Do You Need a Minor in College? Pros and Cons
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- Most colleges do not require a minor to earn a bachelor's degree.
- A minor can complement your major and help job applicants stand out.
- Before declaring a minor, weigh the costs against the benefits.
- Choose a minor based on your interests, goals, and major.
"What's your major?" It's a question every college student has heard at least once. But people rarely ask about your minor.
College students pursue a minor for all kinds of reasons. Some choose a minor that complements their major, while others use their minor to explore their interests. A minor can also help you on the job market and on grad school applications — though it's not guaranteed.
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Undergraduates need a major to graduate, but most colleges don't require a minor. For example, the University of Southern California website states, "USC does not require students to complete a minor."
Similarly, the University of Washington website says, "You are not required to have a minor, but you may complete up to three in addition to a major."
If you don't need a minor in college, why should you do one? At many schools, a minor requires 16-24 credits — and that's on top of the credits needed for your major and other classes. So are the benefits of a minor truly worth the time and cost?
What Are the Pros and Cons of a College Minor?
There are some clear benefits to earning a minor. Undergrads can complement their major and develop interdisciplinary strengths with a minor. What's more, a minor lets students explore fields outside their major.
A minor might even help you out after graduation as you look for jobs.
Nevertheless, there are some definite drawbacks to pursuing a minor. College students need to weigh the costs and benefits before deciding to minor — and what to minor in.
Pro: A Minor Can Complement Your Major
Complementing your major with a minor tops the list of benefits. Undergrads can think strategically about their major.
A business major might benefit from a Spanish minor, for example. And STEM majors can strengthen their communication and reasoning skills with an English or history minor.
Students can also support their major with a minor in a similar field. A political science major with a history minor builds strong analytical and writing skills. A marketing major with a minor in psychology combines research skills with an understanding of human behavior.
Con: Minors Require More Credits
Earning a bachelor's degree requires at least 120 credits. At many colleges, undergrads complete 50-60 credits of general education requirements and 30-40 credits to earn their major. That leaves another 20-40 credits for electives or a minor.
Adding a minor might mean adding more credits to your degree, which can mean more time and money than the minor might be worth.
Pro: Minors Let Students Explore Other Interests
College is a great time to explore various academic disciplines. If you've always been interested in music or theater, for example, a minor lets you study a field with less commitment than a major does.
Students majoring in business, engineering, or computer science can boost their creative skills with a visual arts minor. A minor in gender studies or Black studies can give students a new perspective on society, as well as building valuable soft skills like communication and problem-solving.
Con: Minors Can Increase Stress
Adding a challenging minor on top of a full course load can leave students overwhelmed. It can also contribute to burnout. College students often find themselves pulled in multiple directions — especially since many students work while in school.
If pursuing a minor leaves you spread too thin, it might not be worth it.
Pro: Minors Can Help After Graduation
Will a minor help you land a job after graduation? Probably not. Most hiring managers don't look for specific minors (or even majors, in many cases) when evaluating job applicants.
That said, employers do care a lot about breadth and depth of learning, according to a 2021 survey from the American Association of Colleges and Universities. A minor, then, can build the in-demand skills employers want to see.
For example, 94% of employers say it's important for college graduates to be versatile and adaptable, while 92% prioritize a well-rounded education and exposure to a variety of academic disciplines. A minor can help demonstrate these strengths.
Con: A Minor Might Push Back Your Graduation Date
For students nearing the end of their bachelor's degree, adding a minor might mean pushing back your graduation date.
Consider a junior on track to graduate next year. Adding a 20-credit minor on top of requirements for their major could add an extra semester to their degree.
Is a minor worth the extra time and tuition money? It depends on the student — but more likely than not it won't be.
5 Tips for Choosing a Minor in College
Let's say after considering the pros and cons, you want to earn a minor. Which one should you choose? Here are some tips to find the right minor for you.
1. Explore Your Interests
Before choosing a minor, figure out your interests and strengths. General education requirements expose students to many academic disciplines. They're also a great way to find your minor.
If you're drawn to a particular field or department, consider taking more classes and declaring a minor.
2. Consider Your Major
Choosing your major can also help you choose a minor. If you're torn between two majors, you can always minor in one — or consider a double major.
Once you've picked a major, think about which fields might strengthen your major. Alternatively, choose a minor that's different from your major to give yourself a well-rounded, interdisciplinary education.
3. Look at Your Goals
Are you targeting jobs in a particular field? Or do you plan to go to grad school? Your minor can help you reach those goals.
For example, if you want to work in business, a minor like statistics or mathematics can demonstrate your analytical chops. If you're heading to grad school, your minor can help meet prerequisite requirements or show the admissions committee your strengths.
4. Check Your Transcript
Before declaring a minor, check your transcript — you might already have enough credits for a minor without needing to add a class.
Many schools let students declare multiple minors. So consider declaring minors in areas where you've met the requirements. That way you'll get credit for the courses you've already taken.
5. Talk to an Academic Advisor
If you're still stuck, make an appointment with your academic advisor. Advisors can recommend minors based on your major and transcripts.
They can also help you decide not to choose a minor. After all, most colleges don't require a minor to graduate, so many students decide not to minor.
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