Undergraduate Double Majors

Student-centered programs are a hallmark of a School of Music education. And increasingly multiple or double majors are ways that students combine and build upon their interests in music and anything else a large, research university has to offer. Currently almost a third of our majors combine their music major with another—and sometimes even two other—majors. The combinations are as individual as the students themselves. We encourage this kind of expansive thinking, and our undergraduate adviser works closely with students to make their interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary training a reality.

VIDEO: UW-Madison student Robert Medina saw athletic training as a clear career path to take, so he entered the program within the Department of Kinesiology.  It was not as clear to him what he could do with his other interest in jazz music, until the Mead Witter School of Music stepped in to help Medina pursue both passions.

Multiple Majors for a B.A. or B.S. Degree

Our unique position within the College of Letters & Science (L&S) makes it easier for a student to achieve a double major. Because of the many schools and departments within L&S, students have a wide array of choices and options within the degree programs. With multiple majors, a student can pursue individual interests and follow a course of study leading to many options for graduate work and career opportunities. To view a complete list of the departments, majors, and programs in L&S, click here.

A Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts Degree with two majors can be a four-year program totaling 120 degree credits. Courses in each major would usually consist of 40 credits, while breadth requirements and electives outside the majors comprise the remaining credits.

In music, the BA/BS and the Bachelor of Music differ in the number of total credits required. The BM, a professional degree in music, consists of 130 credits of which 90 are music courses. The BA/BS liberal arts degree with a major in music consists of 120 credits of which 40 or more credits are music. It does not include some of the more advanced music courses or the music elective credits available in the BM curriculum. However, many of our BS/BA music majors have continued in graduate music studies after completing their undergraduate degree.

With the appropriate second major, a student may do the requirements necessary for Pre-Med and Pre-Law. Any student wishing to take a double major should seek advice from each department as early as possible.

Double Majors with a Professional Degree

If a student wishes to attain a degree in Engineering, Business, Nursing or Agriculture with a music major, it is necessary first to be accepted by the School of Music, then to obtain permission from the appropriate College to complete a second major in the College of Letters & Science. In most cases it will take longer than four years to complete a degree with the added major. Students will work toward the degree in their professional area while fulfilling the 40-credit requirement for a Letters & Science Music major (BA/BS). Courses in the second major will be reflected on the transcript not the diploma.

To shorten the time working toward a degree, students have several options:

a) with sufficient high school work in math or foreign language, one can gain retroactive credits that will count toward one’s degree.
b) upon evaluation, UW-Madison will accept up to 90 transfer credits counting toward the degree.
c) students may take course work during the summers at the UW-Madison campus.

Consult the College of Letters & Science website for specific information about degree programs. For information about combining a music major with a second major in the College of Letters in Science, you may also contact the UW-Madison School of Music. For questions on combining L&S majors outside of music, contact the College of Letters and Science at 608-262-2644.

My Life as a Double Major

by Ami Yamamoto, B.S. 2013

When I applied to UW Madison as a senior in high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a scientific field. I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I had an interest in biological science. However, I also could not give up the huge part of me that was a violin player, an identity that I have kept since I can remember. The first time I seriously considered becoming a double major student was when I competed for the Madison Symphony Orchestra Bolz Concerto Competition my senior year. It was when Professor Tyrone Greive, one of the competition judges, approached me after the event and enthusiastically encouraged me to keep playing the violin after high school. He explained that he had many students that were working on multiple degrees. I thought, “Hey, if they can do it, then I can do it too!” without really giving much thought about how difficult it might be to juggle two completely different fields.

I found out that double majoring was doable at UW Madison, thanks to the multiple music degree options offered at the School of Music, which include Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Science. I chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science because it required me to take fewer music classes, compared to the other music degree options, to fulfill the music major requirement. This allowed me to focus on the rigorous science courses, such as organic chemistry and biochemistry, without having to take an overwhelming amount of music elective courses.

It helped to have people around me who were also majoring in multiple degrees. Some of the closest friends I made in college happened to be some of those, majoring in music and another fields, such as math, communicative disorders, and biochemistry. Having friends that were experiencing similar paths helped me stick to having two majors. They encouraged me, especially at times when I had four midterms, a lab presentation, and a performance in a studio class, all in one week. Additionally, I received huge support from the faculty in the School of Music. They understood my situation and were willing to cut me some slack at stressful times. At the same time, I am eternally grateful that they kept pushing me to improve as a musician.

After four and a half years, I graduated with degrees in Biology and Violin Performance. This spring, I will begin a new phase as a graduate student in bacteriology here at UW-Madison. I hope to continue playing the violin, but moreover, this experience has taught me how to prioritize and manage time wisely.

Ami Yamamoto with her parents on Graduation Day, December 2013.