Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your educational journey. It maps out your college experience and goes a long way in determining what your career will be after graduation.
That said, choosing a minor or concentration can be just as significant. Too often, minors and concentrations aren’t given the respect they deserve; they’re more of a side note to the main thrust of your education. The truth is, they can not only help you laser focus your education, but also enable you to customize and specialize it as well, giving you a leg up on the competition in the eyes of employers.
First, let’s talk about the difference between a minor and a concentration.
A minor is a course of study that falls outside the scope of a chosen major. For example, a student might be majoring in Computer Science while minoring in English Literature. Basically, a minor gives you the opportunity to learn about another interest while still dedicating the majority of your time and study to your major.
A concentration, on the other hand, is a course of study that’s aligned with the chosen major. So, for example, a student might be majoring in Engineering with a concentration in Biomedical Engineering. A concentration, simply put, enables you to specialize in one particular area of a field.
Depending on what you choose to major in, you might be required to have a minor or concentration. But even if it’s not a requirement at your school, choosing one can be a smart decision. Doing so enables you to get a more well-rounded education, and adding another layer to your coursework demonstrates to potential employers that you’re a go-getter and that you’re eager to learn. You’re paying a lot to go to college, why not get the most bang for your buck?
Picking a concentration or minor doesn’t just look like you went the extra mile, academically speaking; it also enables you to specialize in an area of study, become an expert in a field your university might not offer, and really carve out a specific niche.
For example, your college may have a degree program in Communications, which provides a general education on the subject. If you want to narrow your scope and specialize in a particular area, you might choose a concentration in Advertising, Public Relations, or Corporate Communications.
Or, let’s say you enjoy creative writing, but you also want to hone your academic writing skills, and your college’s creative writing curriculum doesn’t include an academic component. That’s where the minor comes in. By majoring in Creative Writing and adding a minor in, say, Comparative Literature, you still get to focus the majority of your studies on your true passion — creative writing — while at the same time writing academic-focused literary criticism for your Comp Lit classes.
Choosing a major is a lot like ordering something from a restaurant menu. If you’re at an Italian bistro, you can’t request chicken quesadillas; you have to stick with spaghetti and meatballs, or eggplant parmesan, or whichever other Italian dishes they offer.
The same goes for college majors. What if you want to be an environmental lawyer but your school only offers a standard Law program? You can’t just create your own major in Environmental Law. A minor or concentration, however, can give you the ability to custom design your education to your particular interest. If you major in Law, and minor in Geology or Biology, you effectively create your own Environmental Law program.
The word itself may mean "of lesser importance or significance," but as far as your education and career goes, a minor — or a concentration — can have a considerable impact on your future success.