Online Students: What About a College Minor?

May 4, 2023  |  by Heidi Wells, Global Campus

Teresa Scott
Teresa Scott

When someone finds out you're in college, the first thing they often ask is, "What's your major?"

Your major, or program of study, is the topic you're learning about, and it dictates the courses you'll take. But, what is a minor? How is it different from a major?

Teresa Scott is the director of college advising in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. She explains that a minor is a shorter concentration of information in a specific field.

"If a student has an interest in learning more about a specific field such as political science but doesn't want to be a political science major, they can declare a political science minor," Scott says. "You take 15 to 21 hours depending on the minor. Majors are 45 hours or higher. A minor allows a student concentrated study of a particular field without going into the field."


Do you need a minor?

Scott advises students in the online bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies. Other Fulbright advisers share responsibility for students in the online bachelor's degrees in communication and English. The three degrees are offered both online and on campus. The degree programs are identical, Scott says. Students enrolled in degree programs delivered on campus also have the option of taking a minor that is offered online.

Students are not required to have a minor, Scott says. She describes how she approaches the topic when she advises students.

"A degree is made up of core courses of approximately 35 hours plus courses in the major of approximately 45 hours," she says. "That's only 80 hours so I ask, 'What are you going to do to get to 120 hours?' Those hours are electives, which are used to complement the major. They give students an extra skillset, make them more marketable. Other options for those hours are study abroad, experiential learning, internships. So, no, a minor is not required but it's a good way to use these electives to complement your degree."

Students who want to pursue a minor just need to declare the minor for their official record when meeting with an academic adviser, who will then help the student choose courses to satisfy both the major and the minor.

"The minor shows up in a degree audit so the student knows what courses are required," Scott says. "When any advisor meets with a student, we say, 'You're this major and have this minor,' and we talk about what courses are needed to graduate."


What benefit is it?

Does having a minor on your resume make you look smarter, more driven, more well-rounded?

Scott tells students having a minor on their transcripts shows how they focused their time and energy and that they know how to be focused, first of all. Some students declare multiple minors.

"It shows they are good at problem-solving and critical thinking and that they managed all the requirements of a degree," Scott says. "They really are thinking about a plan, what they want to do long term. It shows you're decisive and able to budget time and electives well."


How should you choose one?

Advisers talk to students about their goals to help them choose a minor, Scott says. They suggest the students think about what they hope to get out of their degrees and whether to align majors and minors.

Or, one option for students in a science-heavy major such as biology is to choose a minor that gives them a break from all the science, Scott says. Communication could be a minor that would serve a student majoring in biology who wants to become a doctor and relate well to patients from diverse backgrounds. In addition to helping the doctor communicate with patients, a communication minor can be useful in the interview process for other students who plan to apply for professional schools or simply to do well pitching their skills in job interviews when entering the workforce.

Scott points out that a University of Arkansas diploma does not specify whether a student studied online or in person on campus. The degree, majors and minors are the same accredited programs with the same curriculum and many with the same faculty members teaching courses. Graduates all get their names on Senior Walk.

Often the conversation about minors stems from discussions about elective courses, Scott says.

"In Fulbright, we offer so many electives to give students those opportunities to explore the world," she says. "As a liberal arts college, we want students to be very well-rounded and open to ideas outside their disciplines. We want them to utilize their degrees in what makes them happy, to find something they enjoy and move forward."

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Heidi Wells

Content Strategist

Heidi Wells is the content strategist for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and editor of The Online Learner. Her writing spans more than 30 years as a communicator at the U of A and a reporter and editor at Arkansas newspapers. Wells earned two degrees from the U of A: a master's in 2013 and a bachelor's in 1988.

Wells can be reached at or 479-575-7239.

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University of Arkansas ONLINE programs are designed by academic departments on the Fayetteville campus to offer you another path to earning a degree from a top-tier public research university. Online programs give you the flexibility to balance family, work and school responsibilities. You do not have to put your life on hold while working toward a better one.

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What Minors Does U of A Offer Online?

The University of Arkansas offers 26 minors online, of which four are offered online only. The other 22 are delivered both online and on campus.

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