Do You Really Need a Minor?

Oh, the college minor. Just choosing a major is often difficult for most people, but minors are often a puzzle unto themselves.

Sometimes choosing a minor is as easy as your advisor telling you that you’ve already got enough (or nearly enough) credits for one because of courses you already had to take because of your major.

Other times, minors are more representative of your passions. Maybe you’re a pragmatic business major who wants a high paying job, but you’ve poured all of your elective credits into English literature classes.

Or, maybe you’re being pragmatic about both your major and your minor—like the supply chain major who chooses to minor in Mandarin to improve their future job prospects.

Whatever your “minor” goals, the truth is you don’t actually need one. Some online degree programs don’t offer them or require you to jump through extra hoops to get them. And there are many bachelor’s degree programs with such strenuous coursework that minors simply aren’t possible, or aren’t worth the extra time and hassle.

Step one in sorting out your own minor situation is always to speak to your academic advisor. What’s available with your program? Which minors make the most sense with the required classes you’re taking for your major? Does the field you intend to enter expect certain types of minors? And finally, would you need to take extra classes, and therefore spend extra time and tuition money, to get a minor?

It helps to begin thinking about your minor path very early on, although some advisors might suggest you wait until you try a few of your pre-requisite classes to see if there’s a discipline you enjoy that you hadn’t thought you would. And it’s certainly sound advice to keep an open mind, especially if you’re at a large liberal arts university and have a vast range of disciplines from which to choose.

Another thing to consider is any possible plans you may have for graduate school. Is there a minor that can help you on your path, or apply specifically to a particular specialization within your intended field or industry? For instance, if you’d like to become a lawyer, and hope to go into immigration law, a minor in a foreign language is a very good idea.

Maybe you’re considering a minor that could potentially set you up on an alternate career path sometime in the future. Possibly even a minor that would give you enough credits to make a later return to school to major in that discipline easier and shorter.

Whatever your choice, it’s important to consider your future career and any future academic plans, to talk to your advisor about your goals and your passions, and to pay attention to how much extra work and/or tuition might be involved to make your chosen minor a reality.