An academic minor is a college or university student's declared secondary field of study or specialization during their undergraduate studies. As with an academic major, the college or university in question lays out a framework of required classes or class types a student must complete to earn the minor—although the latitude the student is given changes from college to college. Academic minors and majors differ in that the former is subordinate to the latter. To obtain an academic minor, a total of two years of study at a university in a selected subject is the usual requirement.
Some students will prepare for their intended career with their major, while pursuing personal interests with a minor. For example, some students may major in civil engineering and minor in a foreign language.
Other students may pursue a minor to provide specific specialization and thus make themselves more attractive to employers. It is not infrequent for a physics major to minor in computer science or an economics major to minor in mathematics. Engineering students frequently take a minor in mathematics, as they already have most course credits needed for the purpose.
For some, a minor may be the foundation for a career. For example, students intending to become secondary education teachers often major in their teaching subject area (for example, history or chemistry) and minor in education.
Additionally, a minor may be used to pursue an alternative interest. The same engineering student may decide to minor in performing arts.
In Quebec, upon completing one year of coursework in a field, one is granted a "minor" diploma, which can be combined with a "major" diploma or with two other minors to obtain a bachelor degree "par cumul" (by accumulation).
A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard, created the academic major and minor system in 1910. Australia also offers double majors and minors. However, in other countries, like the United Kingdom, students usually focus on a single area of study .
- Charles McGrath, "What Every Student Should Know", New York Times Education Life, January 8, 2006.