What Is a College Minor?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Unlike a college major, you don’t have to declare a college minor. But it can complement what you study or help you discover a new passion.

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A college minor is an area of study you can choose when completing your bachelor’s degree. Unlike a college major, you don’t have to declare a minor, but it can complement what you major in—or give you time to learn about an unrelated subject or passion. 

If you're thinking about pursuing a minor in college, it can help to understand what it takes to earn one and how it can benefit you.

College minor: key facts 

In order to earn your bachelor’s degree, you must declare a major and take a certain number of courses. The specifics differ by college and university, but your major will likely make up one-third to one-half of the 120 minimum credits required to graduate. However, you can earn a minor with a minimum of around 18 credits, which can be put toward your overall degree progress.

Examples of college minors:

  • African studies

  • Animal studies

  • Business

  • Creative writing

  • Environmental science

  • Multimedia journalism

  • Queer studies

  • Urban planning

If you opt to complete a minor, it likely won’t show up on your diploma. Instead, it will typically be listed on your transcripts. As you begin applying for jobs, you can include both your major and minor on your resume, showing employers the extra work you put into your degree.  

College minor requirements

Beyond completing the set number of courses necessary to earn your minor, your college or university may stipulate additional requirements, such as : 

  • Completing a minimum number of courses onsite: This rule tends to apply more to transfer students, but in order to minor in a subject, you will likely need to complete a minimum number of courses at the school you intend to graduate from. 

  • Earning a minimum cumulative GPA: Your school may also expect you to earn a minimum GPA, such as a 2.0, in your minor courses in order to successfully graduate with that concentration.  

When should I declare a minor?

It can help to declare a minor around the same time you declare a major so you have a clear understanding of the courses you need to take after you wrap up your general education requirements. Colleges or universities often recommend that you meet with your advisor to determine how much time it will take to complete your minor and the best course of action to do so.  

Learn more: How to Get a Bachelor’s Degree

4 reasons for choosing a minor

There are several reasons why students choose to minor in a subject even though it’s not a graduation requirement. Let’s go over four of them. 

1. Complement your college major

You can expand your subject knowledge when you choose a minor that complements your major. For example, a computer science major interested in workplace equity may choose to minor in women’s and gender studies, or a business major interested in one day working in Latin America may choose to minor in Spanish. In each case, the minor coursework supplements the major coursework.

Choosing a minor related to your major may also benefit your time at college. When you begin majoring in a subject, you may find yourself interacting with other students in your department. However, minoring in a different discipline gives you the chance to interact with other people and even network, which can help you strengthen your ability to collaborate—a key transferable skill

2. Expand your career opportunities 

You may find more career opportunities when you choose a minor, such as a history major with a minor in education or a political science major with a minor in journalism. Not only can you look for work in the area of your major and minor, but your diversified knowledge and skill set may be more desirable to potential employers. 

3. Add to your skill set

You can round out your college major by choosing a minor in a completely different area, one that may help you develop different skills. For instance, if you’re a STEM major, you might want to pick a minor in the humanities to hone your communications and critical thinking. On the other hand, if you’re a humanities major, you might want to consider a minor that provides greater job skills development, like business, economics, or marketing. Working in multiple disciplines can help you boost your overall skill set and keep you from getting stuck in one mindset or behavior.

4. Spend time learning more about a passion

You can explore a passion by choosing to minor in it. Some students may minor in art or music because they enjoy creative expression, while others may choose a minor in data science or psychology because they want to learn more about what makes machines or people tick. Either way, it’s an opportunity to take courses and learn more about an area that interests you. 

Minor vs. double major

Rather than choose a minor, you have the option of double majoring—or completing the required coursework for a second full major. If you’re able to attend college full-time, a double major tends to take the same amount of time as a single major. But it usually requires taking a full load of classes every semester, and it doesn’t always leave room to take electives, which can be a valuable opportunity to explore your passions or take a class for fun.  

If you’re concerned about your time-to-completion and you’d like greater scheduling flexibility, a minor may be a better option for you. It won’t require as much coursework, and it still gives you an opportunity to learn about a different subject than your major. 

Tips for choosing a minor

Before you choose a minor, consider your motivation. Are you most interested in augmenting your major, broadening your career opportunities, developing new skills, or exploring your passion? The answer will help you determine which minor to choose.

If you want a subject that complements your major then it may be a good idea to speak with an advisor or professor about the best choices to broaden your education. But if you’re interested in skills development then you might want to consider an unrelated subject so you can develop a more diverse skill set. Review your college or university’s programs for a list of available minors and see what sounds like a good fit for your goal. 

Explore further 

Before you commit to a minor, it may help to explore different subjects. You can find a number of free courses from leading universities on Coursera. Learn about psychology from Yale, statistics from Stanford, or computer programming from Duke. Courses are designed to be completed in a few weeks, and can help you narrow your focus as you decide on a minor.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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