Double Degrees at UNSW

Double degrees are becoming so popular that it's arguably harder to find someone who isn't doing a double degree. But amid whispers that they'll make your degree longer, that they'll make you more employable, and more, it's hard to find information on what it actually means for your coursework and overall uni experience.

So whether you're currently enrolled in a double degree, or you're just curious what all the fuss is about, Ada Luong (2nd Year Computer Science/Law student) has been through the process of figuring out what exactly doing a double degree means, and is here to help you decide whether it's the right journey for you!

Navigating Double Degrees

Ada Luong

Making decisions is hard. Like many people, I couldn't decide what I wanted to do after high school, so I thought it would be a good idea to enrol in a *double* degree... and I've had a pretty awesome experience so far! :D

Still, double degrees are kinda mysterious. If you google "double degree unsw," you get a bunch of results that go something like:

with a *double* degree, you can open more doors, do more with less, and follow ALL your passions simultaneouslyyyyyy !1!1!!

But they don't go into how it all works 🤔. Plus, how do you know what courses to enrol in each term? And do you have to do twice the work? And why wouldn't someone who liked a lot of things do a double degree? And what if you want to change degrees? And-

Yeah, I was quite confused at the beginning. Hopefully, this article helps any of you asking the same questions!

So, how does a double degree work?

Essentially, when you graduate, you'll get two fancy certificates instead of one because you're studying for two degrees simultaneously. The wacky thing is:

It takes less time to do a double degree compared to two single degrees separately.

Double degrees work by replacing your free electives/gen-ed requirements with your second major (from your second degree). If you don't know what those terms mean or how a course program (usually) works, check out pages 5-7 of CSESoc's 2021 Pre-Enrolment Guide.

Here's a visual representation:

To figure out what subjects you have to take:

Consult the UNSW Handbook 💖

Many faculties also provide progression plans which go "hey, if you do these subjects in this order, you'll graduate on time." That is, they consider when core courses are offered and pre-requisites for you.

If you can't find the one for your particular program, contact The Nucleus for help!

So, you have the same workload as you would with a single degree?

Yeah, pretty much! Most students enrolled in a double degree at UNSW also take 2-3 courses per trimester, just with different subjects.

However, you'll have a lot less room to choose what subjects you want to take under a double degree. First-year maths majors have to take the higher version of maths courses. In later years, you might have to take your challenging upper-level subjects together, without the option to pick an easier elective to balance it out.

💡Pro Tip: be strategic and spread out notoriously difficult courses to reduce ✨stress✨

I love always having one subject per term that's (arguably) very different from computer science. I get to work with another toolset and develop alternate frameworks for analysing and solving problems. I also have fewer contact hours per week for the same number of courses - a big plus.

More on flexibility

If you don't know what you want to do yet and are keen to explore, my recommendation would be to choose the most flexible degree that lets you do the subjects you think you might find interesting.

Most introductory courses are open to students from across the university as electives - you get a LOT of these under straight computer science. Some subjects are only accessible under specific programs. The best way to figure this out is by looking at, you guessed it, the UNSW Handbook.

With a double degree, you'll:

  • Have more structure to your academic experience, and
  • Come away with an in-depth understanding of two different disciplines because you gotta take all those courses they said you should take.

At the same time, you'll have:

  • Fewer opportunities to specialise in any one major, since your free electives have been taken up by the other major, and
  • Less flexibility to try subjects outside of your two disciplines.

Ideally, that shouldn't matter too much because you would have chosen the subjects in your second major/degree as your free electives anyway... riiiigght?

So about changing degrees...

Maybe the university degree you chose isn't what you thought it would be, or perhaps another topic area has captured your imagination. That's okay! University is a great time to explore your interests and figure out where you want to go.

Changing programs is, for the most part, simple admin work. Check out this UNSW article about Internal Program Transfers to learn more about changing from one program to another, or between single degree and double degree programs. For a student perspective on transferring programs, have a read of Rosanna's article!

Final thoughts

Double degrees are cool, but I reckon university is less about the words on that fancy certificate you get at the end and more about what you make of your time there.

I really enjoyed my courses in 2020, and there's a whole heap of opportunities on offer for whatever one might be interested in - from research, to start-ups, to societies that teach you how to HACK!? SIGN ME UP!!

It's okay if you're still figuring things out. Your university experience is your own 🥳. Think big thoughts, take care of yourself and the wonderful people around you, and most importantly, have heaps of fun 💜

Choose your own adventure!

Get familiar with the CSE half of your degree in this comprehensive Course Map which visualises all the courses you can do in CSE!

Or find out what it's like to be a part of the CSESoc community in this !

Don't like these options? Check out the full roadmap below!