Difference Between Major vs Minor

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It is not uncommon to hear the terms major and minor in relation to a college education. These are both types of degree programs that students may wish to seek. Major vs minor is something many students need to think about when making decisions about what to learn or what to focus their time on. Here is a look at what students may experience when it comes to making those decisions.


What is a Major?

A major is a type of degree program in which the student puts their primary focus. This is the area of study a student typically spends a lot of their time learning. Many majors require students to finish a group of core classes that focus on the specifics of that major. Some students may need to take additional courses beyond what their major is.

A major is typically paired with the degree program the student plans to pursue. When they meet with potential employers or submit a resume, it is typically the type of degree program the student may display.

For example, a student may earn a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) as their major. The bulk of their study and what they learn in college is in business administration.

Some popular majors include:

  • Economics
  • Business Administration
  • Nursing
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Communications
  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • English Language and Literature
  • Government or Political Science

What is double majoring?

A double major occurs when a student pursues and earns two major degree programs. Students earn one degree program with two majors. That is, the student earns a single degree program but has two concentrations within it. Students typically finish two sets of requirements for those programs and earn a single degree program.

How do I choose a major?

Students may wish to focus on what they hope to do in the future as a career to pick a major. Students may wish to consider their interests, the type of things they are passionate about, the way they plan to make their mark in the world, and their intellectual skills and interests to make a decision about what to major in.

May my major dictate my profession?

Your major could dictate the profession you pursue, but that does not always have to be the case. Sometimes students graduate with a degree that does not link directly to their career path. It may support the work they do or may not fit the same path at all. In some situations, students may wish to seek out a major that interests them and find out if they wish to work in that field. They may be unable to make that decision, in which case, they may change their mind down the road. That is acceptable and even expected.

May you change your major in college?

It is not uncommon for students to change their major during their college education. Some students may find classes too hard or may be overwhelming. Others may not like the career path that the specific major is likely to lead to and wish to change. Sometimes students don’t know what they want to do, but they need a change. These are just some of the reasons it may be beneficial to change your major.

What is a Minor?

A minor is a type of education concentration or specialization that may be related or not to your major. In many cases, it is a type of secondary type of education focus, whereas the major is the primary focus. Not all students make the decision to choose a minor, but it may help some to broaden their area of education and the skills they have available to them later in their career.

Many minor programs are smaller. That means that students typically do not finish as many credit hours in a minor as they would in a major. Many are under 30 credit hours, with some as few as 18 credit hours.

Sometimes students may finish a minor that supports their major. Other times, the two are very different, but in some way, the minor could support the needs of the major. Here are some examples of minor degree programs:

  • Business
  • Sociology
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • History
  • Foreign Language
  • Mathematics

For example, a student may earn a major in psychology and take a minor in sociology. Some may purchase a major in business administration and a minor in political science. There is a lot of flexibility in the use of minors. Sometimes students simply take a program that interests them and hope to use or benefit from it in some way in the future.

How do I choose a minor?

College minor selection may be dependent on a variety of factors. Students may wish to use a minor to help complement a major they are studying. For example, a student with a nursing major may wish to take a psychology minor to help support those skills. Other times, some may wish to choose a minor that helps them to fulfill a passion or pursue something that is interesting to them.

A minor may help to define or create a backup plan for their career. A student may wish to pursue a minor to help make them a potentially better choice for a company, such as offering additional skills that the employer may find valuable. Sometimes students select a minor simply because they have an interest in a topic.

Can you change your minor in college?

It is often possible to change your minor in college. Students may wish to do this when they change their minds or wish to pursue a different area of focus. In some situations, students may be able to change their minor just by altering the courses they take. Other times they may need to speak with their advisor to learn more about the process. Changing a minor is not uncommon, but it is a significant shift in the courses you may be taking one year after the other.

Should I get a college minor?

Students may find a number of benefits from earning a college minor. Depending on what they pursue and seek out, some students may find that a minor allows them to learn additional or new skills outside of their major focus, which could relate to their future career goals or not. Other times, a minor may help to boost a student’s resume by offering a different area of potential skill for that individual.

Minors may provide opportunities to pursue areas of interest. Some students, for example, may wish to take a minor in dance because they enjoy it, but they could be pursuing a major in business. Other times, a minor may help with keeping career options open and more flexible, allowing students to create a second potential area for themselves to work in if they may be unsure of their major.

Major vs Minor: What’s the Difference?

When considering a major vs minor, consider what both bring to the table. A major degree program is an area of significant focus when earning a bachelor’s or a master’s. This is where much of the time a student studies is likely to focus on. A minor could be very valuable and important, but it is an area where students typically focus less time.

Here are some other ways major vs minor compare.

A major typically:

  • Requires a full course load which generally requires students to finish a specific number of courses and sometimes additional courses.
  • Involves a concentrated focus on a specific area of education, which often leads to their career objectives
  • Is the area the student is likely to pursue their interests
  • Many colleges and universities require a major to earn a college degree program, such as a bachelor’s or master’s

A minor typically:

  • Requires fewer credit hours to earn, which means fewer hours of study and limited courses
  • May supplement a major to extend additional education beyond where they are learning in their major
  • May not relate to their major at all but may be an area of interest the student wishes to pursue
  • A minor is not a requirement in many situations

It may not be necessary to earn a minor in college. Many students do not. Others find that earning a minor is easy to do simply by taking a few extra courses related to their field of study. If you are unsure how this may work for you or what to expect, work with your financial counselor to help you to decide if a major, and if so, which may be the optimal route for you. Then, you may wish to consider the options in a minor.

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