What Is the Importance of a College Minor?

C. Mitchell

A college minor can be important in three primary respects: as a way to gain further depth in a major study, to prepare for a certain career path, or to explore academic interests or passions. Most of the time, university students can choose to minor in anything they could also major in. Minors are rarely ever required, which makes their importance primarily one of personal gain.

Minor degrees might help students explore areas of interest or prepare for a particular career path.
Minor degrees might help students explore areas of interest or prepare for a particular career path.

The majority of colleges and universities are set up on a scheme of major courses of study. Minors are essentially “mini-majors,” where students can devote a significant amount of time to a certain discipline without the burdens normally associated with actually majoring in them. Majors usually involve comprehensive exams and overarching written projects. A college minor, on the other hand, usually requires little more than the successful completion of a certain roster of classes. Completed minors usually appear on a student’s diploma and official transcripts.

For many, the most important aspect of the college minor is its demonstration of deep knowledge. Students often choose to minor in fields that complement their major. A chemistry major may complete a biology minor, for instance, or a European Studies major might choose to minor in French or German. Choosing a college minor that is related to other courses enables students to make cross-disciplinary connections and see relationships in their coursework that others might miss.

The minor can also be a good way to round out an education in preparation for a certain career. Students hoping to engage in nuanced careers like environmental law or technical writing often try to leverage their college minor to give them an added edge. Employers and graduate school programs are often impressed by students who demonstrate motivation and career-oriented discipline early on.

A college minor can also be important to developing personal interests and passions. Minor programs usually allow students to really delve into a subject area. Using the college minor as an opportunity to explore an unknown discipline can be of great importance, particularly to someone who may not have the chance again. Actually majoring in something like studio art or photography may not make sense for someone who intends to work in the corporate world, but minoring can be a good compromise.

One of the biggest benefits of the college minor is its capacity to demonstrate both discipline and well roundedness. This is usually the case no matter how or why it was pursued. A job applicant with a seemingly unrelated minor may get a hiring edge, if only because his or her application is more interesting.

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Discussion Comments


One of the most effective uses of minors I've seen is at a university that encouraged students to minor in physics. A journalism major, for example, could minor in physics with the goal of writing scientific article or for physics publications.

That helped in at least two ways. First, the dwindling physics department was able to get some more students involved in that discipline. Second, those students could effectively specialize and learn a marketable skill that is somewhat rare.

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