Interdisciplinary Studies Degree Pros and Cons [2021 Guide]

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A major in interdisciplinary studies can give you the opportunity to explore several different areas of interest, creating a new course of study that can help prepare you for the career you want.

Interdisciplinary Studies Degree Pros and Cons

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Let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages to this path, career possibilities, salary ranges and more.

Interdisciplinary Studies Degree Pros and Cons

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A traditional or online interdisciplinary studies degree involves making conceptual connections between otherwise unrelated disciplines.

Similar to the benefits of a multidisciplinary studies degree, this program can give you the opportunity to pick and choose courses from many different departments, in order to create an academic plan that best suits your educational and career goals.

But there are also challenges to this type of degree program, so let’s take a look at both the pros and cons of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Pros Cons
Gives you a sense of control and ownership over your education Advisors and professors may have trouble understanding your vision and guiding you
Provides a rounded, broad education May not have special skills or in-depth knowledge in any one area
Lots of opportunities for exciting new research and development It may be hard to get different departments to work together
Provides skills that can be valuable in many fields (communications, critical thinking, literacy, math) Employers and others may not have a clear understanding of what you studied in college
Access to professors and experts in multiple fields May be difficult to transfer all of your credits if you decide to change majors
Freedom and flexibility to study what you are passionate about
Allows you to bypass classes that are unnecessary or irrelevant

As you consider this degree path, it will be important to have an end goal in mind and be strategic in the courses you select. Once you graduate, you will need to be able to market your expertise to admissions officers or employers.

Popular Interdisciplinary Studies Degrees Online

Select the degree programs that interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

If you are interested in a degree program that will allow you to explore several different fields rather than committing to just one, either one of these degrees might match your goals

Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies (General Studies)

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Interdisciplinary Studies and General Studies are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are slightly different.

Interdisciplinary Studies (or Integrated Studies) programs tend to be career-focused. This option can give you the chance to combine multiple disciplines, melding together bits and pieces from each in order to create the best possible education for your intended career.

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If you are focused, driven, and think outside the box, interdisciplinary studies may appeal to you. Since you will need to plan and advocate for your program, being a passionate learner will also be beneficial.

General Studies, on the other hand, is like an education “sample platter.” It can give you the opportunity to explore a variety of subjects without having to focus on their relationships to one another. Some schools will let you choose your courses while others have a more structured approach.

In General Studies programs, the goal is to obtain a well-rounded, diversified education that promotes life-long learning. It can give you opportunities to develop vital skills that can help you transition into a variety of occupations, but many graduates go on to pursue further education.

Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts

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A Liberal Arts degree is also interdisciplinary and can give you opportunities to explore multiple subjects. Rather than having a single area of expertise, it can help you develop a more varied perspective. You may learn to apply critical thinking skills and bring together concepts from a wide array of subjects.

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The skills often gained through this degree program can be helpful in fast-paced industries in which you need to continually learn and process new information. The understanding of different perspectives and world views can also benefit professionals in education, business, social work or human resources, for example.    

Interdisciplinary Studies Careers & Salaries

Interdisciplinary Studies Careers & Salaries  

Your studies as an Interdisciplinary Studies student can help you learn how to communicate effectively, think critically and work well within a team. These are valuable skills that can be applied in a number of fields!

The most popular career choice for Interdisciplinary Studies graduates is education, with most choosing to teach at the elementary or secondary level. But depending on the field of study you choose, you might become an Executive Director, a Social Worker or a Journalist – nearly anything!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates with Bachelor of Science degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies earn annual median salaries ranging from $49,300 to $121,220. But again, these graduates might work in virtually any field, so there will be a tremendously wide range of salaries.

Let’s take a look at some examples of the careers Interdisciplinary Studies degree holders may go into and the earning potential.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Human Resources Managers $121,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430
Top Executives $107,680
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives $65,420
High School Teachers $62,870
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers $60,660
Social Workers $51,760
News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists $49,300

As you can see, this degree can help open the door to a wide variety of careers and salaries!

Interdisciplinary Studies Curriculum & Courses

Interdisciplinary Studies students studying in university campus

Although an Interdisciplinary Studies program can help you design your own education, most colleges will still require you to complete basic general education courses.

Typical general education courses include:

  • English Composition
  • Math
  • Natural Science – Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.
  • Social Sciences – Psychology, Sociology, History, Political Science, etc.
  • Humanities – Art, Music, Communication, Speech, Religion, Literature, Languages, etc.

Each school will have specific requirements indicating which courses you will need to complete.

Beyond that, most programs will allow you to select approximately 36 credits that fit well into the path you are pursuing. Rather than choosing entire majors, you may pick and choose relevent courses from a variety of departments.

Here’s an example of a typical course of study:

Interdisciplinary Studies Program Focus Combines Courses from…
American Justice and the Deaf Community Sociology, Criminal Justice, American Sign Language
Bioethics Philosophy, Biology, Sociology, Psychology
Buddhist Studies Asian Studies, Anthropology
Church Administration Communication, Humanities, Business, English
Community Organization Communication, Pan-African Studies, Sociology, Psychology
Computer Crime Sociology Sociology, Criminal Justice, Information Systems
Conservation Communication, Biology, Geography, Health and Sport Sciences
Diversity in Education Education, Pan-African Studies, Gender Studies
Equine Science (Pre-Vet) Biology, Equine Science, Chemistry
Forensic Science Forensic Anthropology, Criminal Justice, Biology, Philosophy
Healthcare Relations Math, Communication, Chemistry, Biology
Industrial Design Art, Physics, Engineering, Humanities
Kinesiology (Pre-Physical Therapy) Psychology, Health & Sport Science, Biology
Law & Advocacy (Pre-Law) Communication, Political Science, Psychology
Medicine & Private Practice (Pre-Med) Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Business
Military Health Studies Military Science, Biology, Clinical Lab Science
Music Industry Communication, Political Science, Music, Business
Non-Profit Fundraising & Grant Writing Communication, English, Psychology, Economics
Racial Identities & Societal Influences Political Science, Pan-African Studies, Anthropology
Speech Pathology (Pre-Speech-Language Pathology) English, Communicative Disorders, Sociology
Urban Planning & National Security Political Science, Linguistics, Anthropology, Geography
Web Writing & Development English, Business, Communication
Women & Minority Issues (Pre-Law) Gender Studies, Communication, Education

These are, of course, just examples. The sky’s the limit! You will select the area you are passionate about exploring, and then determine what courses fit best.

Is an Interdisciplinary Degree Useless?

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No, an Interdisciplinary Degree is not useless! Many find it to be a great way to get what they want out of their education.

Perhaps you want to explore Legal Administration, but there is no major for that. Under Interdisciplinary Studies, you may combine courses from Paralegal Studies, Political Science and Business.

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Perhaps your school does not offer a major in Sociology, but has several classes in the field that interest you. Under Interdisciplinary Studies, you might design a major that incorporates Sociology and other areas of interest that fit your intended career path. So some students feel that Interdisciplinary Studies is a good major for them if they are interested in an area of study that is more broad than what their university offers.

In some instances, a more varied educational background is preferred. For example, some states prefer elementary school teachers with an undergraduate in Interdisciplinary Studies, General Studies or Liberal Arts because it helps them teach more academic areas.

What is an Interdisciplinary Studies Degree Like?

Interdisciplinary Studies students studying in college library

Choosing to pursue an Interdisciplinary Studies Degree can be empowering! Rather than selecting from a list of available majors on your college’s website, you are taking control and customizing your education.

But as Tuft’s University puts it, it isn’t just creating a new major, but rather “it is a serious undertaking for the student who is committed to blending disciplines in a way that is demonstrably relevant to an identifiable area of intellectual inquiry.”

Some Interdisciplinary Studies programs require you to pose a specific research question, around which your program will be designed. Some require you to incorporate a minimum of three fields.

Keep in mind, though, because this degree path is unique to you, it will be up to you to prove its validity and advocate for it. You will be responsible for reviewing and selecting courses, and you will need to need to communicate with and bring together the faculty from the various departments.

Your passion for your customized plan can help drive your success.

Getting Your Interdisciplinary Studies Degree Online

Interdisciplinary Studies Degree student studying online

There are many advantages to earning your Interdisciplinary Studies degree online. Most importantly, earning this degree online can help you advance your education without putting your life on hold. You may study whenever and wherever it works for you, fitting class work in around your family, job and other commitments.

Other perks to online learning include:

  • Self-paced format – You can opt for an accelerated program, or take just a couple of classes at a time.
  • Ability to choose your work environment – Whether you need total silence, prefer a bustling coffee shop, or can learn during your commute, you can make it happen!
  • Avoiding obstacles like traffic, inclement weather, lack of transportation, illness, childcare conflicts, inconsistent work schedules, travel, and more
  • Shows employers you are self-motivated and self-disciplined

If you can keep yourself on track, earning your Interdisciplinary Studies degree online may be the perfect option to help advance your education and boost your earning potential.

An Interdisciplinary Studies degree will require you to design your own academic program, communicate with faculty and advocate for yourself. It’s a unique path, so be sure to review the pros and cons.

But ultimately, choosing Interdisciplinary Studies can help put your education back in your hands and empower you to create the very best education for your future.

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Lindsay Aldini
WRITTEN BY
Lindsay Aldini
Lindsay holds a Bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Drake University. Lindsay's writing focuses on online education, financial aid, and higher education trends.