Is it incentivised to pursuit two (related) majors (eg. Math and Aero- Space Engineering) or a single major (eg. Math)?

The question is asked with the premise that if one chose a single major, one would have more time and thus achieve better grades (assume top 5 or 10 percentile), whereas with a double major, one would only be able to achieve slightly above average grades, but have a broader scope and be better prepared for industry (at least that was my line of thought).

I guess that the answer is very different for someone who wants to go into academia, as opposed to someone who goes into private industry, so I would appreciate a split answer regarding the two cases.

Thank you very much in advance.

Edit: With "double major" I mean two separate (masters) degrees. At least in Germany, that means much more work load: 1,5 times is an optimistic guess. This supports the premise that grades would suffer by doing a double major.

  • 3
    I don't believe your premise that a double major will result in significantly lower grades.
    – Thomas
    Mar 13, 2019 at 13:07
  • How so? I think that is a resonable assumption. Consider that (in Germany) a single major is designed to consume about 40 hrs/week. With 2 majors, that amounts to 60+ hours, considering that there will be overlap. Mar 13, 2019 at 13:09
  • 2
    I see. My experience is that a double major is the same number of courses as a single major.
    – Thomas
    Mar 13, 2019 at 13:49
  • 4
    Also possibly a difference in the US vs Germany, but in the US it's not too uncommon for double-majors to take an additional year to finish if they are not extremely overlapped, so the added work is not nearly as much per semester as you are estimating. However, there is also a major missing assumption which is that you only have 40 hours in the week to work. Personally, as an undergraduate I also worked about 30 hours a week. With that work, an extra 50% credits would probably not have been possible. Without it? Probably less of an issue. It's too individual to give a broad answer.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 13, 2019 at 16:20
  • 1
    You are making the assumption that the calendar time to complete the double major is the same. Often people take the same number of credits per semester and just complete the degrees in more semesters.
    – Dawn
    Mar 14, 2019 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


I actually have doubts that those two majors are "related". It sounds like a statement from someone who knows only a little about either. The thought patterns and insights are very different. It isn't a question about accumulating things, but about how the things fit together.

Note that academia is about specialization - more and more the farther you go. But at the beginning it is natural (and good) to be undecided and hence flexible.

You can do well (most places) with a double major but you have to work a lot (a lot) harder. Mathematics itself is a flexible position from which to go forward, as it is applied in many fields. The most flexible field (IMO) is actually philosophy, but that is a different discussion.

I'll note that you don't have to decide early to accept one field and reject another (or others). If you develop a career you can branch out into other things that interest you. But you need to start from a solid base.

But if you want to establish a solid base for doctoral study, a single subject with great grades would seem to be the best choice, by far.

I don't know the rules in Germany for doing two MS degrees simultaneously. The thing I would suggest you be very careful about, however, is how much "double credit" you get for overlapping courses. If this is a common thing to do, then a given course may "count" in both degrees. Otherwise, you may actually be required to repeat things, or, more likely, to substitute elective courses for those you have taken in another degree. Just be sure of the rules and be wary about 25% "overlap".

  • 1
    That is useful, general advice, and I appreciate it, but I fail to see how that answers my question. Mar 14, 2019 at 16:51
  • It is specialization that is "incentivized" as you go deeper into academia. Generalization is only valued at the very beginning (HS and undergrad) and at the very end of a career (nearing or after retirement). There are some exceptions, of course, but that is the general plan of it.
    – Buffy
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:54
  • Ah I see. Thank you Mar 14, 2019 at 16:56
  • 1
    I somewhat disagree that the specialization of academia correlates to major specialization. In many fields it is desirable to cross the boundaries of academic majors. You can specialize an awful lot without doing research that is bounded neatly by an academic major.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 14, 2019 at 18:53

Although a double major makes a candidate more interesting I would say it’s better to have high grades for graduate school.

I don’t think most industries care about grades as much.

The main advantage of a double major is to keep your options open. But I think math majors can pretty easily jump into other fields (biology, neuroscience, psychology).

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