A second major or a minor—what’s the difference?

Choosing to add a second major or a minor while at NSU can be a difficult decision, especially if you don’t know the difference between the two.

Jayne Schatz, director of enrollment services in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, said deciding on a second major, a minor, or neither is a decision that a student should make once they have examined their academic and educational goals.

“The critical factor to consider is what you want to learn,” Schatz said.

All undergraduate students must declare a major by the time they complete 60 credits, including transfer credits, but he or she can only request a minor or a second major after earning a minimum of 30 credits and before earning 90 credits said Schatz.

If a student is considering a second major, Schatz said, he or she should know that it is a significant academic undertaking. It requires a commitment because a student is taking on two academic programs consisting of a set of courses that allows him or her to study an academic discipline in depth. She said taking on a second major is like having a second full-time job.

“The rule-of-thumb for students is to plan three hours of study time for every hour of class time,” said Schatz. “Students who build this type of study schedule quickly see why we often say that being an undergraduate student is a full-time job.”

The length of time needed to complete program requirements depends on the student. However, a major requires more credits than a minor, but there may be overlapping courses between major and minor requirements that allow students to complete multiple programs more quickly.

One of the biggest differences between a second major and a minor is that a student’s major should be his or her primary focus of interest and the minor usually serves as a secondary focus of interest.

Schatz said this perspective may help students decide if they are interested in a minor or a second major, or neither. Students should also know that they cannot select a minor within their major.

“We have 28 majors and 52 minors so there is a lot to choose from and there is no reason why a student cannot combine any of those. If you’re a chemistry major and have a love of music, there’s no reason why you can’t minor in music,” said Schatz.

Daniela Malo, freshman biology major, is using her gender studies minor to expose herself to issues she can write about in the future.

“I’m planning on changing my major to something regarding journalism so I thought gender studies would be a good option. I’m a huge feminist so it’d give me a lot to write about. I just bought the books and I’m really excited,” she said.

A minor is more than a collection of electives, but a carefully designed study of a particular academic discipline. It is an academic program consisting of a smaller set of courses designed to allow a student to study an academic discipline but not at the same in-depth level as a major.

Schatz said students who choose to pursue a minor should anticipate acquiring a more in-depth understanding than would be gained through multiple elective courses.

“Don’t hesitate to take some electives in a subject that you know nothing about.  Your undergraduate career is the time for academic exploration,” said Schatz.

Schatz recommends that students find out what interests them by engaging in academic dialogue with your professors, attending the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Speakers and Faculty lecture series, and enrolling in new subjects.

“As students do this, they discover and follow their passion and constantly re-assess their goals.  This will allow them to build the life they want,” said Schatz.

Students should also know that requesting both a minor and a second major requires a formal process. Schatz said students’ academic advisors can assist them in this process.

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