What Is a Minor in College?

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What Is a Minor in College?
portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
By Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on August 2, 2021

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During my first year in college, I agonized over my major. Should I stick with the sciences or switch to the humanities? Should I earn a BS or a BA degree?

One thought never crossed my mind: What should I minor in?

That's for good reason. Most colleges do not require students to choose a minor. While every undergrad must eventually declare a major, you can earn a bachelor's degree without a minor. That's what I eventually did — I chose a double major rather than a minor.

So what is a minor in college? And if minors aren't a graduation requirement, why should students consider doing a minor?

What Is a Minor in College?

Most students have heard of college majors. But what's a minor? And do you need to have a minor in college?

Many academic departments offer a major and a minor. While majors may require students to complete upwards of 60 credits of related courses, minors introduce students to an academic discipline without as many classes. At most colleges, undergrads complete 16-30 credits for a minor.

Like a major, college students must declare their minor. Depending on the school, students may declare a minor with the department or by contacting an academic advisor.

Minors differ from majors in an important way: Undergrads do not usually need a minor to graduate. As a result, many students might wonder whether minors offer any real benefit.

The Benefits of Choosing a Minor in College

Choosing a minor lets degree-seekers focus their studies on another topic beyond their major. Some students select a minor that complements their major. For example, a business administration major might benefit from a communication minor. Similarly, a biology major can add to their knowledge by minoring in chemistry.

Other students select a minor in a different field. A psychology major might minor in theater to explore their acting talents, while a history major might minor in accounting to add another potential career path after graduation.

Many undergrads find they already have enough credits for a minor in certain departments by their junior year. Since a minor typically requires around 20-25 credits, adding a minor might not require extra courses or add time to the degree. A minor also helps degree-seekers explore their interests and develop a deeper understanding of more than one subject.

College Minors vs. Double Majors

Should undergrads choose a minor or is it worth pursuing a double major? Depending on the school and program, the difference between minoring and double majoring might only be 10 credits. And majors, unlike minors, show up on your college diploma.

For some students, a double major may require only a few additional courses beyond a minor. That said, undergrads should carefully consider whether a double major might add time to their degree or increase their college costs.

Keep in mind that each college sets its own rules for minors and double majors. For example, at the University of Southern California, students cannot take courses for their minor on a pass/fail basis. Before enrolling in courses to earn a minor or double major, check your school's policies.

Does Your Minor in College Matter?

If minors are optional, do they really matter? In many ways, a minor is fairly inconsequential compared to your major. It requires fewer credits and only appears on your transcript, not your degree.

During an interview, a potential employer probably isn't going to ask if you earned a minor in college. They're more likely interested in things like your previous work experience, internships, college major, volunteer service, and extracurriculars.

That doesn't mean minors are worthless, though. Employers do tend to care about the courses job candidates take in college. Furthermore, college offers countless opportunities for intellectual growth. A minor can help undergrads stretch their boundaries, strengthen key skills, and learn new disciplines, which is why choosing a minor appeals to many students.

Frequently Asked Questions About Minors in College

Do You Need to Have a Minor in College?

No. Most colleges do not require students to choose a minor. While undergraduates must select a major as part of their bachelor's degree, a college minor remains optional in most programs.

How Many Credits for a College Minor?

The number of credits required to earn a minor in a field depends on the college and subject; however, a minor typically requires 16-30 credits. Departments set course requirements for minors.

Can You Earn Multiple Minors in College?

Yes. Most schools let students earn multiple minors as part of their undergraduate degree program. For example, the University of Washington does not require a minor but allows undergrads to choose up to three minors to focus their studies.

Does Your College Minor Appear on Your Diploma?

A student's minor does not usually appear on their diploma. Instead, the diploma lists the major and the date the graduate earned their degree. That said, college transcripts do list minors.

Related Pages

What Is a Major in College? Dual Degree vs. Double Major: What's the Difference? The Student's Guide to Choosing a Major

Feature Image: LuckyBusiness / iStock / Getty Images Plus

To earn a bachelor's degree, students choose a field to specialize in by declaring a major. Learn what a major is and how it can affect your career. What is a dual degree and how hard is it to double major? This guide answers these questions and explores the benefits offered by these academic pathways. If you're confused about how to choose a college major and feel like picking a major is causing a lot of stress, this guide can help.