What’s the Difference Between a Major, a Minor and a Concentration?

Learn what each of these terms mean and exactly how they differ from one another.

By Sydney Nikols | February 17, 2017

Your major is defined as the specific area of study you choose to focus on in college.
Photo: Thinkstock

As you approach needing to declare a major, minor and/or concentration, you may feel confused about what these terms mean for you and your academic career. In order to make informed decisions at your college registrar, read on to learn the specifics involved with each course of study.

Declaring a concentration will inform the types of classes you will take to fulfill the requirements for your degree.

What’s a Major?

Your major is defined as the specific area of study you choose to focus on in college. Most colleges offer a wide range of majors (everything from engineering to psychology to English literature). You probably won’t have to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year. Once you do, anywhere from one-third to one-half of your college classes will fall under this area of study.

Your major will not only affect your academic track in college; it will also affect which jobs you will be eligible for after graduation (for example, a grad who majored in business will be immensely more qualified for a finance job than a grad who studied film). For this reason, it’s important to consider which careers you’re interested in when you choose your college major. And if you can’t pick just one major, don’t worry -- most colleges will allow you to choose two, an approach that’s called double majoring.

What’s a Minor?

Your minor is defined as a secondary area of study that you can choose to focus on in college. Colleges don’t require minors; instead, they offer them as an optional way for students to explore another subject without having to declare a second major. Students are usually only required to take a few courses in order to earn a minor, making declaring one a relatively small commitment. Because they don’t come along with a ton of responsibility, you can choose a minor that personally interests you but doesn’t necessarily relate to your career goals. This can be a good way to expand and enrich your college learning experience without compromising your post-graduation success.

What’s a Concentration?

Your concentration is a specific area of emphasis within your chosen major. Like minors, schools don’t usually require you to declare a concentration; instead, they’re used as an optional tool to help you customize your college experience.

Declaring a concentration will inform the types of classes you will take to fulfill the requirements for your degree. For instance, if you’re majoring in business, declaring a concentration in entrepreneurship will lead you to take a lot of classes related to starting your own company. If you’re a sociology major, concentrating on anthropology or gender and women’s studies will help you choose a narrow path within your broad major. Or, if you’re majoring in political science and government, choosing to concentrate on American government, public policy or foreign affairs will lead you to take a specific set of classes within your selected subject. In addition to informing your academic track, a concentration will help inform potential employers about your specific area of interest and expertise.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Choose a College Major
The Most Popular College Majors
How to Change Your Major
5 Tips to Help You Choose a Major

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