Double Degrees at UNSW

Double Degrees at UNSW

Double the degrees, double the confusion! UNSW offers a huge number of double degrees, so here's your crash course on understanding what it all means. Credit to Ada Luong for the illustrations!

Your guide to double degrees

The name ‘double degree’ tells you a lot of the story - you study for two degrees, and when you graduate from your program, you get awarded with both at the end.

The big twist is that doing a double degree takes way less time to do than two single degrees. And you’re not working twice as hard! In both single degrees, you normally have to do free electives and gen eds. But when you do a double degree, Degree B’s courses are counted towards those elective requirements for Degree A, and vice versa.

Here's a visual representation:

So just like a single degree, you’ll take 2-3 courses every trimester, just split between your degrees. As for what these courses should be, your first call should be to check the UNSW Handbook. If you look at your particular double degree program, there should be some very specific information on the courses you have to take! Not every combo of degrees is available as a double degree, so if the program you want to enrol in doesn’t exist in the handbook (e.g. a Law/Medicine double degree), then you’re out of luck :(

Double degrees, double-counting

If you’re taking a second degree with elective options that overlap with your CSE course, it might be possible to double-count the courses towards both your degrees. For example, a Level 3 Maths course is an elective option for Computer Science, but also for an Advanced Maths degree. So if you take that course, which degree does it go towards? Or does it go towards both? And what about core courses?

The truth is, it depends. Double counting is one of the weirdest concepts in the whole university. You might be able to double count up to 24UOC (roughly 4 courses) between your degrees, and after that take extra electives to fill out the total UOC of your major. But if you’re confused make sure to check with the Handbook, Nucleus or your program authority to see what you can and can’t do!

Sounds amazing, sign me up!

Wait, wait, wait. Even though they seem little, those free electives and gen-eds make up a pretty big part of your uni experience. Losing them might not always be a good tradeoff!

With a double degree, you'll:

  • Have more structure to your academic experience,
  • Come away with a solid level of knowledge and qualifications in your two different disciplines and
  • Be able to dedicate a lot of time to a second interest subject you might have.

At the same time, you'll:

  • Have fewer opportunities to dive deeper into either of your degrees, because your free electives (that you might use to take, say, comp subjects) will be eaten up by the other degree. For example, someone taking a single compsci degree can theoretically take over two times the number of computing electives as someone in a double degree!
  • have less flexibility to try subjects outside of your two disciplines.

But ideally, this last point shouldn't matter too much because the subjects you want to try out are covered by your other discipline anyway... riiiigght?

A word on motivations

Sometimes people enrol in double degrees because they think it’ll help them get a job, or make them into some dual-wielding expert in two fields. This might not happen - especially since you might not learn about either field in as much depth!

We (super subjectively) recommend that if you don’t actually enjoy the material of both your degrees on their own, you might be better off in a single degree. Just like a buy-one-get-one-50%-off offer at the supermarket, the time and money you save doing a double degree is only worth it if you were interested in both things in the first place!

Now I’m conflicted…

The good news is that UNSW is really flexible with enrolment. If you’re doing a single degree, it’s easy to get a taste of other disciplines by taking a course from another faculty as a free elective or a gen-ed. Counter to this, it’s also easy to drop down from a double degree to a single degree through an Internal Program Transfer at any point in your degree.

Finally, the main takeaway is not to stress! Uni is a time to explore your different interests. Don't box yourself into a very specific image of your degree, and try to be flexible. And that's true whether you're taking a double degree or not.

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