joint honours degrees - pros and cons

(28 Posts)
purplegreen99 Tue 03-Oct-17 10:52:43

DD is looking at doing joint honours music with either physics or maths. Music is something she's always done and loves and is grade 7 & 8 on her 2 instruments but I am not sure she sees herself having a career in performance and maybe sees maths or physics as giving her more of a safety net job-wise. She wasn't even thinking of a music degree until we started looking at unis for the other two subjects and seeing unis with orchestras and practice facilities for non-music students somehow made her feel like she'd really miss actually studying music.

So she is now considering joint honours courses and I'm wondering what would the pros and cons be? Would only doing half a degree in each subject (maybe not the right way to look at it) disadvantage her beyond uni in pursuing PG or career options? Would it be seen as a weird combination?

I'm assuming it would be fine for a non-specialist career, or for something like teaching, but I'm wondering about careers or PG study related to either subject? The other thing I've suggested is taking a year out and trying to get some relevant work experience/volunteering - which I think would be fairly easy with music, not sure about maths/physics. I would rather support her for a year doing voluntary work than for her to realise after a year that she's made the wrong course choice. Other than that I'm not sure what to advise but am worried about her either regretting giving up something she loves, but on the other hand maybe spreading herself too thin by continuing two subjects.

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fiddlesticks99 Tue 03-Oct-17 11:22:45

Also remember that you can do practical music to a very high level (or at any level you want really) without doing a music degree. Look carefully at university extra curricular offerings. Most have very lively music societies of all types - from very ambitious orchestras and choirs through jazz bands and of course lots of popular music.

At some universities you can even get sponsorship/scholarships for being in chapel choirs, chamber groups and so on. These often provide continuing music lessons or master classes.

There are endless playing opportunities for the keen.

If she wants to continue with the academic side of her music or push her music significantly a joint honours degree could be a good idea (Imperial I think does an amazing Physics/Music one in conjunction with the RCM and I am sure others do similar things). Also if she wants to keep the option of a musical career open. However, if what she wants to do is to keep playing to a good standard then many universities will give her lots of opportunities.

What sort of music is she interested in ? When you are looking at universities also look at what they offer in terms of music societies that might interest her.

My ds does a single honours non-music subject, but I would think he spends more hours playing music, organising concerts and doing music related things than he does on his subject. He also goes on music tours and plays and sings in a quite a few concerts a year. Extra-curricular music has been great for him. He has also continued with music lessons on his main instrument.

This was really just to show you that choosing a single honours degree doesn't have to mean giving up her music.

purplegreen99 Tue 03-Oct-17 11:24:46

I meant by doing work exp or volunteering for a year that it might help her get a clearer idea of where each degree could lead and help her make the choice.

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purplegreen99 Tue 03-Oct-17 11:35:27

That's helpful fiddlesticks - thanks. I have got the impression from the unis we've visited so far that some do have excellent opportunities for musicians who aren't studying music & it's good to know that some do tours, concerts, etc. She does a lot of that at the moment and loves the playing but also the social side, so that's definitely something dd needs to look at for any uni she considers.

I suppose what worries me is that she might be looking for a way to avoid making a decision about which subject to choose, and I don't want that to disadvantage her beyond uni because she hasn't got the depth of knowledge from 3 years studying a single subject.

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DarthMaiden Tue 03-Oct-17 11:42:06

So this may be out of date advice but my DF counselled me not to do a joint degree having done one himself.

Whilst he loved the “dual learning” aspect he said the reality is you don’t do two halves of a degree.

You end up doing three quarters of each subject and the workload compared to “single” degrees is significantly higher - potentially putting even very able students at a disadvantage to peers focusing on a single discipline.

If she isn’t intending to pursue a career in music I’d echo the pp to focus on the maths for her degree and engage in the extra curricular options to retain her musical experience and enjoyment.

titchy Tue 03-Oct-17 16:22:17

Sound recording combines both...

purplegreen99 Tue 03-Oct-17 16:55:39

Oh, I hadn't thought that there might be a higher workload so may be less chance of doing well...

Sound recording - is that a similar area to music technology? DD looked at music tech because it did sound like it might combine her interests. I think the focus was on recording/producing and learning about the technologies around recorded and live music, but I think she is interested in doing a more traditional music course, as in history/development of music, plus performance and composition. Maybe she needs to find out more. I wonder if there are degrees that combine the traditional aspects of music study with music tech and sound recording - that might be more her kind of thing. I will suggest she does some research on this.

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user918273645 Tue 03-Oct-17 17:48:55

There are maths with music degrees that are 80% maths. (I think Southampton? Maybe elsewhere? ) Probably avoids the issues with joint honours as the 20% music is mostly performance based.

user918273645 Tue 03-Oct-17 17:51:07

You end up doing three quarters of each subject.

I always disagree with this when it is said on Mumsnet.

In a 50:50 degree you simply do half your modules in one subject and half in another. It's just not the case that you do "three quarters" of each subject. In most cases it should not (these days) be harder than doing a single subject. It can be a bit harder if the skills required for the two subjects are very different i.e. you need very different skills for your two sets of modules, instead of complementary skills if you have taken only one subject.

MarthaArthur Tue 03-Oct-17 17:58:33

I did a joint honours degree and yes it was a lot harder than a single degree but I feel it was so much more worth it as I didnt habe a specific career in mind. So it gave me different skills. Sadly 3 years on I still dont have a career to show for it. Hopefully your dd knows more about her direction in life.

ThePhantomRider Tue 03-Oct-17 19:22:22

My DS is doing a joint honours degree maths/MFL (not one of the three standard MFL's kids learn at school) at a top university. He is doing it because he is literally a genius at the former but loves the latter. He was advised by his god father, the CEO of a famous international company that it would also make him more employable because its an uncommon combination therefore made him stand out and he was demonstrating that he had two completely different skill sets. He might have a little more lectures/work than his friends, just doing single honours. He finds the maths a total breeze but I think he would say if you didn't you could struggle with your feet in two very different and unrelated camps.

Becca19962014 Tue 03-Oct-17 21:39:33

I did joint honours and it really depends on the subject being studied, one was a science subject (part professional recognition) and had a lot of practicals and lab time and the other was education which was lectures and essays.

Combing the two was really difficult in terms of timetabling, they were in totally different buildings and often I'd need to choose which lecture I could go to as there wasn't time to get from one to the other - a timetable clash at the same time they'd try and sort but not one after the other.

My third year exams because of what I studied were over two days. I had three exams each day, after having two that clashed. Bright side I only had two days of exams, bad side it was six exams right at the start of the exam period.

I didn't have a much choice with modules as I needed to do core for both subjects which was a bit upsetting as there were things I really wanted to study and couldn't. Also with optional modules time table clashes were ignored I was expected to drop those modules.

I continued with music and joined various societies and bands which I enjoyed. If I had done a minor in music (which was possible then) it would have been compulsory to join all music societies and bands and I would have ended up failing the other part of my course.

I don't regret it and after graduation had a good grounding for what I decided I wanted to do and got accepted for professional course quickly.

I have had it bought up in interviews. I've been asked if I couldn't make up my mind so did joint for that reason - it's a misconception, for me I wanted to work in education using the other subject so the joint Hons was perfect for me.

Becca19962014 Tue 03-Oct-17 21:42:49

(Neither subject was music)

One other thing, some unis do offer music scholarships which vary massively according to instrument. I didn't find out until I started I qualified and would have got a scholarship despite only having got grade 5 ABRSM as I was a trumpet player and female (wierd I know!), some other instruments like flute required people to have done higher ABRSM exams than grade 8 just to be considered. So that might be worth looking at as well.

Yazoop Tue 03-Oct-17 22:17:57

I have a joint honours History and English degree, which is a fairly common and complimentary combination. It probably meant slightly more work than a single honours degree, but as I enjoyed both subjects so much it didn't matter very much.

I think research is key. Music degree courses can really vary in their content / focus. Similarly, if your daughter eventually wants to do something with a really hard maths angle (e.g. a quantitative analyst in a bank or for certain master's Maths programmes), you may need to ensure that the right topics/modules are covered in the joint degree (or it a "pure" maths degree might be preferable).

But in the main, I don't think a joint degree would disadvantage her. Unless there is a very specific route she wants to go down, it is usually the case that the quality of the institution and the degree mark plays a more important role in graduate careers than the subject(s) studied. I know a few people with joint degrees in Maths and a humanities subject (e.g. Maths / History, Maths / Geography) and they have all gone on to have fruitful and lucrative careers. I think there is probably some truth in the assumption that such an unusual combination "stands out" on a CV, and shows a rounded set of skills and interests.

ThePhantomRider Tue 03-Oct-17 22:46:53

I this my DS would agree, his choices of optional modules are obviously more limited. Do research what your DD's choices will before you go down this road, as said above timetable clashing etc could limit what she does, find our exactly what she will study from either math/physics my DS is only interested in pure maths luckily he can study this but he hadn't really looked into this aspect properly before he went he could have been very disappointed. Although of course most universities wont categorically commit themselves to definitely offering X and Y a year in advance.

hellsbells99 Tue 03-Oct-17 22:49:33

Leeds Uni allow you to choose a discovery module worth 20 credits in most degree subjects - so you could do a maths degree but choose a music discovery module.

catslife Wed 04-Oct-17 10:04:54

I suppose what worries me is that she might be looking for a way to avoid making a decision about which subject to choose, and I don't want that to disadvantage her beyond uni because she hasn't got the depth of knowledge from 3 years studying a single subject.
You need to check the specific courses, but there are some joint honours degree courses where it may be possible to switch to single honours at a later date e.g end of first year.

Chaotica Wed 04-Oct-17 10:13:23

Joint degrees are great, although taking completely different subjects might be more difficult. (I speak as an academic who teaches a lot of students who study them and who did four subjects in my undergrad degree myself.)

Why should she have to make a decision now? If she goes for a course where you can swap to single if you want (after the first year is common) then she can decide later. Scottish universities often allow a lot of different options (Glasgow used to).

CMOTDibbler Wed 04-Oct-17 10:15:17

I studied Physics at Cardiff, and had a number of friends who did Physics with Music which is not joint honours but a 2:1 physics and music mix, but with the physics having some specialist acoustics and music components too. Several of them went to teach, some into sound recording, and one is running a very successful business in science education.

A friend at another university did joint honours Physics and French and went on to do a physics topic PhD, so it didn't disadvantage her

Ttbb Wed 04-Oct-17 10:16:58

For a lot of people undergraduate degrees are just a stepping g stone and of no real consequence. If she has no particular intention to peruse maths or music then it really doesn't matter. It's more important to actually figure out what she is going to do. Maths might be useful if she goes into teaching but sonething like economics would be more useful if she goes into consulting or sonething to give you an example.

ttlshiwwya Wed 04-Oct-17 10:48:11

Would she be interested in BEng/MEng in Electronics with Music? Glasgow does this as well as their usual flexible degrees where she could study Music with Physics/Maths in the first 2 years before deciding which to continue with.

differenteverytime Wed 04-Oct-17 10:53:01

Would she consider a Scottish university? My dd1 has just gone to St Andrews and loves the flexible, modular approach. She is doing Theoretical Physics, with modules in Philosophy. They permit pretty much any combination within the constraints of the timetable, so I imagine Maths and Music would also be possible.

Becca19962014 Wed 04-Oct-17 10:53:11

It depends on the joint if she can go single after a year. Some courses have core modules which take up more than half the available modules in the first year so she might need to redo the first year to become single.

For my joint degree I couldn't have changed to single after first year as one half required 100 out if 120 credits as core at first year level. I did go on and do a related single undergrad degree later and taught in the department - it was a misconception that students thought they could change to single after first year.

BUT that was that degree. If there's very few core modules (anything less than half) then that wouldn't be a problem. Sciences can have a lot of core subjects first year to prepare for second and third years.

When I went there was no internet commercially available so no way to plan degree scheme, a lot of information needed is now online. Though she does need to be careful that not all modules are available every year and it can depend on number of students if courses or modules run. I'd advise against devising her own joint scheme - I know someone who did this (one of my students) and the uni made them responsible for admin as well and it was horrendous so stick with unis that do the joint scheme she wants, avoid any that say 'any subject can be joint' it's a recipe for disaster.

ThePhantomRider Wed 04-Oct-17 12:46:23

I think for those who don’t know what they want to do long term joint honour degrees are brilliant. Why decide at 18/19 she’s got a few years before she had to decide what her long term plans are, let try out both subjects and see which one floats her boats. This is ultimately what my DS is doing.
Secondly unless she plans to make maths/physics her lifes work does she need that level of depth? As I said above my DS’s godfather says his FTSE 500 company would be much more interested in someone with a joint honours in two contrasting academically rigorous subjects than someone with a single honours especially if one of those subjects is a universally highly regarded subject like maths.

Needmoresleep Wed 04-Oct-17 14:50:33

It is not unusual for gifted mathematicians to be gifted musicians. And those that are really good seem to be able to manage both to a high level.

I am never convinced that pursuing two interests has to be one at the expense of the other. Instead having a second interest away from your subject can provide an escape or relaxation.

If she can continue with both, it would be a shame not to. One of DDs friends chose to study in the States, more or less for that reason. Taking a joint major there is tough, but not uncommon, and so she was able to keep up both her maths and her music.

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