Joint Honours degree – twice as nice or double the trouble?

This blog aims to give you the information that you need to make an informed decision – obviously this blog is simply my own personal experience and making an important decision like this requires you to undertake your own research. Saying this, I think it’s hugely beneficial to chat with someone that has recently been through the process and understands the unique challenges it presents. 

Firstly, let’s talk pros of opting to do a joint-honours –

  1. Breadth of knowledge – doing a joint-honours allows you to explore a variety of modules in various disciplines. At undergraduate level, I opted to do Law with American Studies. Although my passion was for the law, I felt that in order for my passion to remain a passion, I needed a break from it (as weird as that sounds). I also thoroughly enjoyed my American Studies modules. The diversity of perspective I gained in studying modules such as American politics, literature and culture, screen animation and space politics alongside law was truly imperative to my academic growth.
  2. Career options – doing a joint honours degree enhances your job market chances and certainly sets you apart from others. Essentially, it gives you two difference disciples that you can opt to work in. For me, I knew that I wanted to work in law for a number of years so this was an easy decision. I also wanted to undertake legal work experience in America and so my American Studies degree helped me to get international work experience as this was a talking point in my interview and I felt that I could relate to the people a lot more.
  3. Uncertainty – If you are unsure what area you want to specialise in or can’t make up your mind between two areas then it is the perfect route to go as you can do both. I don’t believe that people speak about joint honours enough. When I was starting out, I didn’t really understand it myself and I was flooded with questions like is it two degrees or will I be able to time manage both avenues? (this is something else that I can do a blog about if people are interested.) The point is that the transferable skills that I learnt from two completely conflicting areas was instrumental in my journey as an aspiring solicitor. If you are interested in two areas, explore the options of studying both. Essentially, you will be doing two things you love, and it might make your decision at the end a small bit easier when deciphering what you want to specialise in.

Now, let’s talk about the cons of a joint-honour degree – 

  1. Work – there is an ongoing argument that centres around whether joint honours students do more work than single honour students. I don’t think I can really make a comment on that unless I have actively experienced both. However, what I will say is that there is a lot of work involved in joint honours. You are dealing with two completely separate departments and at the start of the term it can be quiet overwhelming coming to terms with it all. Aside from the work itself, clashing timetables, running across different locations on campus and difficulties in managing timetables becomes the norm. However, I found that once I was in a routine after the first few weeks everything worked itself out and the departments were great to accommodate me.
  2. Friends – I made the majority of my friends in law and through extra-curricular activities. I found that when it came to American studies, I felt somewhat like the outsider. A lot of people had already made their friendship groups in American studies as this was their primary discipline and they spent all their time together vs my once a week encounter. This isn’t to say that people were nasty by any means and I did make friends just not as many as I did in law. I think the amount of people in lectures/seminars plays a factor in this also as often my American studies lectures consisted of less than 20 people. 
  3. Restricted

There are three separate points that I want to make here. When I say restricted, I mean in terms of outside courses, module options and depth of knowledge. Let’s break these down in greater detail

  • Outside Courses – I wanted to share a recent experience of mine with you. I have always wanted to sit the New York bar. When I checked my eligibility, it said that I had not undertaken enough law credits and therefore I would not be able to sit it. I queried this as I ensured throughout my degree that my degree was a qualifying law degree. However, it was simply the company that I went through threshold. The company does factor in a masters in law and LPC so I more than likely will be able to sit the NY bar when I do get around to doing it but it is something to keep in mind as I was not aware of this.
  • Module choices – In line with this, I was limited to take certain modules to ensure that my degree was in fact a qualifying law degree. In my final year I had to take an international politics of space module as all the other modules were taken up however, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Another thing to bear in mind is that you may not have the flexibility to choose every single module.
  • Dept of knowledge – it goes without saying that you can’t expect to get the same level of knowledge as someone who solely undertakes for example American Studies on its own. Doing a joint honours means you get the flavour for both without actually studying both areas in great depth (otherwise you’d have two degrees). This was sufficient for me as that was all I wanted in American studies – a flavour of it. Just something to keep in mind when reaching your decision.

I hope that this has taught you something and has helped you reach a decision. My experience in doing a joint-honours degree was amazing and I couldn’t recommend it to anyone more. It broadened my horizons, gave me constant fuel for thought and kept me busy (which I’ve learnt my brain needs).

I’d be happy to do some more posts on this topic as again I don’t feel that this is spoken about enough and is a rather important decision that has the power to shape your future. 

Feel free to also drop me a DM on Instagram with any questions 😊

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