A Comprehensive Overview of Interdisciplinary Studies

An interdisciplinary studies program is an invaluable way to gain knowledge and skills across multiple disciplines. In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of what interdisciplinary studies are and how they can benefit you. 

What is interdisciplinary studies? 

Interdisciplinary studies (IDS) is an educational approach that integrates two or more academic disciplines into a single course of study. IDS programs focus on the integration of theories and practices from different fields to create a holistic learning experience for students. The goal is to give students the ability to think critically about complex topics from multiple perspectives, as well as develop problem-solving skills that will help them in their professional lives. 

Why are interdisciplinary studies important?

Interdisciplinary studies have become an increasingly valued and sought-after field of study. At its core, interdisciplinary studies are a form of scholarly inquiry that crosses multiple disciplines and applies multi-disciplinary approaches to analyze and solve complex problems. Interdisciplinary studies encompass topics from a wide range of professional fields, from humanities to sciences, sociology to management, engineering to computing sciences – it takes an array of traditional and emerging disciplines and combines them into a meaningful whole. Interdisciplinary studies are important because they draw attention away from isolated areas of knowledge, recognize connections between different fields, and ultimately offer solutions that look more comprehensively at our world’s most pressing problems. Not only is this type of learning better suited for tackling bigger questions, it also fosters creativity and encourages a holistic learning approach in students.

The benefits of pursuing an interdisciplinary education

Pursuing an interdisciplinary education can have numerous benefits, such as gaining a more holistic understanding of the world, developing analytic skills applicable to a variety of fields, and seeing connections between disciplines that may have otherwise been invisible — all essential tools for thriving in a complex and multifaceted world. For example:

  • Increased understanding of global issues – As students explore multiple disciplines, they gain insights into global issues such as poverty, climate change, social justice, and much more. This gives them a better understanding of the world around them so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to their career paths or other life choices.
  • Improved critical thinking and problem-solving abilities – By engaging in an interdisciplinary curriculum, students learn how to think outside the box and draw connections between different subjects that they may not have seen before. This helps them become better equipped at solving complex problems in any field they pursue after graduation.
  • Greater cultural awareness – By exploring different cultures through various academic fields such as anthropology or sociology, students gain greater insight into diverse societies around the world, which can be beneficial in both personal growth and professional development. 

The different types of interdisciplinary studies programs available

Interdisciplinary studies programs are increasingly in high demand as they have the potential to build new bridges between disciplines and give students more control over their baccalaureate curriculum. Students have a wide variety of options when looking for an interdisciplinary studies program, including an individually created course of study or a pre-packed set of courses offered by a particular institution. The University of Miami, for instance, provides an interdisciplinary studies in AI program that includes courses like deep learning, natural language processing and data mining. Then there are general programs such as interdisciplinary bachelor’s degrees, which allow students to choose from core classes and select from electives outside their specific field of interest to acquire deeper knowledge. Regardless of which program one choses, there is no doubt that interdisciplinary studies pave the way for a uniquely enriched educational experience.

How to choose the right interdisciplinary studies program for me?

Choosing the right interdisciplinary studies program can mean the difference between an enlightening learning experience and a forgettable one. Taking into account your interests, aptitudes, and goals can be a great starting point. Consider what topics you want to learn about and how you will integrate them in a meaningful way. Many programs provide options for specialization or minors that can enhance your education. Do not be afraid to ask questions to gain insight into what a particular school has to offer. Evaluate the curriculum, faculty members, available activities, qualifications of instructors -– all are important when making this crucial decision. Whichever program you ultimately choose, remember that it should expand your knowledge and empower you to pursue your dreams!

Tips for success in an interdisciplinary studies program

Having success in an interdisciplinary studies program begins with having a strong grasp of the fundamentals of each subject matter. Depending on the type of program you are in, this includes understanding basic concepts in areas such as literature, mathematics, philosophy, science and history.

When approaching assignments, it is also important to think outside the box. Instead of viewing the different topics in isolation, practice finding ways that they are interconnected and how a wider perspective can create innovative new ideas. As these programs require great amounts of self-discipline, staying organized and planning ahead for assignments helps ensure that major projects are successfully accomplished on time.

Interdisciplinary studies give students diverse perspectives, which can be essential tools to sharpen critical thinking skills while stimulating creative abstract thinking abilities. Learning to synthesize information from multiple fields can be extremely beneficial and help lay the foundations for success beyond college.

What can you do with an interdisciplinary studies degree?

With an interdisciplinary studies degree, you can pursue a variety of career paths. Depending on your particular focus, you are equipped to take on roles in fields such as business, health care, and education. In business, you may be able to draw upon knowledge from different areas of study to create unique solutions. Additionally, you could work in data analysis or operations management. In healthcare, you could work alongside medical professionals in roles such as patient advocate or community health educator. You could also explore healthcare administration careers or research opportunities. Education is another field your skillset would be well-suited for –- you may find yourself teaching at the elementary school level all the way up through college courses. Depending on your specialization within the field of interdisciplinary studies, there may also be other niche opportunities available to you.

How to pursue an interdisciplinary studies degree

For those who are passionate about an interdisciplinary education, there are several ways to pursue your objectives.

Many universities offer degree programs specifically tailored towards interdisciplinarity such as “integrated science” or “intercultural relationships,” while others may allow you to create your own curriculum by combining courses from two separate departments within their institution (e.g., English literature and political science). Additionally, some institutions also offer specializations within certain majors where you can choose classes from other departments related to your major (e.g., psychology and sociology).

For example, the Gallatin School at NYU recognizes the importance of personalizing education for each student and lets student create their own major. Guided by faculty advisers, students can craft a unique learning experience that incorporates multiple disciplines or perspectives on areas not offered in traditional departments.

Similarly, Harvard’s undergraduate education ensures that students receive a broad liberal arts and sciences education. Students can explore connections between different fields such as literature, art, computer science, mathematics, and more. Students also have the opportunity to pursue a minor in a complementary subject or take courses outside their major. Harvard also encourages students to pursue research projects that explore topics across disciplines and even helps them find professors who are willing to mentor such projects.

Lastly, many schools build an interdisciplinary studies program into their core curriculum. For example, Columbia University’s Core Curriculum offers a strong interdisciplinary studies program. Through the Core Curriculum, students are able to explore connections between different disciplines such as literature, philosophy, history, music, art, and science. Students also have the opportunity to take on independent research projects that span multiple subject areas and can even specialize in one area through a concentration. Additionally, Columbia provides guidance and resources for those interested in pursuing dialogues across disciplines.

What if my school does not offer interdisciplinary studies ?

If your school does not offer an interdisciplinary studies program, there are still options available for you to pursue an interdisciplinary education.

  • Dual Major — One option is to pursue two majors that complement each other. This allows you to focus on a particular discipline while still being exposed to different perspectives and skillsets from another field. While this may require more coursework, it can provide substantial rewards in terms of knowledge and career potential.
  • Minors — Pursuing a minor can also help you get an interdisciplinary education. Many universities offer minors in various fields that you can pursue alongside your primary major. This way, you can supplement your core knowledge without the extra commitment of a dual major.
  • Self-Designed Paths — If none of the above options are available to you, then consider designing a self-directed path of study on your own. You can research and read up on a variety of topics that interest you, or develop your own research projects in order to gain an interdisciplinary education. This type of learning path may require more self-discipline and dedication, but the rewards can be great. Simply taking elective courses across various departments will still give you exposure to different ideas that could prove beneficial for future endeavors! 

For tips on choosing a major, check TUN’s interview with Dr. Theodorea Regina Berry, dean of the University of Central Florida’s College of Undergraduate Studies and vice provost of student learning and academic success here, or watch the video below.


Interdisciplinary studies offer a unique and enriching educational experience that can be applied to many different career paths. With the right program, you’ll have the tools and knowledge necessary to pursue your dreams. It is important to consider what topics interest you most, as well as how they will fit into an interdisciplinary degree plan when selecting a program. In order for success in this type of learning environment, it is also essential that one possess strong fundamental understanding of each subject matter along with critical thinking skills and creative abstract reasoning abilities. An interdisciplinary studies degree provides students with diverse perspectives, which are invaluable assets in any professional field or setting.

The University Network