Interdisciplinary Study and Dual Degrees

As with all studies at Reed, the interdisciplinary and dual degree programs derive their distinction from a sense of common intellectual pursuit. In addition to 22 departmentally based majors, Reed students have the opportunity to select a wide variety of interdisciplinary majors.

These interdisciplinary majors allow students to explore their interests beyond the constraints of a single approach or discipline and to develop creative solutions by looking at problems from new perspectives.

Specifically, Reed offers

  • five humanities courses
  • twelve established interdisciplinary majors
  • six dual degree programs with other institutions
  • special programs for pre-medical and pre-veterinary students.

In consultation with departmental faculty, students may also develop their own interdisciplinary program, and some students decide to pursue a double major. The rigorous nature of interdisciplinary, dual degree, and double majors requires careful planning with the faculty adviser and the departments involved to successfully meet all requirements.

Interdisciplinary Majors

image Reed offers twelve established interdisciplinary majors. These majors combine two or more fields of study and allow students to cross over traditional departmental boundaries. Admission to an interdisciplinary major requires approval by the appropriate interdisciplinary committee, and majors must satisfy selected departmental requirements in each field. In addition to these established majors, students may develop special ad hoc programs that link two disciplines if they meet with faculty approval.

American studies

American society and culture from the perspectives of several disciplines is the focus of American studies. Majors usually select a concentration in history, literature, or political science, but other concentrations are possible.

Biochemistry and molecular biology

The biochemistry and molecular biology major recognizes the increasing interconnectedness of the subject matter, objectives, and methodology of the two fields. Students are expected to declare this major by the end of their sophomore year in order to be able to fully meet the combined requirements of the program.


The chemistry-physics major offers an alternative to the traditional chemistry or physics major for students whose interests span these two fields. It provides a stronger foundation in physics than does the usual major in chemistry for students anticipating graduate study in chemical physics or theoretical physical chemistry. It also offers experience in theoretical and experimental chemistry beyond the traditional major in physics for students interested in molecular and solid-state physics or applied physics.



Students interested in both classics and religion may develop a course of study that combines these disciplines. The classics program offers students the study of Greek and Latin as language and literature, as well as the classical civilization of which they are a part. Students who combine it with the work in the religion department also examine the philosophy, theology, and literature of what human beings believe-and why.


The dance-theatre program is for the complete theatre artist, one who feels comfortable in all aspects of dance and theatre. The major provides a rich educational experience and prepares students for graduate study in both dance and theatre as well as for careers in the performing arts. Students may concentrate in one of several areas, including performance, choreography, teaching, or research.


Environmental Studies

The program in Environmental Studies (ES) is intended for students who wish to combine focused study in biology, chemistry, economics, history, or political science with interdisciplinary work on environmental themes across the natural sciences, history, and social sciences. Five courses of study are available, each concentrating in a home department with an environmental emphasis, augmented with cross-disciplinary requirements in ES. ES majors are identified with their home department as ES-Biology, ES-Chemistry, ES-Economics, ES-History, or ES-Political Science.

General literature

The general literature major allows students to pursue themes, periods, or genres that cross over various departments within the division of literature and languages. Majors design an individualized course of study, drawing on courses offered in each department that support their special area of interest. For example, the student might pursue autobiography, the Baroque or Classicism, or the nineteenth-century novel.


Students majoring in history-literature develop a program that includes specialized study in the history and literature of a particular period or one that pursues a specific problem from both literary and historical perspectives. In addition to other requirements, the history-literature major must complete four units in each division and a third year of foreign language.

International and comparative policy studies (ICPS)

FlagsThe international and comparative policy studies program offers a major involving interdisciplinary work in the areas of international relations, comparative policy analysis, and international economic development. Students develop a strong foundation in economics, political science, and societal relations while pursuing a specific problem that transcends departmental boundaries. Majors declare a home department that represents their primary interest area-political science, history, sociology, or economics-and must meet specific requirements of that department in addition to those of the ICPS program.


Reed offers a variety of linguistics courses that provide a strong foundation in the study of the form, variety, and social life of human language. Many departments offer linguistics-related courses that allow majors to develop interdisciplinary links to sociology, anthropology, English and foreign languages, philosophy, mathematics, psychology, and literature. Faculty research grounded in linguistics is strong at Reed and makes possible a depth of coursework and specialized study not often available at the undergraduate level.

Reed TheatreLiterature-theatre

The literature-theatre major is for students who wish to focus on playwriting and performance, as well as those whose interests lie in writing criticism of dramatic literature. Literature-theatre majors may pursue creative theses with a research component or an academic research project. Significant coursework in both departments is required and majors must complete a theatre crew requirement.


The interdisciplinary union of mathematics and economics allows students to gain a firm foundation in both fields while engaging in the application of mathematical concepts to problems of economics. The joint major is particularly useful for students who intend to do graduate work in economics.


The mathematics-physics major serves the needs of students whose major interests lie in the rich area between applied mathematics and theoretical physics and typically plan to go on to graduate work. This combined major allows students to consider the technological applications of physics that have profoundly transformed both the world and our perception of it in conjunction with mathematics, which is sometimes known as the "language of Nature."

Dual Degree Programs

Reed has affiliated with a number of cooperating institutions to offer students an opportunity to graduate with degrees from both institutions. These programs generally require a fifth year of study, with three years at Reed and two years at the participating institution, and lead to either a second undergraduate degree or a master's degree in the selected field. These programs expand the range of options available to students who seek advanced or technical work in a specialized field while pursuing Reed's undergraduate liberal arts program. There are currently four established dual degree programs at Reed.


Computer science

This five-year program leads to a bachelor of arts degree from Reed, and a bachelor of science degree in computer science from the University of Washington in five years. Admission to the program is limited to five students per year, based on the recommendation of Reed College.


Three cooperating institutions offer programs for the student who wishes to pursue a bachelor's degree in engineering, in addition to the Reed bachelor of arts degree. The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offer a bachelor's degree in engineering for students who successfully complete three years of an approved program at Reed. Specific course requirements that must be met before transfer to the cooperating institution include two years of physics, one or two years of chemistry, and two years of mathematics. Students spend two additional years at the engineering school, and the two degrees are awarded concurrently.

Forestry-environmental sciences

Reed CanyonA cooperative program with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University provides Reed students with a bachelor of arts from Reed and a master's degree in forestry or environmental management. The Duke program emphasizes forest management, science, and policy. The five-year program includes three years of study at Reed and two years at Duke. Any academic major may qualify for the program if the student has completed the required coursework at Reed, including work in biology, mathematics, and economics.

Pre-medical and pre-veterinary program

Although there is no formal pre-medical interdisciplinary major at Reed, students who are interested in pursuing a medical career receive considerable guidance and support in designing a program that will provide the best preparation for successful application to the medical or veterinary schools in which they are interested. Coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics meet the admission requirements of most medical programs, and students are also encouraged to complete a broad range of coursework in the humanities and social sciences. Reed students have been extremely successful in gaining admission to many of the top medical and veterinary schools in the country.

Visual arts

Students majoring in art may earn a bachelor of arts degree and bachelor of fine arts degree through a five-year program with Portland's Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). The first two years of the program are spent at Reed, studying art history and studio art and meeting general college distribution requirements. The following two years are spent at PNCA, where students concentrate on studio work in a variety of media. During the fifth year, students take additional coursework at Reed while completing a thesis through PNCA, with Reed faculty members serving as visiting advisers to the thesis project.

Return to Majors

etc image