As if deciding on a University degree topic wasn’t difficult enough, learning that it’s possible to do a joint honours degree adds another layer of complexity.

A joint-honours degree is a great option for prospective University students as it allows students to pursue two subjects that they are interested in. It may also be easier to achieve a high grade with joint honours as the depth of information isn’t as significant as with a typical single-subject degree.

If a joint-honours degree is something you are considering or you are just curious about the benefits, read on to get a full understanding and for help in figuring out if this is the optimal path for you.

Is a Joint Honours Degree at University Worth It?

A joint-honours degree (i.e. studying a degree with two discrete subjects wrapped up in a single qualification) has both advantages and disadvantages.

When working out if this degree type is worth it, each individual has to consider what is important to them. For many students, the benefit of a degree is simply the piece of paper at the end which opens up certain career routes which otherwise may not be available.

For others, University is a great opportunity to figure out what exactly it is that you’re interested in and how this can be translated to a contributing role in society.

For some, the key priority at University is delving into a subject they are fascinated by in great depth and complexity. For these people, a joint degree may not be the way to go.

As a joint degree involves studying two subjects within a single qualification, the amount of material it’s possible to cover for each subject is half what it would be for a typical one-subject qualification.

However, for those looking to explore topics they are interested in or are simply in it for the degree certificate itself, a joint honours degree could be the ideal choice.

When determining whether a joint honours degree is worth it, we should consider if a degree is worth it full-stop. For more on this topic, read my post on University degree: pointless or an essential step in your career?

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What is a joint honours degree?

Simply put, a joint honours degree is a University degree which allows a student to study multiple subjects wrapped up in a single qualification.

For example, if you were in a position where you were struggling to decide whether to study Mathematics or Engineering, a joint-honours degree would allow you to explore both under the same qualification.

Clearly, this would give you a superior breadth of knowledge to an individual who only studied Maths or only studied Engineering.

However, the counterpoint to this is that those studying a single degree are likely to have a superior depth of knowledge as the full three-year qualification would be spent with a sole focus on a single subject.

It’s important not to confuse a joint-honours degree with the false understanding that under this qualification you would study a full degree in two separate subjects. Rather, you would study two half-degrees in each subject which culminates into a single qualification.

It’s also worth noting the difference between a true ‘joint’ degree and a degree with a major and minor component. A ‘joint’ degree will have an equal focus between the two subjects, although this may flex slightly throughout the length of the course as the individual works out which parts they are most interested in.

A degree with a major/minor component will be focused on a single subject but with a small part of the qualification focused on a separate topic.

The easiest way to tell the difference between these two types of degrees is that joint degrees will be framed as ‘X AND Y. e.g. ‘Maths and Engineering’ whilst major/minor style degrees will be named as ‘X WITH Y’ e.g. ‘Business Management with Geography’ with Business Management being the major.

Is a joint honours degree better than an ordinary degree?

There isn’t a simple answer to the question of whether a joint honours degree is better than an ordinary degree as it heavily depends on the individual’s priorities.

There are some clear advantages to a joint-honours degree:

  1. They allow students who haven’t figured out what they want to study to broaden their learning and give themselves more time to determine what they’re interested in.
  2. Creates employable, multi-skilled members of society who are strong generalists.
  3. Can be more interesting as there is less repetition
  4. Can meet more people from different disciplines and learn under tutors with different skill-sets
  5. It can be easier to get a good grade as the content examined doesn’t go as deep as with a single-honours degree

However, there are some disadvantages as well:

  1. Doesn’t allow for true dedication and commitment to a single discipline so harder to become an expert in that single area
  2. Possibly seen as less employable than ordinary degrees as they are less easily understood
  3. Splits focus between subjects so is challenging to manage the workload between subjects

When choosing between a joint-honours degree and an ordinary degree, each individual will have to determine what it is they are trying to get out of a University degree.

If all you’re interested in is the piece of paper with your degree certificate at the end of the three years and an enjoyable, social time – a joint honours degree is likely to be a great choice.

Similarly, if your primary goal in attending University is to improve your knowledge and hone in on the topics that generally interest you, a joint honours degree may be a fantastic way to achieve this.

However, if you are 100% focused on becoming a heart surgeon and this is your life goal, clearly it would be most sensible to purely study medicine, rather than Medicine and History no matter how much the secondary subject interests you.

Are those with a joint honours degree more employable?

There are two schools of thought on whether joint-honours degrees make you more employable. On one hand, there is a perception from some employers that joint-honours degrees aren’t “real degrees” and are seen as lesser.

For example, in some fields, particularly ‘STEM’ employers may want someone who has studied the applicable field in great depth, rather than someone who has allocated a portion of their time to an unrelated or semi-related field.

However, for other roles, a joint-honours degree can make you more employable. In interviews, these people will have more they can talk about and demonstrate skills learnt from the multiple subjects they’ve studied.

As joint-honours degree takers study multiple subjects, they simply have more possible career options available to them.

Let’s say one student studies Sports Science whilst another studies Sports Science and French, the second student will have all the possible job opportunities of the first student plus all the job opportunities associated with the French aspect of the degree.

Is a joint honours degree easier than single honours?

Generally speaking, a joint-honours degree is easier than a single honours degree simply because the total tuition time is broadly the same, so the natural result is that when this time is split over two subjects, it’s not as possible to go as deep into the complexity of the subject.

Due to this, a greater proportion of the content examined is at the superficial or base level whilst single-honours students will continue to move into greater depth and complexity over time.

However, some students can find it difficult to study two or more different unrelated disciplines as they are less able to fully commit themselves to a subject than a single-honours student could.

It can be difficult to flip between studying Sports Science in the afternoon and French in the evening as you can never fully immerse yourself in the subject.

Consider reading the below posts discussing whether certain single-honours degrees are worth pursuing:

Why Business Management is a Great Degree to Make you More Employable

Is an Accounting Degree Worth It in the UK?

How Hard is an Economics Degree and is it Worth it?

Can a joint honours degree involve two completely different subjects?

A joint-honours degree can involve two related subjects, two semi-related subjects or two completely distinct subjects.

For example, I studied a joint-honours degree in Business Management and Geography at Loughborough University. I would say these two subjects are pretty distinct from each other, although there was some overlap between human geography and business.

However, I know of courses like Economics and French, which are completely discrete although the Universities may try to find some synergies like a focus on speaking about the economy in French.

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Which Universities offer joint honours degrees?

Pretty much all Universities in the UK offer joint honours degrees across a broad spectrum of subjects covered. Redbrick Universities including Oxford and Cambridge offer joint honours degrees.

Are the grade requirements lower for joint honours degrees?

In some instances, the grade requirements for joint honours degrees are lower. The reason for this is that Universities are looking to fill their classes. Generally, prospective students tend to sign up for single-honours degrees so these qualifications fill up quickly.

Meanwhile. joint-honours degrees don’t tend to fill up as fast so Universities may slightly reduce the grade requirements to encourage students to sign-up for these degrees.

Similarly, joint-honours degrees cover a greater breadth of content but less depth. As such, students may find joint degrees easier as the content doesn’t move into the most complex areas as it would with a single-honours degree. Due to this, the grade requirements are slightly lower to reflect the reduced expected academic rigours of a joint-honours degree.

As always, please remember I am an Accountant, not your Accountant. In this post (and all of my others) I share information and often give anecdotes about what has worked well for me. However, I do not know your financial situation and I do not offer individual financial advice. If you are unsure of a particular financial subject, please hire a qualified financial advisor to guide you.

This article has been written by Luke Girling, ACA – a qualified Accountant and personal finance enthusiast in the UK. Please visit my About page for more information. To verify my ACA credentials – please search for my name at the ICAEW member finder. Please comment below or contact me here to get in touch with questions or ideas for future posts.