U.S. higher education is flexible. Students can explore a variety of academic fields before deciding on a major. And more and more, students choose interdisciplinary majors, which draw on coursework from more than one academic department.

Sometimes, a student creates an interdisciplinary major by proposing a course of study that focuses on a central idea and planning the curriculum with advisers from the relevant departments. For instance, a course of study on the effects of war on societies might incorporate history, psychology and political science courses.

More often, interdisciplinary majors are created by faculty coming together from different departments.

  • At the University of California at Berkeley, the environmental sciences major combines courses from biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and economics.
  • Carnegie Mellon University offers a degree in computational finance that includes elements of mathematics, finance, statistics and computer programming. It is a joint program of the college of science, the business school and the school of public policy.
Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, has more than 40 interdisciplinary degree programs. (© AP Images)
Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, has 40 interdisciplinary degree programs. (© AP Images)

“About 25 percent of our students have an interdisciplinary major,” said Joel Schwartz, a dean at William and Mary College. “Often as part of a double major. A common example would be … getting depth from a biology major and breadth from an environmental science and policy major.”

Some colleges require students to undertake interdisciplinary study. At the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, all students must major or minor in an interdisciplinary field.

“[It] gives a student a broad perspective,” said Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges, a professor at the college. “An interdisciplinary course of study is a way to integrate multiple ways of thinking to solve problems.”

Whether you want to pursue an interdisciplinary major or follow a more traditional path, we can help you plan for and get the most out of a U.S. education.