Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Financial Aid for Joint Degree Programs Works


Join your joint degree with financial aid. See more college pictures.
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

So, you're not satisfied with just going to med school and becoming a doctor. You're thinking: Why can't I be a lawyer, too? Or an architect? Maybe you want the opportunity to decide between two fields that are equally fascinating to you. Or, more realistically, you need skills from two degree programs to help you in your future career. Perhaps your ambition is to be a lawyer who uses the courts to protect the environment, and you think scientific credentials would better equip you for such a job. Or, you have a passion for innovative engineering, and you think business training will help you to eventually run your own company -- so you won't have to defer to some pinstriped number cruncher who doesn't have a clue what your company does.

Fortunately, an increasing number of colleges and universities understand your needs and are offering joint degree programs. Some offer the chance to get two degrees from different departments at the same school, while others allow you to study at two different institutions.

The precise number of such programs in the United States and overseas is hard to find, but just about all of the top academic institutions -- from Yale to University of California, Los Angeles -- offer them. Stanford University's law school alone offers 27 different joint degrees [source: Stanford]. The programs are mostly graduate level, but a few schools offer them for undergraduates, too. One big advantage of a joint degree program is that it can put you on the cutting-edge convergence of two fields. Another advantage is that you can earn two degrees in tandem more quickly, which saves you time and money.

Does that sound great to you? Probably, but there's just one catch, and it can be a big one, unless your Uncle Ned left you a hefty trust fund to cover your schooling. How do you pay for a joint degree program? Financial aid eligibility can be a maddening, complicated morass for joint degree programs, particularly if you choose a program in which you study at more than one school. And unfortunately, the financial aid possibilities at different schools vary enormously. That's why we're going to give you some insights on what sort of aid deals you may be able to obtain. But first, here's a little more information about joint degree programs, to help you decide whether it's the right option for you.