What is a Minor in College and
Why You Should Earn One?

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Are you considering enrolling in an online degree program? Whether you intend to take classes in person or online, it’s important to understand the various terms associated with higher education. Familiarity with these concepts will help ensure your academic experience adequately meets standards for your chosen career field.

While many prospective students are familiar with majors, most colleges and universities allow those enrolled to select minors as well. Minors are typically secondary areas of study used to diversify learning. These programs provide opportunities to participate in coursework in other disciplines that may or may not be related to chosen majors. This allows students to explore personal interests and/or possible backup career options.

These programs work similarly to majors, with a set number of relevant courses required. Expectations for completion vary from institution to institution, however. Some establish very specific curriculums with set class lists, while others allow students more freedom to select generally related courses. As a result, it’s always a good idea to review expectations thoroughly when adding a minor, as well as considering how the additional work may impact projected graduation timelines.

Minors are ultimately subordinate to majors, but students should still consider their options carefully and be very intentional in their selections. Secondary areas of study can still have a significant impact on future career prospects. They are also likely to help expand upon how those enrolled view potential employment and life in general.

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What Minors Might a College Have Available?

Colleges and universities may have a wide variety of minor areas of study available. In most cases, however, minors are offered in the same subjects that majors are.

Some of the most common options include:

Do You Need to Have a Minor in College?

College minors will also vary in difficulty. While every program will require effort and attention, some may be simpler to complete than others. Factors that can indicate overall difficulty include the number of required courses, the average GPA of enrolled students, and the amount of study hours needed to pass. Business administration, psychology, education, public relations, and journalism are generally considered some of the simplest minors to complete.

Simplicity and difficulty are relative, however, as certain subjects come more naturally to some students than to others. As a result, it’s imperative that you consider your personal strengths and interests carefully before selecting a minor.

It’s also important to realize that the value offered by college minors also varies from subject to subject. While all selections tend to provide opportunities to learn helpful knowledge and skills, certain areas of study are more likely to prove beneficial in professional settings than others. Business, multimedia journalism, computer science, management, and creative writing are often considered some of the most valuable minors available. Ultimately, however, usefulness will depend heavily upon your personal interests and career goals.

Most colleges and universities do not require students to obtain minors in order to graduate with a bachelor's degree. Minors are generally considered additional, secondary study that may be beneficial but is not necessary for academic success.

A popular alternative to designating a minor is earning a double major. Many students actually opt to work toward two majors at the same time instead of selecting minors. This is because they often look better on resumes, drawing more attention from prospective employers and graduate school recruiters. Double majors are particularly helpful in highly competitive career fields as the additional coursework will stand out among other job candidates.

The usefulness of a double major or minor area of study will largely depend on your individual situation. Factors that should impact your decision include personal interests, time commitment, professional usefulness, and career applicability.

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Why Would a Student Earn a Minor?

Earning minors is generally worthwhile for students who want to gain knowledge and training in subjects that are related to their majors. Benefits include personal fulfillment and potentially positive impacts on future employment. However, some students earn minors that aren’t remotely related to their major, and they gain advantages, as well. These include a larger breadth of knowledge and personal fulfillment.

Earning minors is a great way to attain new skills that can be used in and outside of the workplace. Many choose these programs to pursue personal growth or develop abilities that are useful in their daily lives. For example, a student with a deaf uncle is likely to find a major in American Sign Language extremely useful. While majoring in this subject might interfere with career aspirations, a minor can serve as the perfect alternative. As you can see, students may use minors to pursue personal interests and/or hone various hobbies.

Minors can also play a significant role when applying for professional employment. Many students benefit from selecting minors in subordinate disciplines that can supplement their primary areas of study. In this way, those enrolled are able to gain specialization in complimentary subjects that can set them apart when competing for professional work. Academic minors are regularly used to bolster resumes and stand out among job candidates.

Additionally, in some situations, earning a minor in certain subjects may be the only option. Not all colleges and universities offer majors in every area of study. Sometimes, enrolling in a minor program is the only means of acquiring the designed knowledge and skills.

What are the Possible Benefits of Earning a Minor in College?

There are many possible benefits associated with earning minors in college. Not only can they enhance and complement learning related to your primary area of study, but they often emphasize your work ethic to potential employers. They help diversify skill sets, which can result in increased marketability across multiple career fields. Additionally, minors allow you to explore other subjects of personal interest, as well as preparing you to communicate better with people outside of your expertise.

The overall usefulness of a minor is often heavily dependent upon your chosen career field. Some professions look very favorably upon minors, especially complementary ones, while others do not. You can determine the value of minors in your prospective field by researching academic requirements and standards.

Regardless of your intended profession, obtaining a minor often demonstrates admirable traits. Students with minors are often perceived as going above and beyond the minimum requirements to graduate. This additional effort can impress potential employers, especially if the knowledge and skills acquired are potentially applicable to your new role. Minors in business, computer science, and cyber security are great examples of subjects that can be useful in almost any field and industry.

Those majoring in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) subjects may especially benefit from earning minors in liberal arts. Professionals in these fields sometimes struggle to communicate their ideas to others working in different disciplines. As a result, prospective employers often appreciate when candidates have backgrounds in communication and audience awareness. Effective communication skills and persuasive writing are helpful in nearly every profession.

How Many Credits are in a College Minor?

In many cases, minors consist of about 18 credit hours of coursework. By contrast, students working towards majors can expect to log upward of 30 credit hours. This means that students pursuing minors can expect to take roughly six or seven related classes. Depending on the subject, minor courses can sometimes count towards general liberal arts education requirements, making it possible to work on both tracks simultaneously.

It is important to note, however, that major and minor requirements can vary significantly from institution to institution. They may also differ based on subject area, with some disciplines necessitating more study hours than others. As a result, prospective students should research expectations carefully before enrolling in minor programs.

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Can You Earn Multiple Minors in College?

While it is possible to earn multiple minors in college, it’s not necessarily advisable. Typically, the time and money spent studying two or more secondary subjects could be better spent pursuing dual majors or professional certifications. Both of these tend to draw more positive attention from potential employers than additional academic minors.

Having multiple minors does not always result in a more impressive resume. In fact, including too many minor areas of study can sometimes indicate an inability to focus on a particular area of interest. As most companies and organizations are seeking employees who are dedicated and dependable, it is possible for some hiring managers to misinterpret multiple minors as fickleness.

Does Your Minor Appear on Your Diploma?

Most colleges and universities do not indicate student majors and minors on higher education diplomas. While there are exceptions, standard practice among the mass majority of academic institutions discourages this practice.

Majors and minors are, however, often recorded on official student transcripts. Most colleges and universities allow students and alumni to request this document at any time. Official versions may be obtained after paying a fee, although unofficial versions are often available for free. Notably, official academic transcripts are what the majority of prospective employers are likely to request during the hiring process. Those transferring to other institutions or applying to enter graduate and doctoral programs will also need to provide copies of official transcripts.

Possible Downsides of Earning a Minor

While there are many potential benefits associated with earning a minor, it’s important to be aware of possible downsides as well. One of the most significant drawbacks is that it can cause students to graduate later. Most undergraduate degrees consist of 120 credit hours of coursework. This includes approximately 50-60 credits of general education requirements, as well as 30-40 credits of study in major subjects. This leaves only 20-40 credit hours to be used taking electives and/or pursuing a minor. These hours are also meant to provide some flexibility for students, allowing them to change majors without significantly increasing the time to graduation. As a result, it is certainly possible to earn minors within the standard graduation timeframe, but it leaves very little room for adjustments and could result in the need for longer enrollment.

Similarly, the cost of education might increase when adding a minor. If additional credit hours are needed, students may need to pay the difference. This can be a significant expense, especially if it requires an additional semester of enrollment.

Another possible downside is increased stress. Students who add minors, especially in challenging subjects, may struggle to manage their course loads. This can be extremely overwhelming for some and may result in poorer grades in all classes.

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