Are double degrees worth it?

A double degree is basically like studying two bachelor degrees side by side. At the end of it all, you graduate with two separate degree certificates. One of the main advantages of doing so is that it takes less time to do a double degree than it does two separate degrees.

Typically you can save yourself at least a year. That means saving a bucket load of student fees, which is no small amount of money – enough to put a significant dent in a mortgage or perhaps finance a gallivant through the jungles, ancient ruins and salsa bars of South America.

So are double degrees worth it?

Depends which way you look at it. While doing a double degree takes less time than doing two separate degrees, you’d save even more time if you did one degree. So the question is: why do two? The more qualifications the better, right? Two degrees are surely better than one.

Well… not really. Not if we’re talking about earning potential anyway. Research suggests that double degree holders’ starting salaries are, on average, only 2.9% higher than non-double degree holders. That a pretty paltry amount given you’ve sacrificed a whole year of your life (at least) for a second piece of paper!  The authors of the study concluded that:

“…the modest size of the earnings premium reported here does not seem sufficient to justify the additional amount of time and money, as well as opportunity costs, that procuring a double degree is expected to entail.”

In fact, if you are determined to spend an extra year at university, there’s evidence to suggest that doing an honours year would reap the most benefits in terms of earning power. Graduates with honours degrees earn an estimated 7.4% more than other graduates.

Of course, not everything is about money and mortgages. Sometimes, things are doing for no other reason than they make your life better. They might make you happy, broaden your horizons or generate personal growth. You might want to do a double degree because you are head-over-heels in love with two disciplines and don’t want to decide.

Or, you may want more than two options in terms of career. What’s more, you might believe that the additional degree will give you an edge over someone with a single degree when you’re competing for your first job. In this respect, do some research into your chosen profession – maybe find a mentor or someone who knows the industry for advice on whether a double degree will give you an edge.

The worst case scenario is that you drop one of the degrees – it’ll take a bit of administrative wrangling but most universities let you drop one of your degrees after first or second year if you decide one of them isn’t floating your boat.

There’s no bad decision here… a double degree is an option that you may take after weighing up whether broadening your horizons is worth the extra HECS.

Have a think about it.

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