College Majors vs Minors: What is the Difference?

Before the 19th Century, all college students studied the same set of courses and obtained the same degree. Students were not given the opportunity to choose an area of specialization, rather, they underwent what was called “Liberal Education”.

It was around 1825 that the university of Virginia initiated an educational approach that allowed students to choose an area of specialization. In the beginning, only a few majors were made available, this included medicine, anatomy, ancient languages, and others.

The term “major” was made popular in a catalog from John Hopkins University in 1877, major initially took about two years to complete and minor took about one year to complete. It was from 1880 – 1910 that bachelor’s degree-granting universities in America widely embraced the system of choice of major.

Over time, course options have increased but a lot of colleges still try to imbibe broad knowledge into their students by infusing general knowledge courses into the student’s curriculum.


A college major is the primary focus of a student who is pursuing a baccalaureate in college/University. A lot of students go into college without a knowledge of what discipline to focus on while some go into college with a major in mind already.

Some who thought they knew exactly what they want to major in may change their minds after a while in college and switch majors.

Some of the most popular majors include:-

  • Health and medicine
  • Public and social services
  • Arts and humanities
  • Business
  • Social sciences
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
Some students can also take double majors: Taking a double major means having two majors under the same degree program e.g Majoring in English, and history which are disciplines under Arts and Humanities. The only downside to taking double majors is that you may not graduate as early as you should.


A college minor is a secondary course of focus in addition to a college major. A college minor does not appear on the student’s certificate at the end of studies but a major does.

A minor can serve as a springboard in the event that the student wants to pursue another degree in relation to the minor he/she took during the first-degree program. It can also be included on a resume to boost one’s qualifications. A minor can also cause a student to graduate later than he/she is supposed to if not properly scheduled.

Choosing a Major

Before choosing a major, there are so many factors to consider, it is not safe to choose a major blindly.

Firstly, you have to consider your priorities; some students choose a major based on the fact that it will secure them a high-paying job, while some are passionate about a course and want it as their major. You need to consider how well you will earn when you go into the workforce.

Secondly, it is very important to consider your interest in the major you want to choose. Studies have shown that most students tend to perform exceptionally when they are focused on a major that they are interested in.

While this is true, it is also true that a lot of people have a hard time identifying their interests, so it may take longer for them to choose a major.

Thirdly, students have to consider the areas/discipline that they are good at or are talented in e.g some people can easily solve sums without looking them up in textbooks while some are good with history or are inclined towards business and closing deals. In choosing a major, what you are good at plays a very vital role because it gives you a sense of direction.

Fourthly, you have to consider the workload of each course, some students have what it takes to study courses that require most of their time while some students cannot. You have to understand the workload that comes with a major before choosing it.

Lastly, it is very important to choose a major simply because you want to study it and you have an interest in it, choosing a major because your parents want you to study it does not always end well.


Choosing a major and a minor is the most choice college students have to make as it directly affects their job qualifications and earnings. Choosing a college major requires deep thinking and assessment of one’s skills and interests. There are tips outlined in the article to help give you a sense of direction while choosing a major.

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