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What is a Minor?

A student in a yellow sweater sitting at a desk working on her minor on her laptop

Choosing a major is an important step toward reaching your career goals. However, there are many opportunities to broaden your studies and make yourself even more marketable while earning your degree. By adding a minor to your degree program, you can make yourself as well-rounded as possible for the job market while also studying something you love.

What is a Minor Degree?

Dr Christopher Lee with the text Dr Christopher LeeA minor is a set of courses designed to add a secondary specialization to your degree or explore an area of academic interest outside of your major. For example, if you are majoring in a field such as STEM and also have a love of English, you can explore both by adding an English or creative writing minor to your academic plan. Think of a minor as an “add-on pack or bundle that boosts your education,” said Christopher Lee, PhD, associate dean of liberal arts programs at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

Earning a minor offers the opportunity to customize your education and "build your credentials to help you stand out in a crowded job market,” said Matt DiPirro, associate dean of liberal arts at SNHU. By adding a minor to your academic program, you signal to employers that you have diversified and valuable skills that set you apart from the crowd.

What Are Major and Minor Subjects?

Depending on your university, you may have the option to minor in a wide variety of program areas. A major is your primary academic discipline, while a minor is a secondary discipline that can complement your major or add variety to your coursework. Majors for bachelor's degrees require around 60 credits for graduation, while a minor is usually in the realm of 18 credits. Each program is different.

If you are confident in your choice of major, earning a minor is a sensible way to add a range of courses in another field and earn academic credit for it. “The minor gives you good coverage of the additional area, usually 15 credits, in a way that doesn’t take up a huge chunk of your degree,” Lee said.

Adding a minor to your degree program is a way to set yourself apart on the job market after graduation. “You may even have credits toward a minor already and not know about it,” DiPirro said. If so, adding on a few extra classes to complete the minor can round out your learning and your resume at the same time.

Is it Better to Major or Minor?

Holly Carroll with the text Holly Carroll Whether or not you add a minor to your degree program really depends on your goals. If you want to be a marketing director, you'll want to major in marketing, but you may choose a minor in a STEM or technology program because that's the industry in which you want to work. Likewise, if you want to major in education, you may choose a minor in English or mathematics if you want to teach in one of those areas.

SNHU student Holly Carroll started her education in 1997, majoring in middle school education with dual concentrations in American and military history. After a hiatus from her studies, she is now completing her bachelor's degree in history at SNHU, adding minors in English language and literature and American studies. Her minors complement her history degree because the fields are writing-intensive. With that major/minor combination, Carroll is showing employers that her writing skills are solid while also fueling her personal interest in writing creatively.

What Does it Mean to Have a Minor?

Jordan Oldham with the text Jordan OldhamEarning a minor gives you an edge in your career. “For its lean size, a minor can do a lot for you,” DiPirro said. Most employers in today’s job market “want to hire and promote people who can pair talent with work ethic and adaptability,” he said. Adding a minor demonstrates your drive to succeed and your ability to take on work outside your current job description.

In 2022 SNHU graduate Jordan Oldham’s current position in a bank, she meets all types of people, “from parents and their children to athletes and business owners,” she said. “Having minor concentrations in sports management and organizational leadership to complement my Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and English gives me an extra layer of expertise so that I can better assist my clientele while working on building a long-term career serving my clients and community."

In addition to learning more about a subject that interests you, a great benefit of earning a minor is that it gives you more ownership of your education. You gain new skill sets that create opportunities for you that you may not have discovered when focused on your major courses alone. Choosing a minor helps you “become aware of what you really want to do,” said Lee.

How to Choose a Minor

While a major helps prepare you for the job market, a minor gives you the chance to listen to your heart and study what you love. Consider which subjects look the most interesting and let that lead you to customize your own path and point you in the right direction for your learning.

For Carroll, customizing her education by adding minors allows her to build the skill set she knows is right for where she wants to go in life and in her career.  “I am proud to have chosen the minors that I did, and in doing so, I forged wonderful connections with SNHU professors and students that have outlasted the 8-week duration of any class,” she said.

Matt DiPirro with the text Matt DiPirro To narrow down your options, start by talking to your academic advisor. They know your school’s offerings better than anybody. They have seen your transcripts and can make recommendations based on available transfer credits and your interests. DiPirro also recommends talking to important people in your life for help making this decision. And then ask yourself, “what is something you’ve always wanted to learn more about? What is something you would be really good at or interested in?” Let that be your guide.

When considering a minor, start by thinking about pairing a minor that is outside your regular field of study. A business student could minor in philosophy to build their ability to reason through tough problems. Also, “jobs-focused pairings like a project management minor for a liberal arts student, or a psychology minor for a marketing student would be interesting pairings that make you more marketable to employers,” DiPirro said.

Lee suggests combining minors and majors that are complementary, with skills that overlap. “A minor in American Studies is a really interesting pair for a major in American History or American Literature,” he said.

Is a Minor Degree Worth It?

A minor is a good way to show how well-rounded you are when on the job market after graduation. If you major in a STEM field, for example, a job you get after you graduate will likely still require you to write and communicate well. Regardless of your major, “having a minor in English or communications will make you more attractive to hiring managers,” Lee said.

For Oldham, knowing that she is an asset to her organization is tremendous. Having that extra expertise helps her feel more confident not just when pursuing promotions with her employer, but in other areas of her life as well. “I am more confident when I’m up against any competition when seeking opportunities elsewhere in life, too,” she said.

Minors can serve two purposes, both equally useful and important. One benefits you professionally and the other benefits you personally. On a professional level, “employers continue to say that they want graduates with a broad skill and knowledge base who can work with other people, make good decisions and grow with the company,” DiPirro said.

On a personal level, earning a minor can allow you to follow your passion along with earning a degree for practicality. For Carroll, earning a minor is a way to honor her journey “with some fun as well as fulfilling my true love for learning.”

When it comes to your education, don’t be afraid to take a chance. You are in the driver’s seat and get to chart your own path. That’s what a minor is ultimately all about.

Online. On campus. Choose your program from 200+ SNHU degrees that can take you where you want to go.

Marie Morganelli, Ph.D. is a freelance content writer and editor.

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