College Minors: What Are They Good For?

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“So, what's your minor?” 
This line doesn't crop up too often and in fact sounds—if possible—cheesier than being asked what your major is. You know that your major is important: it gives you the skills for your future career, and it's what employers look at. But what is the real value in having a minor? Can it hurt you if you don't have one? We found out.

What can declaring a minor do for you?
Depending on your college and chosen major, you may be required to choose a minor. If your school doesn’t explicitly call for you to have a minor (some programs may want you to just have a certain number of credits outside your major, or choose some other alternative), it may still be right for you. Luckily, if you choose wisely you can make your minor work for you!

Explore something new!
“My minor in school was photography, and I chose to do it simply because I always loved taking pictures and wanted to learn more,” said HC Style Editor Elyssa Goodman, Carnegie Mellon ‘10. “I discovered while I was taking classes that I really loved it!”

If you have a subject you'd LOVE to explore, college is the perfect time to take a few music or literature classes, learn about pop culture or fashion, or anything else! A minor can be a great way to do this. Rather than just having a few classes under your belt, you can officially “declare” and have your minor added onto your degree when you graduate. Gary Miller, from university career services at UNC - Chapel Hill, said he believes that enjoyment of the subject is the #1 reason to choose a specific minor.

piano girl playing the piano music musical instrument

“I think minors are great because they allow you to explore a subject that might otherwise just be an interest. Minors also give you additional options to explore in case you end up hating your major/career path and want to pursue a different passion after college,” said HC co-founder Annie Wang. 

Get a leg up
A minor can look great on your resume and can put you ahead of competitors in some instances. If this is your goal in choosing a minor, choose carefully.

Miller said when choosing a minor, make sure it's something that means something to you or will be practical for your future career path. “If an employer or grad school sees that there was clear purpose and intent in the selection, and that it wasn’t simply 'credential grabbing,' then it will be valuable,” he said. “Employers and grad schools would always rather speak to someone who can speak enthusiastically about why they chose a course of study, rather than a story that sounds like 'I thought it would help me get a job.'” 

Lissette Martinez, an HC editorial intern and student at Boston University, decided to tack on two minors to her journalism degree (sociology and political science). Both of these, she says, supplement her journalism major because it gives her a background in basic topics she may write about in the future. “I think minors are a way to portray different facets of your personality, make you stand out in an application pool, and keep your options open for career alternatives,” she said.

A minor can be a good idea if you talk with an adviser and decide that one certain minor will make a great focus for your degree, such as a foreign language if you plan to study abroad or work in communications with people from other countries. Another minor choice that will often look good to an employer, Miller said, is a technical minor such as computer science. Knowing at least the basics in a computer-driven era couldn't possibly hurt you!

However, they aren't necessarily that important...

A minor can be a great asset if you decide on one that clearly portrays your interest in a certain field. It can place you in a specific niche that could help you stand out. It's not a good idea to rely on your minor to get a better job, however. After all, a minor in business is not as valuable as a bachelor's degree.

Employers and graduate schools will look at your major and a minor if you have one. However, experience in the field (such as an internship or volunteer position) is often deemed more important than your minor,” said Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consulting firm, and an expert in hiring. “The important aspect of a minor is choosing one you are passionate about and could possibly see incorporating into your career in the future.”

road to happiness street sign that says happy Miller agrees, and says that you should choose a minor because of personal reasons, not professional. “Minors can serve a few different purposes, but the best reason to choose a minor is that you are interested in studying the content of the courses. Minors can provide interesting conversation for prospective employers, and they certainly can give students a different knowledge base or skill set,” he said. “But, in most cases they are not a primary differentiator for students during the application process.”

What if I don't want to declare a minor?
“Not having a minor will not hurt you, it just adds a little something extra to your education,” said Huhman. “Each degree program differs depending on your college or university. A minor does show you have knowledge and passion about another subject—and passion is certainly never a bad thing.”

If you have options other than choosing a minor, go for it! Double major? Women's studies certificate? All are great alternatives to having a minor. And, if you just decide to take a medley of classes without getting the full credit requirement for a minor, it probably will not hurt you, especially if you can communicate your reasoning to an employer for choosing the classes you did.

So, seriously, what’s your minor?
Two members of the HC team dish on their minor (or why they don't have one):

Rachel Dozier, HC contributing writer,  James Madison University:
“I have two minors: film studies and British media and communication studies. I'm a journalism major and am interested in working for an entertainment magazine (potentially in Britain) so both of these minors are catered specifically toward my future career goals. While it's valuable to take classes in journalism, it's important to study what you intend on writing about so your content will be legitimate.”

Nan Zhu, HC contributing writer, University of Rochester:
“I'm double majoring in studio art and molecular genetics, and minoring in Spanish. I think minors are a great way for people to study something that doesn't necessarily have to be related to their major, but personally, I think that it's most practical to minor in a foreign language. While minoring in something such as chemistry is great too, I don't think it opens many opportunities and doesn't provide enough of a background to pursue it in the future—it'd be more just because you're interested in it and want to know more for yourself. If you minor in another language though, you become proficient and are able to use it when interacting with people during your job or just conversing with others. It shows that you know that language enough to hold a conversation and use it in real life, which can be a plus if you're majoring or looking for a job in any field.”

Sources:
Gary Miller, university career services at UNC - Chapel Hill
Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended
Members of the Her Campus Team 

 

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About The Author

Meagan Templeton-Lynch is a junior Technical Journalism major with news/editorial and computer-mediated communication concentrations, with minors in English and sociology. She attends Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO but grew up in Montrose, CO on the western slope. She hopes to join the Peace Corps after graduation, and then go on to get a master's degree. Meagan wants to write or be an editor for a national magazine in the future. She loves writing and studying literature. She loves the mountains in the summer and goes hiking and camping as much as possible. She is a proud vegetarian, and says she will always be loyal to Colorado, no matter where she ends up.

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