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What’s the difference between a major and minor?

Have you been thinking about studying abroad in the USA? If so, you have likely come across the words “major” and “minor” and might be confused by what they mean.

Majors and minors allow you to customize your bachelor’s degree based on what you would like to specialize in.

Simply put: a major is your main specialization and a minor is your secondary specialization. Read on to learn more about how you can make the most of your major and minor and customize your bachelor’s degree in the USA.

What is a major?

A “major” refers to a student’s main specialization. For example, if you plan to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business, then Business is considered to be your major. As an undergraduate, around 30% of all the classes you take at university will be within your major.

Many majors require 10–12 classes to complete. Most students don’t start taking classes related to their major until their second or third year, though this can vary from university to university and program to program.

Indeed, one of the things that students love most about the US education system is its flexibility. As part of this, you can even begin your university studies without declaring a major. In fact, at most universities you’ll have until the end of your second year to figure out exactly what you want to study. Roughly 20 to 50% of students wait until their second year to declare a major.

Finally, some majors come with a choice of several different concentrations. For example, at ASU, Business majors can choose one of 20 different concentrations, from Sports Business to Tourism. The concentration you choose will determine which courses you’ll need to take.

What is a minor?

A “minor” is a secondary area of specialization. It’s common for students in the USA to earn a degree with one major and one minor. Compared to a major, a minor is a lot less intensive, and only requires 4–6 courses to complete. A minor can be thought of as an opportunity for you to add training in another discipline.

Students will often choose minors that complement their major specialization, but this is not required. For example, if you major in Psychology, you may choose a minor in a subject related to Psychology, such as Neuroscience or Cognitive Science. Or, you could choose a subject that’s unrelated to Psychology, like Creative Writing or Art History — there are countless combinations available.

Overall, a minor can help you develop your skills and knowledge in an area that interests you without adding many — if any — extra classes to your workload. While you’ll need to declare a major in order to graduate, you are not required to declare or earn a minor.

Majors and minors: how do I choose?

When deciding on a major and a minor, you may find it helpful to ask yourself some fundamental questions, such as:

  • What subjects am I passionate about?
  • Which skills do I want to develop?
  • What job do I want when I graduate?
  • What industry do I want to work in?
  • How will this major or minor help me to land the job I want?
  • Do I want my minor to complement my major or allow me explore a different subject?

The answers to these questions can help you create a list of potential majors and minors. Such questions can also be helpful for narrowing down your career goals and creating specific steps toward helping you achieve them.

Another way to choose your major and minor is by identifying the job you would like to have and to work backward from that goal: what major will help me get this job? What minor(s) could make me more appealing to employers?

However you choose to determine your major and minor, it’s important to keep in mind that the subjects you choose can help you express yourself and your personality. They can also help you as you prepare to enter a competitive job market.

Your major and minor in the job market

Finally, it’s worth noting that your major, coupled with your work experience, is what will likely matter most to potential employers. After all, the type of degree you earn is what qualifies you for jobs in a certain field or industry. Minors are still important, however, and can certainly look good on your transcript and résumé.

Importantly, minors can also:

  • demonstrate your breadth of knowledge
  • increase your employment opportunities
  • set you apart from others majoring in the same field as you and
  • show potential employers your interests and abilities stretch beyond your major.

The flexibility you have within a US degree program to explore your interests before choosing a major and minor is one of the reasons why the USA is the most popular destination for international students.

Ready to choose your major and minor?

Feeling excited about the subjects you want to major and minor in? We can help you apply for a degree in your major of choice at a US university. Get in touch today and we’ll be happy to discuss your study options in the USA.

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