I am currently enrolled at the engineering school of a large university (as a freshman). I am set on majoring in Computer Science, and have been taking courses towards the requirements of that major. In fact, I am so interested in CS so far that I suspect I will want to pursue graduate education in the field. However, I have lots of other interests (mathematics, physics, mechanical engineering, robotics, and statistics), and have enough AP credit that I can either pursue a second major or multiple minors.

Besides mechanical engineering, pursuing a second major in any of my other listed interests would require that I satisfy the degree requirements for the school of arts and sciences (which I have determined to contain many courses that are probably interesting to some people, but are totally useless and uninteresting to me).

If the details of what were put on my degree did not matter, I would much prefer to simply take the courses in these various fields that would be most useful/interesting to me, and disregard any degree requirements other than those for my CS degree. However, I have heard that minors generally don't add much to one's resume, and that a dual major/degree is much more valuable.

So how do I decide what to pursue?


I get this question a lot in undergraduate CS advising here at Michigan. The context is usually that the student feels they can do more than just the minimum to earn their degree and they're wondering if it's worthwhile to put the extra effort into a minor or a dual degree.

If they're expecting or hoping it will make them more attractive to employers, the answer is no. In fact, it can make them less attractive. A resume that lists, e.g., dual majors in CS and ME, or CS and math (to pick real examples I'm familiar with) instantly raises a question in a hiring manager's mind: What job are you looking for? Do you want to be a computer scientist or a mechanical engineer? A software engineer or a mathematician? They only have particular job to fill and they're looking for someone who really wants that job, not someone who's not sure what they want. To get a job, students with dual degrees or minors usually have to carefully craft their resumes to make very clear what they want, downplaying, almost to the point of burying the minor or dual degree. (Again, I'm giving you real examples of what really happened.)

For those hoping to make themselves more attractive to employers, the far better choice is to put the extra effort into graduate school. In CS, a master's is definitely the degree to get for those headed for industry. In my experience (in 40+ years in industry) most hiring managers on high-performing teams have a master's (often earned part-time while working) and they like candidates with master's degrees. It'll typically get you bumped to the top of the pile of resumes and, if they make an offer, it'll typically come with a small bump in salary, title and assignment. If you work for 45 years and change jobs every 3 to 5 years, that's 9 to 15 times you'll get that bump.

The one great (but sole!) reason to go for a minor or a dual degree is that you simply love the subject and you recognize (correctly) that you have one chance to be an undergraduate and one chance to follow your dreams. Certainly, if you go take a job as a software engineer, they'll pay for a master's but they're not going to pay for you to take philosophy courses.


Given that doing well in a single major is enough, in the US, to get you into graduate school, anything else is just gravy. Do it because you love it. Over the long run it will make little difference.

But if you want to do separate majors in different "schools" within the same US university, you should talk to an academic advisor to be sure that you have a correct list of requirements. It may be that fewer courses outside the two majors might be required than you think. This will vary from university to university, of course.

But if you really want to make a career out of CS (a) think about what would support that best - maybe math and (b) keep an open mind as you will perhaps become interested in other things as you take additional courses.

Don't worry too much about credentialism at such an early stage.

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