Unlike double majoring, though, a joint degree is usually the postgraduate kind.

To earn a joint degree, you must concentrate on two different fields that are related to each other. For instance, you may work on a joint degree in biology and chemistry or business and management.

Here are some examples of dual degrees conferred at the Georgetown University Law Center:

  • Juris doctor/masters in business administration
  • Juris doctor/masters in foreign service
  • Juris doctor/masters in public policy

Meanwhile, completing a dual degree program will result in two separate degrees.

How to Enroll in a Dual Degree Program

To enroll in a dual degree program, the student must apply to both programs. This means that he or she should apply to both schools at the same college that house the intended fields of study.

A student who intends to earn a dual degree from two different colleges or universities, meanwhile, must apply to both institutions and/or departments, depending on the enrollment policy of the schools in question.

Enrolling in a dual degree program is a much more complicated process than applying to a single bachelor’s degree program at a particular institution or aiming to double major.

That’s because you will have to enroll in each degree or each college that offers the degrees separately.

Needless to say, you will have to prepare two different applications and the corresponding documents of each as well as beat two application deadlines if you want to work on a dual degree program.

The documents you will have to submit can vary from department to department or college to college.

However, some of the most commonly submitted documents by those who are applying for a dual degree program are:

  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay/s

While chances are that schools or colleges have different application timelines and requirements, it’s generally a good idea to apply to both programs and/or institutions at the same time.

Dual Degree: Pros and Cons


Increased Career Prospects

Based on a post by Northeastern University, college graduates tend to enjoy close to 60% more job opportunities compared to those who didn’t graduate from college at all.

Just imagine how many more career prospects you could have with a dual degree on your resume!

By studying two areas of discipline, particularly very different ones, and earning a degree in each of them, you will be entering the job market after graduation with knowledge and skills in both.

Needless to say, you can apply to jobs relevant to each of your earned degrees, thus doubling your career opportunities.

While others are still working on their second degree after earning a bachelor’s degree, you could already be out there making money to repay your student debt and saving for the future.

Expanded Networking Opportunities

No matter if you are working on two degrees at once at the same institution or two different universities in the US or in different countries, you can make double the connections than a typical undergraduate or postgraduate student.

Through such, you can enjoy better networking skills and the ability to connect with professionals.

Meeting peers as well as professors, lecturers and researchers from various disciplines and, in many instances, corners of the world can work to your utmost advantage during your college and professional careers.

And while it’s true that many dual degree programs from partner schools abroad are taught in English, you will still have to get the hang of speaking the local language, which can boost your international communication skills.

Decreased Educational Costs

An entire dual degree program can cost $60,000 or more per term, depending on the degrees involved and institutions being attended — the cost, of course, can increase substantially if one of the schools is outside of the US.

However, it’s important to note that earning two different degrees separately isn’t cheap, either.

The estimated total cost of a bachelor’s degree at a private college, for instance, amounts to $223,360. On the other hand, the average total cost of a master’s degree at a private university amounts to $87,950.

Working on a dual degree program instead of completing one degree after the other may allow you to save money.

That’s because, in most instances, a dual degree student is permitted to take overlapping classes, or classes that count toward both degrees being completed, thus allowing for the reduction of tuition costs.

Shortened Time Spent in School

Getting your hands on two different degrees the traditional way is a time-consuming process.

Usually, the quest begins with spending 4 years of your life working on an undergraduate degree, and then spending another 2 years to complete a master’s degree program or another 4 years to complete a different bachelor’s degree program.

In between the two educational pursuits, many spend a couple of years getting a job experience.

Doing the math, a dual degree program, which can be completed in five to six years rather than the required six to eight years (plus some couple of years in between programs), is a great time-saver.

Increased Satisfaction and Confidence

A dual degree program allows you to pursue different interests at the same time. Since it also lets you earn two different degrees, it can, as just discussed, it can widen your career opportunities.

According to a CNBC report, research shows that people tend to be happier the more education they have.

It added that making more money is just a part of it — college education is also associated with other sources of happiness such as access to healthcare and safe places to live as well as more stable marriages.

However, at its core, a dual degree can make you have a more satisfying life as it lets you do the things that make you happy, including keeping a job that aligns with your passions and personal values and beliefs.


More Challenging Application Process

Because you will be embarking on an educational program that will enable you to earn two separate degrees, you will have to apply to two different schools within the same institution — one school for each degree.

You may even have to apply to two different schools, at times with the other being an international institution.

So, in other words, you will have to prepare two applications, submit documents and other requirements to two admissions offices and beat two application deadlines, thus making the already stressful college application process even more stressful!

With more and more people enrolling in dual degree programs to enjoy the many perks associated with it, which we just finished talking about, it can be more difficult to get into a good program from a good college.

As such, you will have to work very hard in high school in preparation for being a dual degree student.

Increased Educational Costs at Once

Earlier, we talked about the fact that a dual degree program can help reduce educational costs.

Although that remains true, completing two different degrees at once requires you to shell out more money in a shorter window of time, depending on how long it will take you to complete the program, than doing one program after the other.

So, as a result, you will have to spend more on tuition and housing and may have to take out more student loans.

However, it’s worth noting that the completion of a dual degree program will let you enjoy up to 40% higher success rate in finding a job as well as earn an additional $900 per month (in 2020), on average.

Longer Time Spent in School

As mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon for students who wish to complete two different degrees to spend some years outside of school in between programs, either to take a break or get some work experience.

Earning two degrees at once means you working on them at the same time.

This means that, compared to an average undergraduate or postgraduate student, you will have to spend more time hitting the books and a lot less time on other pursuits outside of the campus.

It goes without saying that it will require you to spend less time bonding with family members, hanging out with friends, going on dates and partaking in your hobbies and interests in life.

So, in other words, a dual degree program can get in the way of your personal and social growth and happiness.

Harder Academic Workload

A dual degree program prepares you for an assortment of career prospects because it leads to two degrees.

Since you will be focusing on two areas of specialization at the same time, you can expect to have a more challenging academic workload, the kind that’s packed with difficult core courses from two different fields.

To successfully complete your dual degree program, you will have to heavily rely on your responsibility, prioritization, organization, time management, study and communication skills.

Depending on the program, dual degree completion rates can range anywhere from 50% to 95%. The average six-year completion rate for a bachelor’s degree program, meanwhile, is 63% and 68% at public and private colleges, respectively.

Needless to say, a dual degree program is a highly doable educational endeavor.

Best Dual Degree Programs

In this part of the post, we’ll take a look at some of the best dual degree programs from various institutions.

Surely, the best dual degree program is a relative matter — the most suitable for you will depend on which college or university is your best-fit school and which degrees align with your academic and career goals.

Columbia University

The Columbia University School of General Studies offers dual degree programs for students who have a preference for an interdisciplinary approach to a liberal arts education and gain international experience, too.

What’s so nice about these dual degree programs at the Ivy League is that they’re open to fresh high school grads!

Some of the partner institutions outside of the US include:

  • City University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong)
  • Tel Aviv University (Israel)
  • Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)

Undergraduate students enrolled in Columbia’s dual degree programs usually commence their educational careers at a school abroad, usually for two years, before attending the elite institution in New York City.

The acceptance rates at Columbia’s different partner schools for its dual degree programs are in the low to mid 30%. The acceptance rate at the Ivy League, meanwhile, is only 4%.

So, to get accepted to a dual degree program, you will have to get into two selective institutions.

Georgia Institute of Technology

When it comes to computing and engineering programs, Georgia Tech is one of the best in the US.

The public research university and institute of technology, which is ranked #33 in National Universities 2024 by US News, offers the so-called Dual Degree Engineering Pathway Program.

Simply put, the said program allows students to earn two undergraduate degrees from two institutions at once.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works: the student attends a partner institution for three years, then attends Georgia Tech for two years, after which he or she receives two different bachelor’s degrees.

Someone who enrolls in the Dual Degree Engineering Pathway Program may concentrate on any engineering degrees.

The following are some of Georgia Tech’s partner institutions for its dual degree program:

  • Agnes Scott College
  • Emory University
  • Furman University
  • Morehouse College
  • Spelman College
  • Wesleyan College
  • Xavier University

Sadly, it may not be the best dual degree program for those who are looking to become international students.

Johns Hopkins University

Students who are in the Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) at Johns Hopkins have the opportunity to pursue a dual degree program in the following areas of study:

  • Business
  • International diplomacy
  • Law
  • Public administration
  • Public health
  • Public policy

According to the Hidden Ivy school with an acceptance rate of 7%, enrolling in a dual degree program allows you to earn two degrees up to a year faster than earning them one after the other.

Master of business administration students may choose to attend INSEAD either in its France or Singapore campus, while master or law students may choose to go to Tsinghua University Department of International Relations in China to study.

University of Arizona

Students who are looking to complete an international dual degree program without necessarily leaving the country may give a try the University of Arizona’s micro-campus network.

Basically, it allows for the earning of two accredited degrees from Arizona and a partner university.

Even though you may earn two degrees conferred by Arizona and an international institution online, you may also choose to obtain an international dual degree program in the traditional manner: studying abroad.

The following are some of Arizona’s partner schools outside of the US:

  • American University of Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
  • Amrita University (India)
  • Gulf Medical University (UAE)
  • Hanoi Law University (Vietnam)
  • La Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (Peru)
  • Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University (China)
  • Ocean University of China (China)
  • Princess Sumaya University for Technology (Jordan)
  • Sampoerna University (Indonesia)
  • Sias University (China)

University of North Florida

UNF offers business-related dual degree programs that allow students to earn two different bachelor’s degrees while studying abroad at schools that have partnered with the institution’s business school, the Coggin College of Business.

Other than studying at UNF, undergraduates enrolled in an international dual degree program will have to spend one to two years attending an international partner school such as:

  • Hochschule Bremen (Germany)
  • KEDGE Business School (France)
  • University of Alicante (Spain)
  • University of Valencia (Spain)

Students who are pursuing postgraduate studies may also enroll in UNF’s Global MBA program, which is a dual degree program that allows them to get their hands on two master’s degrees from various institutions.

The said dual degree program allows students to study in three different countries:

  • Germany
  • Poland
  • US

UNF’s Global MBA requires students to pay a one-time program fee amounting to $1,300 and are expected to shoulder all other program-related costs, although some may be eligible for scholarships.

Is a Dual Degree Program for Everyone?

While many students would surely love to enjoy the many perks that come with earning two separate degrees at the same time, unfortunately, a dual degree program is not suitable for all degree-seeking students.

Despite being cheaper and shorter than working on another degree after earning one, a dual degree program requires students to invest much of their resources within a certain period of time.

As such, it will require them to do anything and everything necessary to survive a demanding academic workload.

Although having a dual degree in one’s resume allows for better career opportunities and earning prospects, a dual degree program is not intended for students who have no clear idea of the right academic and professional paths for them.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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