Academics & Schools

Interdisciplinary programs

Washington University in St. Louis’ medium size makes it possible for students to study with world-class faculty who collaborate across the curriculum. The university’s teachers frequently design interdisciplinary programs and cross-school partnerships. The intermingling of academic disciplines can energize new pursuits and discoveries, so the university encourages students and faculty to create new combinations.

Many Washington University undergraduate students pursue combined studies, finding it possible to graduate with more than one major and/or minor. Among seniors who graduated last May, 65 percent earned a major and a minor, or more than one major. More than one-third completed requirements for two majors; some of them earned two degrees from different Washington University schools.

Ways to combine your undergraduate interests:

  • Major in one subject and minor in another (for example: computer engineering and art; accounting and German; classics and communication design) This approach gives students an intensive focus in one subject and a solid introduction in another.
  • Two majors, one degree (for example: Bachelor of Arts with majors in history and French.) This combination provides equal depth in two subject areas. Or, students can earn one degree with two majors from different schools. (for example: Bachelor of Arts with a major in English literature from the College of Arts & Sciences and a second major in healthcare management from the Olin Business School.)
  • Two degrees from two different schools (for example: Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from the College of Arts & Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the School of Engineering & Applied Science.) This program may require five years of study.
  • Combined undergraduate and graduate degrees (for example: an undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master of Science in Finance from the Olin Business School.) These programs have special application and admissions requirements. The time needed to complete these programs will vary, depending on the program pursued.

Many of the university’s programs are interdisciplinary by nature. By school, the university’s interdisciplinary programs include:

Arts & Sciences
Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Barbara Schaal wrote, “My experiences have repeatedly reminded me of the importance of interdisciplinary approaches. It is often more difficult to find the answers we seek if we only examine an issue through one lens, if we only employ one set of principles or theories.” A wide range of undergraduate majors and minors, graduate degrees, joint- and dual-degree graduate programs and interdisciplinary programs are available in Arts & Sciences:

Brown School
All of the Brown School’s degree programs are interdisciplinary and focus on the critical thinking skills needed to understand and address the complex social and public health challenges faced by communities large and small.

School of Engineering & Applied Science
Today’s college students want to have an impact. They want to contribute to solving national and international challenges in areas like health, energy, environment, security and poverty. They understand they are citizens in a global society. Engineering is becoming a discipline of choice for those who enjoy math and science, no matter what career path they ultimately choose. You find today’s engineering graduates pursuing careers in medicine, law, business, architecture and public policy, as well as engineering.

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Innovation and collaboration are at the core of the Sam Fox School’s mission of interdisciplinary study and practice. Design and the visual arts play significant roles in inspiring solutions to social, cultural and environmental concerns, and have formulated an educational model that is flexible and attuned to the global realities of our complex century. An undergraduate degree from the Sam Fox School can be combined with a second major or minor from any of the university’s other schools.

School of Law
Students can design a joint degree at the School of Law to meet their individual interests by combining law with another master’s program in the university. The School of Law and the participating departments work together so that a student can earn a JD and a master’s or doctoral degree in another discipline in considerably less time than needed to pursue each degree separately.

School of Medicine
The medical school offers options to combine a medical degree with other degrees through joint degree programs. Options are:

Biology and Biomedical Sciences
Prospective students apply to the interdepartmental Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, not to an individual department. Students are admitted into a specific program but may change their program affiliation if their research interests change.

Programs in this division include:

Olin Business School
Several of Olin Business School’s undergraduate majors and graduate degrees are interdisciplinary and combine Olin course work with closely related electives from other areas of Washington University. Options vary by program.