1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Double Major vs Major & Double Minor

  1. Apr 8, 2012 #1

    I am a freshman at UC Berkeley deciding whether or not to do a double major. I was deciding between a Double Major in Engineering Physics and Astrophysics or a Major in Engineering Physics and Minors in Astrophysics & Mechanical Engineering. However, in order to do a Double Major I would have to complete 30-40 more credits of GE due to college requirements. Should I do the requirements and get the double major or go with a single major and 2 minors. (For information sake, My future goal is to attend a Physics Grad School.)

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2012 #2
    I am enjoying double-majoring (EE/Physics with math minor). I really wanted to learn both, and wasn't exactly sure what I was going to want to do later, so I decided to go for it. However, you should make sure you really want to do it, because there are a lot of downsides.

    1 - Time conflicts. Since you will be taking courses from 2 different majors/colleges, there will be frequent time conflicts between classes. Frequently you may find that there is a course from each that you really need to take that semester (to unlock other classes), but they are both offered at the same time. This can delay graduation further.

    2 - Finances. Even if you are on a scholarship, a lot of them only pay for 4 years. You will undoubtedly take longer. Loans add up fast, and there are limits to how much you can take out w/out going to private loan companies. Make sure you will be able to afford to pay for this.

    3 - Time. Obviously it is going to take longer for you to graduate (even longer taking into account #1), especially if you plan on doing research or co-oping over summers. Don't underestimate how much it sucks when everyone you've been hanging out with for the past few years graduates and moves out of town and you still have 2 years left. Even worse, your GF/BF you've been living with graduates and gets accepted to grad school 4 hours away.

    4 - Small benefit. There is little benefit to it, especially if you plan on going to grad school. You may be more diversified immediately after undergrad and have more options; however, in grad school you are going to specialize in something, so the benefit is short lived. As I understand it, it doesn't really impress admissions committees that you have double-majored. You would be just as well off concentrating on one and doing research that relates to it.

    You should really only double major if you really want to study both. Personally, I think when all is said and done, I will be happy I did it. I see myself going to grad school for physics - there are a few specializations where the EE background could come in handy, especially if I decide to go into industry (which is likely).

    Either way, rest assured I will be making much use of my EE knowledge in my hobbies/tinkering endeavors :D (this was really one of the motivating factors, as silly as it sounds).
  4. Apr 10, 2012 #3
    One other thing - you don't really need to do a minor. I only have a declared minor because I realized after I had taken several courses that I already met the requirements for the minor.

    If there are courses that interest you that don't go towards your major, just take them - you don't have to commit yourself to doing X classes for a given minor program. You can later point out that you have taken these courses in a resume/interview if it becomes relevant. Having "minor in mechanical engineering" on your resume isn't really going to matter if you are interviewing for physics grad programs.
  5. Apr 10, 2012 #4
    I agree with this. I would pick the major that best-fits your future goals, and then take additional coursework that you find interesting. If you want to go into industry, then, perhaps, a business-related or people-orientated minor would add some value to your resume. Lastly, an "astrophysics" minor might sound impressive at a cocktail party, or to the right girl/guy... but I wouldn't recommend adding additional debt for the privilege!
  6. Apr 10, 2012 #5
    Damn straight.

    My life got a lot happier once I threw the math minor out to focus on physics. I still take the math courses that interest me, but I'm not having to go out of the way to take the required second year courses.
  7. Apr 11, 2012 #6
    I have never known anybody to care about minors in the world outside of academia. Some may be slightly relevant like if a company really wants somebody who has had management training and you have a minor in business administration. That would show the HR people that you've had at least a modicum of exposure and that you might be able to catch on faster to management training since you already know some of the lingo. Chemistry might be another one that is a semi-useful minor to list on a resume. It may enable you to get entry level lab tech jobs that would not otherwise be open to you if you didn't have it on your resume. Languages that are used in business (Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, etc...) may be another exception to my "nobody cares about what you minored in" rule.

    I'd say, if it doesn't fall into one of these categories that may help you attain an entry level job ... especially if you're heading off to grad school instead of the work force, then: don't worry about minors unless they somehow make scheduling easier, like if they obviate gen-eds and somehow free up time for you to take higher level electives in stuff you want to be taking.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook