When you’re going into college, your major may seem the most important decision you have to make. I definitely remember being a little (or a lot) stressed about which area of study to choose. I mean, this is my future career we’re talking about, right?
Maybe. But not always. Sure, choosing your major is a big deal. And there are a lot of factors that can determine which is right for you. Luckily, there’s plenty of advice for that (just take a look at the post Choosing a Major for Your College Application).
What I didn’t realize when I first started college was that it’s not just my major that can play a part in where I go after the university, but my minor as well.
What’s in a minor?
Have you thought about this question yet? If you’re at all like me when I was a freshman, the answer would be no. If anything, I was proud of myself for just having decided on a major I was willing to stick to.
Not surprisingly, I went a good two years of my schooling without even thinking about a minor. Of course, I knew that I would eventually have one. In fact, I was even considering the option of double majoring. But I had no idea what my second major or minor would be, and so I kept putting the decision off.
Then one day, I realized just what a minor could do for me. I had finally found a specific career that I was interested in, and I knew that I would need to cater my schooling to better fit that career. This is when I really started to think about my options for minors. For me, my minor gave me a more specific goal, and in so doing, it gave me more options for my future.
Are minors actually useful?
In my case, I couldn’t have gone without one. It’s my minor that has given my life direction, and my minor that really opened the doors for me.
But not too long ago, I overheard a conversation among some friends. One of them was explaining that a minor doesn’t do anything for you in the long run. He argued that employers only look at your major and thus minors only add fun classes. Based on my own experience, I knew that this could not be the case—at least not every case. I wanted to argue against his point with my own success story.
Minors can sometimes be underestimated. I realize that there are certain questions people have about whether minors are actually useful. By answering some of these questions with my own experience, I hope to help you see that a minor can add more to your belt than just some extra credits on your transcript.
Why should I have a minor?
There are a lot of different reasons you could choose to add a minor. The post Majors, Minors, and More: Which Degree Should You Pursue? gives three broad motivations. The reasons come down to this: (1) you might have more than one line of interest, (2) you might need a better edge for future employment, or (3) you might just want to keep your options open. All of these are good reasons to look into a minor.
For me, it was all of the above. I could even add in a fourth reason: adding a minor out of convenience. You see, my journey took me through a lot of different motivations. I chose a major that is quite broad and has no specific career focus in mind. That is, interdisciplinary humanities. I chose this specifically because I wanted to keep my options open. I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that the humanities would at least give me a good foundation to build on.
As I took more classes, I found I had many different areas of study that I enjoyed. One of those was foreign languages. Because of the requirements for my major, I took a bunch of Spanish classes. One day I realized that I already had most of the requirements for a Latin American studies minor. I figured, what the heck; why not just declare it? So I did—merely out of convenience. But that wasn’t actually where I wanted to focus my life’s work.
So I continued searching for a minor that would help me further my career. And finally, I found it. How it happened, I can’t actually recall. I only know that when I did find my second minor, I felt like my major had a purpose. All those books I had been required to read, all of those essays I had learned to love—they were what lead me to discover my hidden passion: the editing minor. Since then, my editing minor certainly has given me an edge for future employment that I couldn’t have otherwise had.
Do employers actually look at my minor?
Yes. Not always, but they do. Whether or not employers take your minor into account is contingent on a lot of different factors, of which I don’t know the half of. I do know, however, that it can depend on what your minor is and how it pairs with your major. Not to mention, how that combination gives you an added edge that no one else has. Basically, if your minor doesn’t add anything to the table, then of course it won’t matter to your interviewer.
But when a minor does add something to the table, then really, there’s no reason to ignore it. In fact, if you know that you have experience from your minor that would increase your value to a company, don’t let them look past it! Bring it to their attention.
In my own experience, I make sure to mention what my minors are when I’m in an interview. Because my major is pretty broad, I have a lot of different options for a career, but nothing very specialized. Sure, humanities gives me analytical skills that many other majors don’t. But that isn’t always enough to get me where I want to go.
For many cases, mentioning that I have a minor in editing has made interviewers perk up. With this addition to my major, future employers not only know that I have analytical skills, they also can trust my writing abilities. Without my minor, I would have one less way to make myself stand out.
Can job opportunities come from a minor?
Amazingly enough, employment can come directly because of your minor—but not always. This is where choosing a minor gets tricky. Coming from someone who has two, I now know that there are some programs that are better than others. The choice may not only be based on what you like to do.
Each college and major within a university is different, as is each minor. They will have their own methods and priorities for communicating with their students, whether that be for social activities, job opportunities, or upcoming events. While I initially didn’t think this mattered, I realize now that knowing what the college can offer you is huge. Let me explain why.
My minors are almost on opposite sides of the helpful spectrum. First, Latin American studies. Like I said, I really just declared this out of convenience. And sadly, I haven’t had much more to gain from it. Granted, I do get emails announcing free Latin American food—always the best day for me. But I’ve never received information about jobs, career fairs, or anything that would actually help me use my minor in the work force.
Contrast that with my editing minor. From day one, the professors have taught us what we need to know about being a real life editor. They not only teach us the skills necessary, but they give us the means to go out and get a job. We receive newsletters regularly with job postings, our professors are always announcing potential positions, and the whole minor is geared toward getting experience. It’s never just been about teaching us grammar; it’s also been about teaching us professionality. In fact, the last few jobs that I have received came specifically because of my minor and the professional skills I learned therein.
Who knew the power of a minor?
In my opinion, minors are like your major’s sidekick that doesn’t get enough of the credit. You know, like the John Watson to the Sherlock Holmes. Or the Falcon to the Captain America. The hero can’t always do it without them, and sometimes, the hero can’t ever do it without them.
Of course, not every minor is going to have the same benefits as another, but I have full confidence that when paired with the right major, any minor can serve a greater purpose than just “for fun.”
Find more help with college questions at CollegeVine’s blog.
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