What is interdisciplinary studies

What is interdisciplinary studies? (All the Info, Requirements & Alternatives 2023)

What is interdisciplinary studies? Do you desire to use methods and insights from several established disciplines or traditional fields of study? Maybe you will love a combination of knowledge from different disciplines. Interdisciplinary studies is for you. It helps you pursue unique, hybrid degrees. Learn what is interdisciplinary studies and how it applies below.

What is interdisciplinary studies

What is interdisciplinary studies?

It is the act of combining two or more areas of study. Interdisciplinary studies involve the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity.

The program gives undergraduate and graduate students more options for course selection.

Interdisciplinary studies may be ideal for independent international students who want to carve out their paths in their studies and future careers. Pursuing an interdisciplinary studies degree is a great way to meet your personal and professional goals.

Interdisciplinary studies degree programs combine two or more traditional academic courses of study into a more personalized major. An interdisciplinary degree allows students to focus on a specific topic that spans multiple fields.

The increased flexibility is ideal for students who want to combine multiple interests into one specialization.

If you want to work in corporate sustainability, for example, your coursework should cover topics from various academic departments, such as business, science, and ethics. Perhaps you enjoy writing and learning languages. An interdisciplinary studies degree allows you to specialize in several areas, better preparing you for the career you want to pursue.

Some colleges, such as the University of Central Florida and Auburn University at Montgomery, allow students to design their own majors with the assistance of an advisor. These colleges simply allow you to customize your course of study.

With its interdisciplinary studies program, the University of Central Florida offers 7,000 possible combinations, and the school requires students to study three complementary disciplines.

Institutions that support interdisciplinary studies

The institutions in the US with the most degrees awarded in interdisciplinary studies are as follows:

  • Fullerton College
  • Liberty University
  • University of California
  • Stanford University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Texas A & M University
  • Florida International University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Houston
  • Arizona State University
  • University of California
  • Georgia State University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Thomas Edison State University
  • Texas State University
  • San Diego State University
  • Boise State University
  • University of Iowa
  • Pasadena City College
  • College of the Atlantic
  • Presidio Graduate School
  • College Unbound
  • etc.

Related: Harvard Admission Requirements (2023 Guide)

Examples of interdisciplinary studies majors

The following are some examples of interdisciplinary studies majors:

1. International business

The international business major combines business fundamentals with a thorough understanding of global economic, political, social, and cultural issues. It also includes a second language study, geography classes, and communication studies.

An international business major combines:

  • Business: marketing, finance, economics, management, accounting.
  • International studies: international relations, anthropology, political science, religious studies.

2. Human Biology

Human biology is the study of the complex nature of humans.

A human biology focus combines:

  • Biology: genetics, evolutionary biology, bioethics.
  • Sociology: gender roles, mass media, global health and disease.

Aside from biology and sociology, you can study language, philosophy, history, religion, and art.

3. Gender studies

Gender studies investigate how gender roles have evolved, how they influence people across cultures, and how roles vary by location.

Read: ESPN Female Reporters

A gender studies major or concentration may include:

  • Literature: queer literature, literature by women, authors of the developing world.
  • History: women in Japan, modern England, and pre-colonial Africa.
  • Psychology: perception and sensation, personality, learning, social psychology.

4. Global studies

Global studies examine how current issues affect various cultures and nations in an increasingly globalized world, as well as how these issues affect their own area.

A global studies major or concentration may include:

  • Business: international economics, business operations, finance.
  • Political science: comparative politics, international relations, public policy.
  • Anthropology: language and culture, human evolution, archaeology.

5. Communication Science

Communication Science combines independent disciplines such as sociology, political science and economics.

6. Environmental science

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary earth science aimed at addressing environmental issues such as global warming and pollution. It involves the use of a wide range of scientific disciplines, including geology, chemistry, physics, ecology, and oceanography.

Those who study areas of environmental policy, such as environmental law, sustainability, and environmental justice, may also seek knowledge in the environmental sciences to better develop their expertise and understanding in their fields.

7. Knowledge Management

Knowledge management discipline exists as a cluster of divergent schools of thought under an overarching knowledge management umbrella by building on works in computer science, economics, human resource management, information systems, organizational behavior, philosophy, psychology, and strategic management.

8. Materials Science

Material Science is a field that combines the scientific and engineering aspects of materials, particularly solids. It covers the design, discovery and application of new materials by incorporating elements of physics, chemistry, and engineering.

9. Provenance Research

Interdisciplinary research comes into play when clarifying the path of artworks into public and private art collections and also in relation to human remains in natural history collections.

10. Sports Science

Sports science is an interdisciplinary science that researches the problems and manifestations in the field of sport and movement in cooperation with a number of other sciences, such as sociology, ethics, biology, medicine, biomechanics or pedagogy.

11. Transport Sciences

Transport sciences are a field of science that deals with the relevant problems and events of the world of transport and cooperates with the specialized legal, ecological, technical, psychological or pedagogical disciplines in working out the changes of place of people, goods and messages that characterize them.

12. Venture Research

Venture research is an interdisciplinary research area located in the human sciences that deals with the conscious entering into and experiencing borderline situations. For this purpose, the findings of evolutionary theory, cultural anthropology, social sciences, behavioral research, differential psychology, ethics or pedagogy are cooperatively processed and evaluated

Why take interdisciplinary studies?

An interdisciplinary studies degree is an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree that lets you combine more than one area of study as opposed to a specific major.

This flexible degree option can be a great opportunity to pursue two or more fields that may better fit your educational and career goals. The result is a customized course of study that can lay a foundation for additional education or a career.

If your dream job combines knowledge and skills from multiple disciplines, an interdisciplinary studies degree may be a strong option.

Three reasons to consider an interdisciplinary studies degree

Here are three reasons to consider an interdisciplinary studies degree:

  1. You’re interested in a career requiring knowledge and skills from multiple disciplines. For example, you may opt for an interdisciplinary studies degree with concentrations in Latin American studies and business administration if you want to pursue a career with a global corporation or establish your own company abroad.
  2. You want a degree your school doesn’t offer. For example, if you want to study music management at a school that doesn’t offer this specific type of degree, you may be able to combine business management and music courses to prepare for work in this field.
  3. You’re undecided or to enjoy flexibility.

Pros and cons of interdisciplinary studies

Interdisciplinary studies bring together different disciplines to find synergy, creative solutions, and new perspectives. Students with an interdisciplinary studies major can tailor their degree to their specific interests.
Some schools allow students to design their own degree paths, while others create programs that combine different fields.

Interdisciplinary studies may appeal to students whose passions aren’t reflected in the majors offered by their school. It might also resonate with students looking to carve out their own niche by taking a more experimental, self-directed approach to higher education.

An interdisciplinary studies major can help you become an expert in a given field with adequate skills.

With interdisciplinary studies, you will have:

  1. Practical analysis skills. This will enable you to make connections between your different fields of study.
  2. Critical thinking skills. You will develop expertise in multiple areas while being able to think more broadly about a given subject.
  3. Resourcefulness: The ability to innovate creative solutions, explore new ideas, and find different ways of tackling old challenges.

But earning an interdisciplinary studies degree requires dedication and focus. You may need to put in more effort to plan your coursework than your peers in traditional majors who have a clearly laid out curriculum.

However, with some forethought and determination, you can pursue a tailored education that aligns with your objectives. Your course of study will also resemble the work you intend to do after graduation, as most jobs require knowledge and skills that cross multiple disciplines.

What are the merits and demerits of interdisciplinary studies?

When you work toward an interdisciplinary studies degree, you’ll likely gain a variety of perspectives, knowledge bases, and ideas. You may also have greater flexibility in customizing your degree studies to meet your needs and goals. Not only do you have more say in choosing the courses you want, but you may also have opportunities to explore your passions through a senior project or internship.

A disadvantage of earning an interdisciplinary studies degree is that you do not get as in-depth of an education in one area. The emphasis is on the breadth of knowledge. A traditional degree may be more suitable if you are interested in pursuing a career requiring in-depth scientific or technical expertise in a particular area.

The table below summarizes the merits and demerits of interdisciplinary studies.

Merits Demerits
1. Flexibility to customize your coursework to suit your interests Limited options for choosing your coursework are available in some schools
2. Broader education Less in-depth study
3. Exposure to experts in a variety of fields More effort is required to design your coursework
4. Faster learning pace is ideal for students who prefer gaining new information quickly A faster learning pace is less suited for students who need more time to gain foundational knowledge on a topic
5. Essay-focused assessment approach allows for the expression of ideas from various knowledge bases More emphasis on essay-based assessments difficult for some students


Which Students Do Well in Interdisciplinary Studies?

Because interdisciplinary studies are a unique field, certain types of students are required to succeed. Students with the following characteristics are more likely to succeed in the field.

1. Creative

If you’re interested in interdisciplinary studies, you’re probably creative in some way. You don’t want to follow existing paths; you want to forge your own that is unique to you.

Because part of an interdisciplinary studies program is forging new connections between disciplines, that trait will serve you well as you connect different fields and plan out your course schedules.

2. Motivated

Because interdisciplinary studies lack a clear path, you’ll need to be a particularly motivated student to make it work for you.

You’ll be designing your own course schedule and program with the help of your advisers, which means you’ll be doing more work than usual as a student.

If you want to succeed as an interdisciplinary studies major, you must maintain a high level of motivation.

3. Collaborative

You may be the only student at your school with your specific combination of interdisciplinary studies fields, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be collaborating with others.

Making connections with people who share your interests is a great way to enhance your own experience, especially since you’ll be forging your own path. You’ll also collaborate closely with professors and advisers to plan your academic path.

So, even if you are the only person carrying out your program, it is critical that you collaborate with others!

4. Critical Thinking

Many disciplines overlap in college, but for interdisciplinary studies, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. As a result, critical thinking is a valuable skill for interdisciplinary studies students.

You’ll be thinking about all of your courses in relation to one another, even if the connections aren’t obvious. If your program requires a thesis or capstone project, you will almost certainly need to cover all of the ways your courses and fields intersect. The ability to think critically about those courses will be extremely beneficial to you as you progress through your program.

5. Discipline

Motivation and hard work will get you a long way, but discipline will take you even further.

Interdisciplinary studies necessitate a different set of criteria than traditional degrees. That means you’ll be guiding yourself a lot of the time – though you’ll likely work out a plan with your advisers and instructors, you’ll be in charge of carrying it out properly.

People who excel at goal setting, meeting deadlines, and planning will have an easier time.

What is interdisciplinary studies Bachelor’s Degree?

As an undergraduate studying interdisciplinary studies, you will receive one of three degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)

Bachelor of Arts degrees are awarded to students who pursue a variety of humanities and liberal arts-based concentrations. Whereas Bachelor of Science degrees are awarded to students who combine science with fields such as business or the humanities. Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees are awarded to interdisciplinary studies in the performing and creative arts.

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With interdisciplinary studies, you graduate with a single degree. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of how your areas of study connect.

Instead of studying business and international relations separately, an interdisciplinary studies program such as international business allows you to investigate where these concepts intersect and overlap. Instead of learning about sales and cultural differences separately, you could learn how selling a product in the United States differs from selling a product in Qatar.

Sample of Interdisciplinary Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program for Undergraduates

Here is an overview of a typical interdisciplinary degree program (bachelor’s degree):

  • Core coursework: Your coursework takes courses across two or three fields of study.
  • Thesis: This is a final research paper, and it is typically required for graduation. Your thesis integrates work from all fields of study through systematic research.
  • Capstone project: This is a final project, often required for graduation. It gives you an opportunity to explore a new area that connects all your fields of study.
  • Defense of thesis: present your thesis and project to a committee.

Difference Between Single-Subject Major, Double Major and Interdisciplinary Degree

While single-subject majors concentrate your studies in a single field, an interdisciplinary studies degree allows you to combine two or more fields of study. It is not, however, the same as a double major. A double major allows you to study two distinct subjects while graduating with a single degree.

Alternatives to an Interdisciplinary Studies Degree

Here are five alternatives to an interdisciplinary studies degree.

1. liberal arts degree

Interdisciplinary studies and a liberal arts degree both place a premium on critical thinking and acquiring a broad knowledge base. The main distinction is how the courses of study are organized.

A liberal arts degree typically includes classes in philosophy, literature, history, and art, among other subjects.

An interdisciplinary studies degree is more personalized. You can still take a variety of classes, but you can tailor them to help you focus on specific goals.

2. Integrative Studies Degree

Whereas interdisciplinary studies emphasize subject overlap, integrative or integrated studies focus on one subject and draw on one or more secondary subjects for support.

Integrative studies programs may place an emphasis on experiential learning outside of the classroom, such as internships, study abroad opportunities, and community service.

3. Double (or Triple) Major

While an interdisciplinary studies degree allows students to split their bachelor’s credit requirements between two or more subjects, a double major requires students to earn full credits in two different majors.

Students can choose their own majors or enroll in double majors that have already been planned out by the school. The double major eventually leads to a single degree with specializations in two subjects (related or unrelated).

Triple majors are also possible, though there are disadvantages to doubling or tripling major requirements. In addition to a heavy course load and increased stress, there is less time for intellectual exploration.

4. Dual Degree

A dual degree, also known as a double degree, allows you to study two (usually related) fields of study concurrently. In contrast to a double major, a dual degree means you’ll graduate with two distinct degrees, such as a BA and a BFA or a BS and an MS.

Because you’ll be earning two degrees, this program typically lasts at least five years for undergraduates. Some students may be put off by the time and financial commitment required for a dual degree.

5. General Studies

General studies is a degree option that is similar to interdisciplinary studies. While interdisciplinary studies purposefully combine two or more degree areas, general studies allow students to earn credits from a variety of disciplines without feeling obligated to create cohesion between them.

A general studies degree suffers from the same limitation as interdisciplinary studies: neither can produce graduates with sufficient expertise in any single subject to make them strong candidates for future jobs or graduate programs.

Common Interdisciplinary Studies Jobs

With an interdisciplinary studies degree, you can pursue almost any career. Naturally, the courses you take and the concentrations you select will have an impact on the types of careers and jobs you pursue after graduation.

According to Data US, some of the most common careers for students who earn an interdisciplinary studies degree include:

  1. Dieticians and nutritionists
  2. Elementary and middle school teachers
  3. Managers
  4. Physicians
  5. Registered nurses
  6. Financial Advisor
  7. Public relations specialist
  8. Entrepreneur
  9. Education administrator
  10. Human resources professional


Taking on an interdisciplinary studies program can be a lot of work. You’ll be looking out for yourself more than you would in a traditional degree program. But the increased freedom and flexibility are worth it for many students. You now know what is interdisciplinary studies. Let us know in the comment section the option you prefer. Single major? Double major? Interdisciplinary studies? General studies? Integrated studies? Dual degree? Or any other option.


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