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Multiple Concurrent Degrees?

  1. May 9, 2012 #1

    I've lurked around this forum for a while but I wasn't able to find a great answer to this question. If you know of a thread regarding this on this or another forum, please refer me to it!

    My question in short (in case you don't want to read this entire lengthy post):

    If I have the opportunity to get 2-3 majors/degrees at once, with not much more time or money invested, is it worth it? I am thinking of Physics/Math/Computer Science.

    My question at length:

    I know context is important, so let me give you my abbreviated life story and goals: For a variety of reasons I was discouraged from pursuing higher education when I was young(er) (no money, parents had crackpot ideas, etc). I am now 28 and am finally going back to school full time because I happen to have the circumstances at the moment (and I may never have them again). Now that I have been through the grinder of menial labor and being looked down upon for not having a degree I am having no problem committing myself to the work.

    I have a 3.9 GPA and I will be a junior in the coming semester at a cheap third-tier regional university that few have ever heard of. I cobbled my credits together from sporadic attendance at a community college before I knew what I wanted to do, so I have completed all my general ed requirements and now all my classes will be in the major(s) sequence. The thing is, I can get a dual major in Physics/Math easily without staying at university any longer, and theoretically, if I stay an extra 30 hours (1 year), I would be eligible for a second degree as well. I have to run this by the Records office, but that could mean I could come out with a BS in Physics/Math as well as a BS in Computer Science.

    I do not plan to go to Grad school, but if I did, I would like the option of specializing in the discipline of my choice (and how am I supposed to know that unless I've studied them all!?), and many programs (it seems) won't consider you seriously unless you actually have your degree in that discipline, and even if they do admit you, you would have to remediate all of the pertinent classes anyway.

    So... I don't expect to pull down triple digits or anything, I am satisfied with humble means. I am flexible about what kind of work I do after I get out, I just want to open as many opportunities as possible with the best value for money.

    Anybody had experience in this area? My school is not selective or well-known; would having this many degrees/majors cast doubt on the rigor of my studies? Would it make me look indecisive? Would it be better to just take the classes and not declare the extra major/degree?

    If you have direct or secondhand experience, or if you are an employer or academic with some insight, please let me know what you think, why, and based on what experiences.

    (Also, please don't compare getting a second bachelor's with getting a masters; the school I go to doesn't have graduate programs in these fields, and I'm not sure that this could be done concurrently in the same way that I could do a second bachelors, anyway.)

    I think I've been pretty exhaustive here :-(, but please ask me if you need clarification about anything.


    P.S. If you think there is another Forum that might be more helpful in answering my question, please link me!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 9, 2012 #2
    Worth it in what sense? For pure intellectual thrill, yeah. If you want to impress employers and graduate school committees, double majoring doesn't help much. Part of it is that if you are a physics or math major you are assumed to be at least minimally competent in the other field.

    If you have to double major, then it's probably better to double major in something "weird". Physics and Armenian music. One reason that might be useful is the "dancing bear" syndrome. You are an employer with ten physics major resumes that look exactly the same. One of them also happens to major in Armenian music. Guess who gets the interview.

    (This is of course assuming that it *doesn't* make your physics major worse.)
  4. May 9, 2012 #3
    Thanks for your reply (entertaining as well). I will most definitely take most of the classes anyway, purely for my own edification. I'm not concerned about "impressing" anyone as much as I'm concerned about "qualifying" for a position. To put it another way: often, job postings or admission standards simply state that a "BS in XYZ is required." While I realize that they may make exceptions to this and consider people with different backgrounds, isn't having three degrees useful (all other things being equal), if for no other reason than that you will be at the top chunk of the pile for ANY one of those positions? Most of the advice I have seen is that, all other things being equal, if they advertise for a CS major, they're going to hire (or admit) a CS major over a Physics major, unless they have some compelling reason to look at the other. Obviously I would take a compelling research opportunity or work experience over a third major/degree, but if I have the time, why not maximize my marketability?

    Just as a matter of being quasi-scientific, can you tell me what experience you have had that has formed your opinion? I would like to differentiate between firsthand experiences and statements which are based purely upon boredom and vague notions (which are abundant in internet forums:-)). Thanks again!
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