How to Choose the Right Minor
Within the next few years, you will be entering a fast-paced job market that thrives on versatility and rapidly evolving flexibility, you need to be ready. If you have already declared a major that fits right into your academic and career goal, it is time you start thinking about the possibility of adding a minor degree to your tool belt. Why? The big picture. Remember, you want to start thinking ahead of your peers.
However, you want to do this right. The only thing worse than not picking a minor if you need one is picking the wrong one. The earlier you decide the better.
What is a minor?
Your minor can be considered a secondary field of study that you choose to focus on in addition to your primary (major) field.
Schools provide it as an optional outlet to explore other areas of interest without the need to, or the burden associated with declaring a second major. To earn one, you will be required to fulfill fewer course obligations compared to a major thereby making the commitments relatively easier to handle. As a result of this, it is not uncommon to have students taking on minors that have no direct relationships with their majors.
According to an article published in the Times, "A well-chosen minor is one that adds evidence of a skill that is applicable to your major, but not necessarily contained within it."
In other words, since there is no requirement that the major be related to the minor, a student is perfectly allowed to declare Chemistry as Major and Music/Jazz as Minor.
Hopefully, the advantages of tacking on a minor are becoming more obvious by now.
1. Pursuit of Personal Interest
A minor degree is a perfect opportunity to officially study what is of personal interest to you, even though it does not necessarily relate to your main career path. You can choose to be a Physicist and still add on Musical Theatre in your program.
Or, suppose you decided that having an Accounting degree is the best career choice for you, but since you have always been passionate about guitar as a kid and you would love to know more about it; why not pick up a music minor?
It is a perfect compromise between a career and a personal decision path.
If you have ever struggled with the internal conflict of being passionate about a particular area of study that is being considered as “unpractical”, and the pressure to be fully focused in something “practical” to boost your job prospects after graduation, then declaring a minor is your ticket.
According to Huffington Post, "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, fashion, or anything else!"
2. Improve your Future Options
A resume listing a minor degree in a field unrelated to your core course of study will improve your chances and choices in the job market. Together with your major, your minor simply brings an extra sparkle to your resume.
Imagine that your major area of study is facing extinction in your environment, now you have an option to either pursue a different career path or even go back to earn a full Masters Degree based on your minor diploma.
This sort of option cannot be discountenanced in today's fast-paced society.
3. Improve your chances in the job market
Sometimes, for a given position, all it takes today to be tipped ahead of your equally qualified counterparts is a slight edge of advantage that having a minor degree can offer.
Denny Voyles, a recruiter, says, "Someone with a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and a minor in finance or accounting or business is great for our company since those are the fields our clientele are in,... That type of combination would really allow a candidate to come in on the technical side but also allow him to take advantage of the business applications.”
Speaking to the New York Times, Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers said, “...It used to be enough that you graduated from X, Y or Z university with summa cum laude. But now instead of separating you from the crowd, summa cum laude is the crowd."
To be ahead of that kind of crowd, you need something different.
Case in point, for a particular international law firm, there could be hundreds of applicants applying for an associate role, but only those that had a foreign language minor might get the position.
4. It broadens your skill sets and improves your versatility
Even if there is no reason to switch career in your future, staying in one area of study and taking only the classes pertaining to that major area exposes you to only the methods and specific ways of doing things in that field.
Professors in your department might expect you to approach certain problems in a particular way, using specific methodologies, but out there in the job environment, the process of achieving results might be totally different.
That is why some employers specifically look for applicants with a completely different minor degree in their resume; it shows an ability to adapt to changing environments, requirements, and ways of thinking.
When you have extra knowledge on a different but specific matter, according to College Counsellor Services, it shows employers that you’re a well-rounded person with intellectual interests outside of your work.
So Why not?
Having learned some of the benefits, still, this might not really be for you.
While the freedom to pick just about any additional field of interest sounds like a lot of fun and a way to maximize the cost of your degree, there are however a few instances where this might not be the best move for you academically.
For instance, if you already have a clear career path mapped out and you are certain of no possible deviation, then adding an extra layer to your coursework might not be needed, it might even be harmful, especially if you are convinced that it adds no direct benefits to your career goals.
Why would you spread yourself too thin and be distracted from your career path? For example, if your goal is to be an English Professor, and you have absolute assurance that nothing will change that, then it makes more sense to be fully focused on this and not unnecessarily add more weight that will surely take from your goal.
If you left this decision a bit too late, then it might be unwise to hurriedly add this in later on. Remember that a minor once declared must be fulfilled before your degree is awarded, or else you stay behind to spend extra time and money.
If this explains your situation and you still strongly feel the need to have a secondary form of knowledge, then all hope is not lost. There are other equally valuable options like going for an internship, which may prove to be more immediately useful as it demonstrates vital hands-on experience.
OK, thanks, but I still want one!
If you are still here, then you are probably thinking, "Sure, those are no problems for me and I love all those benefits!"
Then these next steps are for you. Each step in question, carefully designed to sequentially guide you into making the best and most obvious choice.
Question 1: Can your minor enhance your major?
This is a very important question that must be carefully considered before you make your decision. Picking a minor just because you can, could be harmful. According to the Times article earlier quoted:
"A less useful minor is one that is too close to your major or one that has no connection to your career or graduate school goals."
In other words, if you are a Business Major, choosing a minor in Computer Science can dramatically improve your chance when applying to tech startups.
You will need to consult your schools' guidance materials and see a list of all that is available, then start whittling the list down to only the ones that can complement or enhance your primary area of study.
The converse to this thinking is also good if that is your choice. You might decide to go for a minor that overlaps with your major to improve the chance of taking one class that counts for both your major and intended minor. Whatever your decision, you will need to enlist the help of academic advisors in your school. Here at Limestone, we have highly trained, experienced and helpful faculty professionals who are always on call to answer your questions and provide guidance. They are intimately aware of all the available degrees available and can give you the best advice based on your unique needs.
Question 2: Is this what you are really interested in?
After going through the first question, by now you must have very few items on the list of possible options. This is where you now ask the vital question: which one triggers my interest the most?
If you are going to be investing extra hours in the library then you might as well use it doing something you like and enjoy.
Be careful though, just because a degree has few courses that interest you does not mean the remaining courses will be an easy ride through the park. With careful research and consultation with your advisor, you will find the best match.
Am I ready for the extra load?
When all is said and done, remember, if you allow the pursuit of your minor to negatively impact your major, the purpose is entirely defeated. Prospective employers will first consider your major before looking for the minor as the cherry on top. So, you need to take a long hard look again at your current academic schedules. If you don't have the time, the focus and the extra push to see this through, then it's better to not add it.
Turn in the paperwork!
You will be amazed at the number of students who "want" to declare a minor but simply "forgot" to officially declare until it is too late. It is proactively better to turn in the paperwork for a minor you eventually back out of than to actively pursue a minor without having a file on record. Consult your department and do what is necessary.
Choosing to pursue a minor degree in addition to your major gives you the best of both worlds if done right. Reading this piece we hope you have a better understanding of the pros and cons and you are now ready to make an informed decision.
We're here to work with you side by side as you take the next crucial step towards your future.