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  • Your college major is your main area of focus while earning your undergraduate degree. A minor is a secondary focus area. 
  • College minors are optional and may or may not complement your major.
  • Earning a minor could help round out your college education and expand your career options.

Figuring out what to study in college is a big decision. The goal is to choose an area of focus that interests you and will also allow you to earn a good living. Your college major will probably play a big role in your career, but adding a minor can also be valuable. While college majors and minors are two different things, they can work together to give you a well-rounded education.

What is a major in college?

Your college major is your main area of study—or what you’ll specialize in when earning your undergraduate degree. Most colleges require you to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year, and you can expect to take somewhere between 30 to 36 credit hours within your major. When you graduate, your major will be listed on your college diploma. For example, you might earn a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism or a Bachelor of Science in Marketing.

What is a college minor?

A college minor is a secondary area of focus that usually requires 16 to 30 credit hours. Unlike a major, you do not get a degree for a minor—it won’t be listed on your college diploma, but it will likely appear on your transcript. At most colleges, declaring a minor isn’t required, but it does have potential benefits. There are two main ways to go about it:

  • Choose a minor that’s related to your major. For instance, majoring in human resource management and minoring in accounting can help you stand out by showing potential employers that you understand employee benefits and payroll. Some related major/minor combinations might also help increase your earning power. Majoring in business administration and minoring in finance, for example, could lead to a lucrative career—and put you on track to become a CFO one day. 
  • Select a minor that’s unrelated to your major. Choosing an unlikely pairing, like a major in psychology with a minor in music, can be a great way to develop different skill sets and explore something you’re passionate about. It may even lead to a unique career focus, like music therapy, or a meaningful side hustle.

Keep in mind that depending on the coursework, adding a minor may prolong your college experience. That could translate to a larger time commitment and higher out-of-pocket costs. Also consider the number of required credit hours to see if that fits into your academic and personal schedule. 

College major versus minor

  College major College minor
What is it? Your main area of focus while earning your undergraduate degree A secondary area of focus that may or may not support your major
Is it required? Most colleges will require you to declare a major No
How many credit hours does it typically require? 30 to 36 hours 16 to 30 hours
Is it listed on your college diploma? Yes No

How to choose a college major and minor

When choosing a college major, consider your interests, strengths, and career goals. These things can help point you in the right direction. Consider visiting your college’s career center or meeting with a career counselor to help you select a major/minor pairing that feels right for you. They can also provide insights into the job market so you know what to expect when you graduate. The goal is to figure out if adding a college minor is worth your while and how to find one that resonates with your interests.

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