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What is a dual master’s degree?

If you’re thinking of studying a dual master’s degree, it’s important that you fully understand what they’re all about. To learn more about the different types of dual degree programs, as well as their benefits and drawbacks, we spoke to Gina Kim, the Program Manager at Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University).

In short

Why a dual master’s degree can mean different things

It may seem obvious, but there’s not actually a single definition of what a dual master’s degree is. In truth, each university has a slightly different take on it. To learn more about what they entail, we spoke to Gina Kim. Gina is the Program Manager at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). She started by outlining the main types of dual degrees.

“It can first off mean a single degree that consists of two combined programs – either components thereof or in their entirety. It can mean two separate master’s degrees completed either in parallel or in sequence. It can also be a single degree that can include an extra component such as a certificate. Those kinds of programs may sometimes be viewed as dual degrees but they’re actually more dual credentials,” she explains. (00:28)

“In general, however, what applies in most cases is that a dual degree involves more study but ultimately yields more credentials than what might come out of doing a single degree program alone,” she adds. (00:56)

The benefits of a dual master's degree

Whichever type of dual master’s degree you study, it’s likely to encompass a bigger workload than a traditional program. That’s true whether your studying two separate degrees or just an additional module. However, Gina says the extra workload brings extra benefits at the end of the degree.

“Having multiple degrees can actually be a distinct advantage in the workplace, depending on one’s desired career path and goals,” she says. “For example, someone who holds degrees in both marketing management and supply chain management could be viewed as possessing a very unique skillset and knowledge that can’t easily be [achieved by pursuing either one of those programs alone].” (01:15)

Depending on the university, dual master’s programs may also take place in more than one country. That’s the case at RSM, which offers dual degrees both in the Netherlands and abroad. Gina says that experience is even more beneficial for students.

“RSM dual degree students enjoy the experience of pursuing full degree programs at different universities and in different countries, thereby enriching both their educational experience as well as their international experience. And eventually their career opportunities too,” she tells us. (01:39)

The challenges of completing a dual degree

It’s important to consider the challenges involved with a dual degree. At RSM, whose dual programs involve a year abroad, Gina says students must be aware of the cultural, educational, and financial differences between different schools and countries.

“The extended experience abroad with our dual degree program involves at least one year where the student goes off to another country to study at another university,” she says. “There are challenges, including adaptation to the partner school, the country, educational methods, the language aspect, cultural differences. These are all things that dual degree students need to be aware of.” (05:20)

We’ve already mentioned the increased workload for dual degrees, but it’s also worth considering their financial impact. Studying for two or more years means higher costs. It also means you’ll be waiting a little bit longer to enter the job market. For students on a tight budget, it may not be an ideal situation.

“A student involved in a dual degree program does need to be committed to academic studies for longer than the normal duration, and also be prepared for the costs involved. This also results in a slight delay in starting your career,” adds Gina. (04:51)

What to bear in mind before applying

If you’re thinking of pursuing a dual master’s degree, it’s important to be fully committed to the program. After all, you’re going to be engrossed in it for two years – or more. Gina recommends making sure the program outcomes are fully aligned with your career goals.

She states, “Knowing that it is a long duration of study, it has to be something that you’re committed to – even just to try to apply, let alone following the entire length of the program!” (08:04)

“Be very clear on what your final goal is, both academically and career-wise, as that is extremely important to us in terms of selection,” she advises. “[It will] also be important for you to be able to successfully complete the program and help you realize your goals.” (08:19)

Any master’s degree is a big commitment, but a dual master’s degree is an even bigger one. In that sense, it’s even more important to do your research before committing to anything. That way, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of doing a master’s that gets you where you want to go.

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