One of the biggest decisions college students make is choosing a major to study and deciding on which type of degree they want to pursue. Some students who have two strong interests may choose a double major, which usually requires two sets of coursework and requirements. Other students may enter a dual degree program to earn a double degree, usually with only one major or course track. There are important and distinct differences between a double degree and a double major both in terms of pursuit and career usefulness.

Double Degree Basics

When a student attends college and earns a double degree, this means that the student completed enough courses and earned enough credit hours to earn two degrees simultaneously. Students who earn a double degree receive two separate diplomas. The requirements to earn two degrees vary depending on the college.

Earning a Double Degree

Most colleges and universities require that students complete a certain number of credit hours to obtain a degree. A student may earn two degrees by completing two requirements. The most common double degree programs enable students to earn two distinct degrees simultaneously, frequently a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. Students can also earn double bachelor's, master's, or even doctorate degrees in the same way. A student who earns a double degree receives two diplomas at graduation.

Choosing a Double Major

A double major, on the other hand, is simply an expanded course of study. Students with a double major study two subjects at once, but complete enough credit hours for only one degree. In many cases, the majors are related, such as accounting and finance, but they do not have to be. The student receives but a single degree in two disciplines: a bachelor of science degree in accounting and finance, for instance.

Double Major Requirements

To complete a study with a double major, students are required to complete all requirements of both majors. Generally there is a limit to the number of credit hours that overlap. Just the same, students pursuing double majors usually take fewer classes than those earning double degrees. This is because any core degree requirements need only be completed once. It is only the specific courses related to the majors that must be added on.