The Difference Between College Majors and Minors, and If You Actually Need One

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You may have heard the terms “major” and “minor” mentioned when talking about college. Some students know what they want to major or minor in before even applying to college, and others never even declare one. So, what exactly are majors and minors, and why are they relevant?

A major essentially determines what you will study, which classes you will take, and which college or school you’ll be enrolled in if you’re at a university or larger college. Once you graduate, it might determine which career you pursue. For some occupations though, employers evaluate candidates more on skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving rather than their college major.

physics major

A minor is similar to a major in that it determines what you will study, but it usually requires less courses, credits, and commitment. Students choose a minor for different reasons; it provides the opportunity to pursue another topic, complements a student’s selected major, or builds additional skills for a certain career. Although your major is the primary focus, a minor can help a potential employer see who you are as a person and also the initiative you took to pursue an additional academic subject.

You may have heard of a double major, which is great way to pair two passions and to strengthen your degree – but it also requires double the work! If you want to pursue a double major, you should make this decision early in your college career in order to ensure you have adequate time to take all the required classes. Although about a quarter of students who declare a double major pick subjects that complement each other and have overlapping course requirements, two unrelated majors can display a student’s breadth of knowledge to potential employers.1

college graduate

Now that you have some background information on what majors and minors are, here are some tips on how to choose one:

1. Explore what’s available to you.
2. Pursue your passion and do what you love.
3. Ask yourself these three questions: What are my current interests? What are my goals? What’s important to meet those goals?
4. Talk to your academic adviser.
5. Bonus: Consider which subjects your school specializes in or is well-known for.

And remember, not everyone’s decision or reasons will be the same. Always weigh your options, ask for advice if you need it, and make an informed decision. It might seem overwhelming now, but don’t stress over choosing a major or minor. Consider this: Most freshmen enter college not knowing exactly what they want to study, and even after declaring a major, many remain uncertain and might end up switching down the road. It’s okay to be undecided and figure it out as you go along.

1. http://chronicle.com/blogs/next/2012/10/11/the-worrying-rise-of-double-majors/

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