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Adding a minor can enhance what a student learns in a major

Faculty, students say a minor also can show a more well-rounded experience on a transcript — for no additional tuition

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ASU photo.

September 02, 2021

Majors are among the stars of the academic world. Whether students keep the same one throughout their time in college, change them along the way or double them up, majors play a central role in the college experience.

Rarer, though, are mentions of a minor or an academic certificate gained through completing specially arranged courses. That’s often because students don’t have a minor or in many cases may not even know they exist.

Faculty members in Arizona State University's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions say minors deepen students’ academic experiences and offer complementary knowledge to what they are getting from their majors that can make a difference as they enter careers — and adding a minor often costs no additional tuition.

The college offers 13 minors, nine of which are within the School of Community Resources and Development. Those nine minors range from special event management to recreation therapy to community sports management.

Watts College enrollment estimates for this semester report that about 604 ASU students have minors based at the college out of more than 9,800 throughout the university.

In addition, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a minor in criminology and criminal justice, the School of Social Work offers one in social welfare, and the School of Public Affairs offers one each in public service and public policy, and in urban and metropolitan studies.

The college also offers 14 certificate programs for completing certain menus of courses. Find them, as well as the college’s minors, on this list of all ASU academic minors and certificates.

Minors can refine broader themes in majors

Minors and certificate programs offer students ways to enhance learning from courses in their majors, say two School of Community Resources and Development faculty members, who work with several students with minors.

A student’s experience in a more broadly defined major can benefit from a minor, said Lecturer Claire McWilliams, who teaches tourism development management.

“I see minors as smart extensions that broaden the reach of a bachelor’s degree,” McWilliams said. “You could have a dozen students graduate with a communications degree, but only a few of them will have an events certificate and a minor in tourism.”

Including minors and certificates on a resume can make students stand out to potential employers, McWilliams said. “I see them as a very practical thing.”

Erin Schneiderman, a clinical assistant professor who teaches special events management, agreed based on evidence she has observed among students who take that subject as a minor.

“When they take it as a minor, it means they want to go deeper into the events industry. They believe that the additional credential will enhance their major,” Schneiderman said. “For example, a (criminology and criminal justice) major will say, ‘I’m interested in special events management, and if I’m working in law enforcement and assigned to a specific event, I’ll want to know what’s happening around me.’”

Schneiderman said other examples include fashion majors learning about how fashion shows are created, or art students who know they will show their work in public art festivals, both of which are discussed in special events management classes.

Some students don’t know minors are available

The often-large undertaking of choosing a major sometimes leaves some students forgetting or even unaware they can pick a minor or certificate program as well, McWilliams said.

“There’s a big challenge for them to sort out majors. We’re trying to get them to be aware of minors and certificates in the larger picture in putting together their college program,” McWilliams said.

A more diverse menu of items on a student’s academic transcript show that student has had a more well-rounded experience, McWilliams said.

In addition to complementing a student’s major, a minor also can afford the chance to explore a second discipline that interests them, said Joanna Lucio, Watts College associate dean for academic affairs.

“For instance, minoring in a language, such as Spanish, can help a nonprofit major who wants to work for a nonprofit that serves a Spanish-speaking population,” Lucio said. “Or, a criminal justice or public service and public policy major might minor in social welfare if they want to focus their careers in social services.”

Students gain additional knowledge that will help them on a career path, broaden their perspective and add depth in an area of their interest — and it is reflected on their academic transcript, she said.

Students praise adding minors to their experience

Alexandra Monksfield, a junior supply chain management and business (public policy) major, said she uses knowledge from her special events management minor every day.

“Events management is very similar to project management,” Monksfield said. “I use the key ideas and tools I have learned to put them in a business aspect and give me the upper hand to finding more creative ways to solve issues. Not only does my minor allow me to interact with people not in the business program, but I am also given more opportunities across the job market.”

Samantha Sahagun, a junior social work major, recently added a minor in parks and protected area management that she said will provide her more resources for day-to-day living.

“I have always been very passionate and fascinated with being outdoors and wanting to better the environment. I thought the perfect way to accomplish this was by furthering my knowledge by adding a minor in something that I am passionate about and can hopefully use in my social work career,” Sahagun said.

Caitlin Personale, a senior marketing major, said her special events management minor has opened up several new doors, introducing her to “countless people, companies and roles never before thought of.”

“I was able to identify key strengths of mine and strong passions within the classes that I was previously unaware of,” Personale said. “From nonprofit leadership to sports tourism, both the transferable skills and real-world application value are unbeatable.” 

Lucio said that while students can have more than one minor, she strongly recommends students consult with their academic advisers before enrolling. Interested students can find information about minors and certificate programs from this list.