To Double Major or Not

May 31, 2024 - 286 views

4 min read

Charbel Boutros

In this blog post, Mr. Charbel Boutros, a student of both engineering and physics, explores the pros and cons of pursuing a double major. His objective guide aims to provide readers with a balanced perspective to help them make informed decisions about their educational paths. 

In this blog post, I will be presenting some reasons as to why doing a double major would be worthwhile and others why it would not. Before we perform our deep dive into this topic, allow me first to introduce myself. 

 

Who Am I?

My name is Charbel Boutros, and I’m a student of both engineering and physics. In the spirit of this blog, I've written this post to provide an objective, straight-to-the-point, fast-read guide to the question of pursuing a double major.

 

Why You Would Do It

Starting out, it might seem interesting from far away to consider this proposition, but it isn’t enough for something to seem interesting, especially if it’s as huge of a time investment as a major. The following is my attempt at being concrete about it:

a) Supposing there's chemistry between your two choices - please do not go for psychology and engineering -, the fields of your majors can complement each other. One can be more theoretical and the other more practical in nature, so that together they offer a broad view of things. A famous example that comes to mind is Claude Shannon who majored in engineering and math, which turned out to be a great combination that contributed to his groundbreaking work.

b) Being surrounded by people with similar interests is also a really good thing. You would have people who understand what you understand, people to have conversations with in specialized subjects that wouldn’t interest the layman. It also helps you to go in the direction you seek by keeping you in a cultivating environment.

c) In my experience, the added hassle of extra coursework, deadlines, reports, etc. form a set of peculiar situations that force you to rethink the way you do things. The usual approach doesn’t get you through the problems. When you have to deal with ten exams within ten days, you start to wonder whether you’re learning correctly and efficiently and become forced to rethink your learning process.

d) One might dismiss all of this and do it purely because (s)he loves it. For some people this is enough of a reason to do something, whether that’s correct or not it’s on you to decide.

Now that I’ve presented what I think are the compelling reasons to pursue this path, let’s see how much these points hold up against the next paragraph.

 

Why You Wouldn't Do It

Having started out, it might seem interesting from far away to proceed with this proposition, but it isn’t enough for something to seem beneficial, especially if it’s as huge of a time investment as a major. The following is my attempt at getting even closer to the subject:

a) The combination doesn’t make commercial sense. I’m not sure about the percentages of people who pursue degrees they actually like, but it’s pretty safe to say that most degree seekers look beyond it to the job opportunities it allows them to pursue. In that regard, it’s very hard to justify a second degree as it’s useful in so few scenarios that you’d be better off getting more familiar with your first choice. When was the last time you saw a job offering requiring degrees in different fields? Today’s industries have become so specialized that you would be hurting your chances and not benefiting them.

b) For the environment and friends argument, discipline, and commitment are a great mitigation. If you're really into something, then you shouldn't need overhead control to do it, you would create the environment needed for it without the need for a degree. Plus, all major fields have millions of people worldwide belonging to them -at least on the bachelor level-, so whether in person or on the internet, doing some socializing can definitely do the trick of finding thinking partners.

c) The load factor cannot be dismissed. Back when I was asking around for opinions on the subject, one of my friends, an excellent archeologist, told me about a couple classmates of his that were doubling as archeologists and architects. It's undeniable that there's a sort of chemistry between the two majors, but both of his colleagues ended up dropping both of their majors.

d) Long ago, it used to be the case that if someone wanted to learn, he had to go to an educational institution, but nowadays it's no more the case. One needs not to point out the obvious, but saying that the internet has it all is an understatement. It’s all correct to love something and want to get better at it, but one must be wise about it. Instead of wasting time on formalities in another major, simply do the studying on your own. Additionally, regarding the instructors, you wouldn't be limited to the local but instead would be on the global scale.

 

Finally, if I’m to add some subjectivity, I’d say that if you’re interested in learning about some subject, reading about it is almost certainly the way to go. In the end, remember that “It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not the possession of but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment”. So whatever you want to do, make sure to enjoy the act above all things!