What Is a Concentration in College?

In many fields, you can have a concentration in a particular area. Learn more about how concentrations differ from majors and when to declare one.
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  • A concentration is a field of study within a chosen major.
  • Areas of concentration can impact your marketability when seeking employment.
  • Many employers do care about your area of concentration in competitive fields.

Most college students declare a major and a minor. But what if there's a specific area of study in your major you want to focus on? Introducing concentrations.

A concentration is a narrower field of study within a major that allows you to specialize in a deeper level of your field and further customize your learning. But how exactly does a concentration differ from a minor? And should you declare a concentration in college?

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What Is a Concentration?

A concentration is a more focused area of study within a major. Though it varies from college to college, concentrations usually make up around 30% of a major's requirements.

A concentration differs from a minor, which on average is only 18-22 credits. What's more, a minor can be in any field, while a concentration must be within your major.

If you decide to declare a concentration as an undergraduate or graduate student, expect to take a few extra courses in your field. For example, you might declare a concentration in gender studies while majoring in sociology or in environmental accounting while majoring in accounting.

Although concentrations aren't typically required by colleges, they can be useful because of the significant gains they may present in your future career.

What Is the Difference Between a Major, Minor, and Concentration?

There is a significant difference between a college major, a college minor, and a concentration. A concentration is an area of emphasis within your major, whereas a major is a specific area of study you decide to focus on in college.

Your major not only impacts your college track but also determines your eligibility for jobs in your intended career. One-third to one-half of your coursework will fall under this area of study.

A minor is a secondary area of study that does not have to be related to your major's area of study. Many universities do not require you to declare a minor. Students often select a minor because the small course load required for it entails a comparatively smaller commitment (though you may instead double major).

What Are the Benefits of a Concentration?

There are several benefits to choosing an area of concentration within your major. Like minors, a concentration is typically not required. They can, however, help you optimize your college experience and make you more marketable when you enter the job market.

If you're majoring in business, for example, a concentration in accounting could lead you on the path to becoming a certified public accountant. It can also demonstrate your specific interests and expertise, which, in turn, can help you stand out when applying for jobs.

What to Consider When Choosing a Concentration

There are several factors you'll need to consider before deciding to choose a concentration, including your academic interests and long-term career goals. You should also speak to an academic advisor and consider how a concentration will impact your graduation plan and career goals.

1  Your Graduation Date

Students considering a concentration should figure out how it may impact their graduation date. If you're selecting a concentration earlier in your degree plan, you may find it has little to no impact on your graduation track.

But if you're further along in your studies, you may find that a concentration pushes back your graduation date by a semester or two. In that case, you'll have to decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

2  Your Academic Interests

A key part of choosing a concentration is to consider your academic interests within that field. You'll need to take many courses in this area, so opting for classes that excite you intellectually will help propel you through the workload.

3  Your Career Goals

Keeping your career goals in mind is important when selecting an area of concentration. Before you enter the job market, you want to set yourself up for success in a field you find interesting.

Choosing the right area of concentration can help market you to those areas of specialty and help you find work that's both meaningful and personally rewarding.

4  Course Descriptions and Requirements

Be sure to look at the course descriptions and the requirements for declaring a concentration. Looking carefully can help you decide whether a particular concentration complements your academic strengths.

Additionally, confirm that the courses align with your career goals.

How to Declare a Concentration

There are several steps you need to take to declare a concentration in college. Each university has its own specific process. For example, depending on the school, you may need to notify your dean, the chair of your department, or someone else. It may also require specific paperwork.

Your first step should be to meet with your academic advisor. Your advisor can guide you quickly through your college's process and turn what might otherwise be a lengthy process into a relatively short one.

It is crucial to know when you should declare your concentration. Typically, colleges ask you to declare during your third semester or at the start of your fourth semester.

Should You Declare a Concentration?

There's a lot to consider when deciding whether you should pursue a concentration in your major. Although concentrations are only a defined course of study and not listed on a diploma, many students still find them beneficial.

Concentrations are a great feature to highlight in an internship, on a resume, and in a job interview. Students who benefit from a concentration are those who would like to work with experts in the industry and gain specialized knowledge.

You may not benefit from an area of concentration if you're already in a very specific field, like electrical engineering, or if you're unsure what specific area you might like to focus on.

Also, if the concentration doesn't give you an advantage when starting your career, it might be better to skip the added coursework. Finally, if you're past your third semester, you might find it too late in your degree plan to pursue a concentration.

Ultimately, it's up to you to figure out whether a concentration in college is worth the time and effort.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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