Double degrees: expectations vs reality

May 10, 2016
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Sometimes decision making can be really hard. Tea or coffee, medieval Byzantine history or particle physics. Indecision is the enemy of the double degree. This course structure lets you (at most universities) simultaneously study two bachelor degrees.

In the past, double degrees were favoured by those wishy-washy students who couldn’t settle on one degree. Fast forward to now and it's becoming an industry standard for graduate jobs to require 10 degrees and at least 3 decades of experience, so students turned to double degrees to give them an edge.

Is this really the case though?

Expectation: I'll be the most sought-after graduate when I'm applying for jobs

Reality: Nah, not really

Grad stats from 2015 show that if you complete a double degree you're only 5.9% more likely to score a full-time job than if you'd finished a single degree. That's a slight advantage, though in some cases an extra degree can make all the difference.

Expectation: I get to study two different areas I'm passionate about

Reality: Well… yeah, you actually will

A dual degree will give you a broad education. Whether you want to study something complementary like business/law or contrasting like economics and physics, you get to choose. It gives you options when you're not completely sure about your career path.

The biggest strain is that you're going to have to learn how to split your brain. You'll need to divide your thinking and know how to manage your time and priorities when switching between your two areas of study.

One day you might even have a science and a humanities exam mere hours apart… fun.

Expectation: With the extra qualification I'll get more money when employed

Reality: Only slightly

Here's the thing, it doesn't matter if you're doing a single degree, double degree, BA or PhD – you should be studying because you’re passionate and not for the money. There are serious decisions you have to weigh up; is that extra year of debt and not being in the workforce actually worth the year of study?

If it's not, do a single degree and come back later if you need to. In practical terms, double degree holders on average only earn 2.9% more. To properly increase your value it would be better to complete an honours year and reap those dolla dolla bills, y'all…

Expectation: I'll get twice the amount of fancy certificates when I'm finished

Reality: and don't they look pretty!

You'll get two snazzy certificates for your achievement.

Expectation: Double degrees are so much more expensive and time consuming than a single bachelor|

Reality: *Ba Bow* they're pretty much the same

It's an extra year on your degree so really it's not that much more expensive or time consuming than a single degree, some of which are already four years anyway - looking at you, med students. For that extra year or so of study you may buy your way out of going back in 10 years for when you feel like a career change because you'll already be equipped to move fields.

Expectation: I'll be a supreme student and champion of all knowledge

Reality: Highly, highly debatable

You'll get a more rounded knowledge base but the structure of double degrees usually means you get a streamlined course that has just the essentials of that degree. There's often a lack of specialised electives in a dual degree which can sometimes block you from doing some postgrad research.

The reality is that people doing single degrees will be specialists in that one subject and the units you skipped out on, because of the double, means there’s a lot of additional knowledge that you just don’t have.

Expectation: Doing two degrees at once must be insanely difficult!

Reality: It's pretty much the same workload as single degrees

Sometimes it's even easier! People doing more demanding units can pick up less stressful ones to give them a 'break'. The problem is that with double degrees, you have less say in which units you get to have your 'break' in, because the majority of your electives are taken by the other degree.

Expectation: But I'll be locked into the dublyfe forever?!?!?!

Reality: Nope, escape at any time

The most relieving bit of being in a double degree is that, with a bit of admin hassling, you'll be able to swap your credit points in for the degree you want, if you're not feeling both of them. 

Harrison Johnstone

A country kid at heart with city slicking aspirations in his head, Harrison is an aspiring journalist, video editor and human being.