Trying to decide between picking up a double major or studying abroad

Deciding whether to pursue a double major or study abroad is a dilemma facing many college students. They can’t get beyond the fact that it’s six of one, half dozen of the other.

If you’re trying to decide which is the better option, there are some clear points to consider which may be very helpful.

Perhaps the foremost is the career path you have in mind. Will a second major add value to your chosen career or, possibly, broaden your career prospects? Often, the answer is no. Will the opportunities provided by a study abroad experience prove to be beneficial when you enter the job market? Definitely, yes.

Having completed a study abroad program is considered a plus on job applications, particularly in the United States.

College students who can add this type of life-enriching exposure to their resume demonstrate to potential employers that they are independent and adaptable.

Noting that you have proficiency in a foreign language, which you are sure to hone while abroad, adds even greater value. It’s a step beyond listing classes you’ve taken in your liberal arts studies, or the academic programs you have completed to earn your bachelor’s degree, for example.

Remember, your goal is to stand out from the other applicants.

Interpersonal Competencies Gained From Studying Abroad

Increase in competencies one would gain when studying abroad
Christine Farrugia, Ph.D., Jodi Sanger

Here’s something else to consider in the dilemma of a double major that you believe may enhance your career prospects vs. study abroad travel where you will learn about yourself: Traveling just might change your major and career focus.

Where, once, you may have been thinking of a profession in one particular area, maybe in the United States, you may realize that you prefer another similar profession – somewhere else. Maybe in Europe? Or South America? Or Asia? Or perhaps you might want to land a job that will give you the opportunity to travel to any of these places.

The best advice is to weigh the costs and benefits for YOU. With either option, think about opportunities that may be gained or lost as a result of your decision.

Deciding between studying abroad and a double major

If all this sounds confusing and you just can’t decide, keep in mind that it is possible to do both.

There are students who have double majored and studied abroad. This can be a little more difficult to work around, depending on the majors, but it’s not impossible if you plan accordingly.

The first step is to make an appointment with your academic advisor(s) to determine which courses can be substituted if you study abroad. This is because some universities or academic programs require that certain courses be taken on-site at their campuses.

Next, carefully examine the study abroad courses available through your university (some of which you may be able to substitute for required courses), as well as the host university’s course list. Then take these course lists, with descriptions, to your academic advisor (not your study abroad advisor) for discussion, as this is the only person who can tell you if they can or will accept those credits.

Comparing a double major to studying abroad

Of course, if a full semester of studying abroad doesn’t work fo you, don’t forget hat many universities offer summer or even winter study abroad experiences which are shorter, but equally as fulfilling, adventure-packed and enjoyable.

High school students also can take advantage of this wonderful benefit as they plan their future areas of study, their degree programs and majors in college – and even look ahead to graduate school.

Doing both sounds complicated, but it’s definitely doable.

The goal of this website is to get more college students to study abroad so obviously when faced with this question I am going going to lean in the direction of studying abroad.

That being said, double majors are great; two is better than one, three is better than two, etc. And yes, I have met people who have had triple majors.

So if, for some reason you absolutely can’t study I would advise you to do a double major. Both help with your job search but as long as we’re talking about doubles, let me ask; what if you studied abroad twice? How do you think that would influence your job search? 


The key point to remember when deciding between a double major and study abroad is that this doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.

All you need to do is weigh the opportunities, risks, the amount of time, costs and benefits – both long-term and short-term – then do whatever fits you best.

It’s really pretty simple, only you know what you are targeting as your life goal and, as a result, will be able to select the path that can take you there most effectively and satisfactorily.   

Thank you so much for reading. Please listen to the podcast if you haven’t done so yet. 

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