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What Does it Mean to Have a Minor at a US University?

liberal arts
majors
advice for students
By Deshan Mendis
Published on June 30, 2021

A minor is a secondary specialization — courses you select in addition to your major courses — that contributes to a well-rounded education. Choosing a minor at a US university increases your possibilities!

A professor stands next to an easel in front of two international students seated in a US university classroom

As an international student, you may have heard someone talk about their minor (for example, “I minored in biology” or “I minored in Spanish in college”). But what exactly is a minor at US universities? 

When studying for your bachelor degree, a minor is a secondary specialization, courses you select in addition to your major. Requirements for a minor are less intensive compared to majors, with fewer credit hours and classes to complete. 

Generally, minors require six or seven courses and approximately 18 credit hours, though specifics can vary depending on the institution and the academic department.

Are Minors Required and Do They Need To Be Related To Your Major?

It is not mandatory to select a minor at most US universities and colleges, and you typically do not have to align your minor with your major. For example, if your major is computer science, you might choose to minor in 3D modeling and design if you have an interest in creating video games or movies. 

(Note: requirements will vary by university.)

What Are the Benefits of Declaring a Minor?

Declaring a minor helps you study subjects that interest you, diversify your knowledge, and/or explore new concepts and theories. If you pick a minor that aligns with your major, you can deepen your understanding of the subject of your bachelor degree program or experience new areas not covered by your other courses.

You can also opt to pick a minor outside of your major field. This can help you identify new areas you may want to specialize in or help you develop unique skills and knowledge that can give you a well-rounded education and potentially qualify you for a wider variety of career opportunities. 

For example, a student at a liberal arts college with a major in sociology and a minor in public relations would be well suited to PR or communications roles in academia, nonprofit organizations, and similar organizations. A student with a major in business and a minor in art history could apply for executive roles at a museum, in academia, or even potentially open their own gallery. Choosing a minor increases your possibilities! 

Is It Easy to Declare a Minor?

The first step to declaring your minor is to make sure you meet the academic requirements at your university or college, which may include certain courses (even at the time of application). 

As each institution has its own policies, working with an advisor can make declaring your minor significantly easier. Your advisor can help you understand which minors you are eligible for and guide you through the requirements and declaration process. 

Depending on the university you wish to attend, some minors may extend for the duration of your studies or require an additional fee. So, make sure to plan your minor with the help of your advisor to avoid unexpected delays and costs, and ensure you can complete your bachelor degree on time.

What Can I Minor In?

The minors available to you will differ depending on your university and college, and may depend upon your own bachelor degree courses. Research each of the options you are considering to find minors that match your interests and can expand your skill set. Consider the types of professional roles that you would find fulfilling as a career, and see which minors can help you get there. 

Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

Student 1 - Li from China

Major

Education

Minor

Cross-cultural communications

Career Path

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Student 2 - Kirthana from India

Major

Pre-med

Minor

International relations

Career Path

Physician with an international non-governmental organization

Student 3 - Miguel from Mexico

Major

Computer science

Minor

Studio art

Career Path

Video game producer

While not always required, declaring a minor can be a great way for you to have fresh experiences outside of your major and expand your horizons by studying different disciplines. 

Shorelight can help you customize the right academic plan for you >>