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A double-degree program, sometimes called a combined degree, conjoint degree, dual degree, or simultaneous degree program, involves a student's working for two different university degrees in parallel, either at the same institution or at different institutions (sometimes in different countries), completing them in less time than it would take to earn them separately. The two degrees might be in the same subject area (especially when the course is split between countries), or in two different subjects.
Undergraduate double-degree programs are more common in some countries than others, and are generally found in countries whose higher-education systems follow the British model. Master's double-degree programs are more widespread. Interest in double-degree programs between member nations has spread in the European Union, as the gaining of qualifications from more than one country is seen as an advantage in the European labour market.
Typically in a double-degree program both of the participating institutions reduce the amount of time required to be spent at each. Common Undergraduate double degrees include Engineering and Economics program, Engineering and Business program such as Business and Computing. They often take 4–5 years to complete instead of 7–8 years to complete separate degrees. Common postgraduate double degrees are J.D./M.B.A. degrees, as well as M.B.A. and J.D. degrees combined with M.A. fields such as politics, economics, urban planning, and international relations. Many medical schools also offer joint M.D. or D.O. degrees with J.D. and M.B.A. programs, as well as with a range of M.A. programs. Some universities even offer dual Ph.D./M.B.A degree, Ph.D. portion is mainly in science and engineering, which target entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
Double degrees should not be confused with double major, or with the occasional practice of awarding a further qualification with a worked-for (especially research) degree, nor with the awarding of a single degree by multiple institutions. Double majors or dual majors consist of two majors attached to a single degree, as opposed to two separate degrees each with its own field of study. In some schools, students will earn a double major when the two majors lead to the same degree name (such as: B.A., B.S., B.F.A.). And they will earn a double degree when the two majors lead to differently-named degrees (such as: B.A. and B.S., B.S. and B.F.A.). In general, the number of hours and required courses are more in a dual-degree program than a double major.
In the United States, a dual degree program is based on a formal agreement within one college/university or between separate colleges/universities. Students spend 2–3 years in each degree program. After completing all requirements for both programs (usually in four to five years) the student is awarded two degrees in one of the following combinations: (1) Associate's and Bachelor's programs - an associate degree from a community college and a bachelor's degree from a partner university; (2) Dual Bachelor's Degree programs - two Bachelor's degrees; (3) Dual Bachelor's Master's Degree programs - a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree; (4) Dual Graduate Degree programs - a combination of D.O., M.A., M.D., M.S., J.D., M.B.A., or Ph.D.
Dual degrees can be from the same school, or from two different colleges/universities that entered a dual degree agreement; and in the same major, or in different majors. Students enter a dual degree program to accelerate their education or to enrich their professional portfolio by adding a new major.