Own your Northwestern experience
Understand your academic options.
One of the most exciting things about college is the ability to explore academically. But with so many possibilities, navigating the many available paths can sometimes be a challenge. This page is meant to help you better understand the types of academic credentials Northwestern offers, as well as the differences between them.
Each of Northwestern’s undergraduate schools expects students to fulfill a set of requirements to earn a bachelor’s degree, be it a Bachelor of Arts, of Music, or of Science. No matter the school, a liberal arts foundation is part of any Northwestern degree: students choose from hundreds of courses to fulfill broad distributional areas that comprise roughly a third of their undergraduate coursework. Beyond these basics, Northwestern’s many academic directions make for an exciting—but potentially confusing—set of possibilities. You can find a summary of different degree options and components below, or refer to the course catalog for a more comprehensive set of details.
Alongside the liberal arts foundation described above, your major is at the heart of your undergraduate experience here. The requirements for any given major encompass roughly another third of your undergraduate coursework. (The final third includes whatever electives you choose to take, as well as some subject-specific courses in the more specialized schools of engineering, communication, music, journalism, and education and social policy.) While some students arrive knowing exactly what major they want to pursue, many others spend their first year or two actively searching for the program that is right for them. For a complete list of major offerings, please refer to our Majors and Minors page.
Some majors at Northwestern are designated as “adjunct majors,” which means they must be taken in conjunction with another major that is not designated as “adjunct” in order to graduate from the University. Learn more about adjunct majors.
Many Northwestern students decide to delve deeper into a second area of interest and choose to declare a double major, while still graduating in four years. A student who chooses to double major will complete two sets of major requirements (which essentially cuts into the number of electives she or he can take). While students need to declare at least one major by the end of their sophomore year in order to stay on track with their broader degree requirements, the second major can be added at a later date. Double-majoring is generally possible within any given school, with the exception of the School of Communication.
Double Majoring Across Schools
Students enrolled in the more specialized schools of engineering, communication, music, journalism, and education and social policy may choose any second major in the College of Arts and Sciences. The reverse is not true, however, and only in rare cases may a student double major between the more specialized schools. That said, students can certainly take classes across all six schools!
If you would like to pursue majors across two of the more specialized schools, you may want to consider a dual degree option. While double majors allow students to investigate two areas (and require that they complete requirements for two different majors), ultimately only one bachelor’s degree is conferred from your home school. Dual degrees, on the other hand, entail the full set of broad requirements for two degrees and typically take five years to complete. For more information on dual degree options, and to see requirements, please see Dual Bachelor’s Degree Programs in the course catalog.
Minors provide a great option for students who seek to cultivate a breadth of interests, and most of Northwestern’s undergraduate schools make minors available to students, regardless of their “home” undergraduate school (for example, a student pursuing a Bachelor of Science with a major in biomedical engineering could minor in musicology). For a complete list of minor offerings, please refer to our Majors and Minors page.
Smaller in scope than minors, certificates and modules allow undergraduates to concentrate on select areas not covered by pre-existing majors or minors. In fact, these niche areas often reach beyond any single academic department, forging connections between multiple areas of study and encompassing applied learning experiences alongside traditional coursework. For a listing of certificates, along with brief descriptions, please see Certificates in the course catalog. To learn more about the School of Communication’s modules, visit their undergraduate programs page.