College Minors: What Are They Good For?

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.”

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.”

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