Major Vs. Minor College Degrees

by Samuel Hamilton

Once the decision to attend college has been made, a wide array of new questions arise that need to be answered. Perhaps the greatest decision you will make is how to focus your college education. In many colleges and universities, a student’s educational focus is determined by their academic major and minor.

Career Preparation

Perhaps the biggest difference between an academic major and minor is the degree to which it prepares you for a career after college. An academic major typically requires a standard number of courses that experts in the field have determined are necessary to graduate with a degree in that field. As such, when you complete all the required coursework for an academic major, you are considered by that university to be wholly prepared to enter into a career related to your academic field. Academic minors, on the other hand, offer you an opportunity to dabble in a specific discipline, picking and choosing courses without necessarily following the pre-determined required list. As such, academic minors leave you with plenty of valuable knowledge, but not necessarily any sort of certified or acknowledged expertise in the discipline.


Though academic minors don’t formally prepare you for any specific career after college, they can be used to generate an area of specialization within your academic major. For example, a student who chooses to major in computer science and minor in programming might be preparing herself for a career in network administration or programming, while a student who choose to major in computer science and minor in visual art might be preparing himself for a career in video game or web design. In this way, academic majors and minors can be used to complement each other as you prepare yourself for your career after college.


Occasionally, certain careers require students to complete an academic major in one discipline and then pursue an academic minor that moves them toward a certain career-oriented certification. This is most common in the field of education, in which many students major in the discipline they hope to teach -- for example history or English -- while minoring in education. This can also be true for students who plan to go on to law school. Pre-law students often choose an academic major -- for example political science or philosophy -- and then accumulate a variety of courses designated by a pre-law minor.

Personal Interest

Completing a minor affords students to complete a career-oriented academic major while supplementing those courses with classes that of personal interest to them. For students interested in a career in the medical profession, for example, the best academic major might be biology or chemistry. But if a pre-med student has an undying love of theater, there’s no reason why that student couldn’t major in biology and minor in performance arts. In this way, the academic major and minor system allows students to attend college to both prepare for a career and to satisfy a personal passion.

About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

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