While exploring possibilities for your major, it is good to consider how a minor might satisfy some of your interests as well.

Minors and certificates can provide opportunities to expand your academic horizons! Study topics you're curious about or gain skills outside of your major. Minors are completely optional and you do not need to have one unless you want one. No matter your reason for interest, check out our sections below to learn the what, how, and why of choosing a minor or certificate. 

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What is a minor?

A minor is a specialization or field of study that you can incorporate into your undergraduate degree program. Minors can relate to your major or be completely different.  

At the U of M, there are two types of minors. The first is undergraduate minors related to a major. These are minors that have a corresponding academic major (ex: there is both a Chemistry major and a Chemistry minor).

The second is undergraduate freestanding minors. These minors do not have a corresponding academic major. They typically are more interdisciplinary in nature (such as Social Justice), or include academic departments that do not offer a major (such as Leadership).

You must be enrolled as an undergraduate student to pursue a minor. Minors vary in number of credits but average around 15 to 16 credits.

What is a certificate?

Certificates are similar to minors but differ in a few essential ways. Certificates tend to emphasize a specific set of knowledge or professional skills in areas like technology, education, or business. Most certificates do not have a corresponding major and can be completed in 12 to 16 credits.

Where can I learn more about minors and certificates?

A great way to easily view all of the available minors and certificates is with CAPE’s Major Profiles. Most minors are open to students from any college so be sure to look beyond your home college when exploring. 

Some minors and certificates are also offered as majors (for example, Chemistry is both a major and a minor). To learn about these options, you may need to scroll down on the major’s profile page. Look for the section titled “Information about the Minor/Certificate”.

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What factors should I consider when choosing a minor?

The most important thing to remember when considering whether to add a minor or certificate is you. Is there another area of study you want to learn more about? Are there specific skills you want to learn before you leave the U? Could a minor or certificate help you prepare for a certain career path you have in mind?

Do I need a minor/certificate? Should I have a minor/certificate?

Do employers/grad schools care? Does my minor have to be related to my major?

Many students worry that they need to add a minor to “impress” employers or graduate programs. This is not the case! Minors and certificates are not required nor will you be disadvantaged for choosing not to have one. 

You may choose to add a minor or certificate to your undergraduate degree for a variety of reasons:

  • You have a second academic interest you want to explore. This may be a topic related to your major or something you feel is missing from your major. 
  • You are curious about something and want to learn more. Adding a minor/certificate is a great way to stimulate your thinking during your time here at the U. Humans have an incredible ability to draw connections between seemingly unrelated topics. A minor/certificate might seem unrelated to your major, but it can still provide you with insight and a unique perspective. You might surprise yourself with the connections you can make!
  • You might add a minor or certificate to learn specific skills related to a career field or personal interest. 

Why do a minor/certificate instead of a second major?

  • You may not be interested enough or have time to do a second major. A minor/certificate is a great way to get parts of another subject without the time needed to finish another entire major. 
  • You may only want certain elements of a second major, so you choose the minor to focus on the parts that are most important to you.

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Can I declare a minor that is in a college other than the one I am enrolled in?

Yes! But it also depends. Many minors are open to students regardless of the college they are in. However, some minors are only accessible to students enrolled in that particular college.

Ask your academic advisor if you have questions about a specific minor.

What happens if I start a minor/certificate but decide not to finish it? Won’t I have wasted my time?

Good news! No matter where you are in a minor or certificate, if you decide to no longer want to pursue it, no one will know. You will still get credit for the classes and they will still appear as completed on your transcript. But, there will be no statement like “Student dropped X minor.” because dropped minors are not listed on your transcript.

Keep in mind your "why" for starting a minor or certificate.  If you wanted to learn new skills or dive into an interest, not finishing the program does not mean you walked away empty-handed. You still get credit for the classes you took. You also still have all the knowledge and skills you learned in your toolbox. You can even mention these courses and skills on your resume or in an interview! Instead of saying “I minored in X,” you can frame it as “I took courses to explore my interest in X” or “I wanted to grow my skills in X so I took these courses…”

I want to add a minor/certificate in X area but I can’t fit it into my degree plan. What should I do?

Don’t worry! Even if you can’t finish the full minor or certificate, you still likely have access to the classes!  Look at the minor or certificate program you want and focus on classes you most want to take. Talk to your advisor about accessing these courses and working one or two into your schedule. When it comes to resumes and interviews, these courses are something worth mentioning!