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Best Subjects to Minor in for College Students in 2020 — And Beyond

Guest Contributor


From being nudged out of their comfort zones (and, as of Spring 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, their residence halls) to cramming for exams to navigating a new social, academic and professional landscape, college students have it tough as it is. They’ve got plenty on their plate, and they’ve selected a major — why declare a minor, too? 

The thing is, minors aren’t so minor after all. 

In fact, choosing a minor may be the crucial factor in determining future academic or professional opportunities. And, in this new decade, certain disciplines may prove more useful than others.

That being the case, it’s important not only to help your student decide if a minor is right for them, but also to guide them toward a minor which is fulfilling, advantageous and interesting. 

But first, let’s start with —  

The Purposes of a College Minor

A college minor is an academic field formally declared and committed to by a student which is secondary in importance to their declared university major

While students must choose a major in order to receive a bachelor's degree, a minor is usually optional. 

There are several reasons why your student might want to commit to a college minor, including:

  • Complementary to a major – Some minors work perfectly with a major to make for a well-rounded graduate and future job candidate, such as a minor in print journalism with a major in digital marketing.
  • Hesitation to commit to a career path – It’s early days for your high school or college kid, and easy to see why they may not yet know what they’d like to do with their lives. A minor allows them to obtain experience and credits necessary for a career in their second option, should the first option be crossed off.
  • Cross-school disciplines – Your student may enroll in a particular college within a university system, and that school may not have the major they’re looking for. Many colleges offer cross-school minors, allowing them to get everything they want out of a university. 
  • Only offered as a minor – There are some disciplines in which a university may not offer enough courses for a student to make it their major. Minoring in one of these areas lets your student get the education they want without needing to transfer schools.
  • Personal interests – Your student may want to take a few courses “just for fun” or to satisfy their personal interests. Declaring a minor allows them to focus on what they want to learn, rather than only what they feel they need to learn.
  • Fewer classes – Completing a minor requires far fewer classes and effort than choosing to do a double major.

The Best Minors for the New Decade

Here are eight minors which will be important and useful in 2020 and the years to follow.

1. Creative Writing

Creative writing isn't just for future novelists or poet laureates. Writing is a key part of many professional fields, from marketing to law to corporate finance. A creative writing minor is a great complement to any major, and an added bonus — your student will be better equipped to ace any upcoming essay assignments! 

2. Multimedia Journalism

Though multimedia journalism may be declared as a full major at many universities, it is also a top-notch minor for college students in a wide array of majors.

Journalism has been around for ages, but we’re currently in the middle of a multimedia revolution. As the world shifts to new technologies, journalism must adapt as well, as it is a crucial pillar of society, peace and accountability. 

3. Urban Studies/Planning

According to a 2018 UN report, experts believe 68% — over two-thirds — of the entire world’s population will live in cities or urban areas by 2050. For that reason, studies focused on urban growth, cultural dynamics and sustainable development will increase in demand over the coming years.

Though many universities offer urban studies and planning as a major, a minor also benefits a student who plans to work in the nonprofit, healthcare, education, social work, environmental studies or public administration areas. It pairs well with economics, too.

4. Environmental Science

Another, more troubling, report by the UN claims that “global emissions must fall by 7.6 percent every year from now until 2030 to stay within the 1.5 C ceiling on temperature rises that scientists say is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences.”

As an interdisciplinary subject, a minor in environmental science prepares future leaders by equipping them with knowledge of the environment, climate systems, biology, social sciences, and more. This will prepare them to make the right decisions for our planet in the near future. 

5. Queer Studies

Though we’ve made great progress in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community, many public K–12 schools in the U.S. still do not provide an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. For students entering university from schools where LGBTQ accomplishments, history and rights were glossed over, ignored or even rejected, queer studies prepares them with crucial insight to have in life. 

According to Oregon State University, a minor in queer studies also paves the way for future careers in public health, public policy, grassroots activism and organizing, performing arts and academic work at the postgraduate levels.

6. African (or Africana) Studies

By 2040, the African workforce will be the largest in the world, a full 1.1 billion strong. A minor in Africana studies will provide a professional head start and enriching experience for any college student. Aside from business insight into the many emerging markets of Africa, students can take home an understanding of history, culture, inequality and current events from an Africa-informed perspective.

7. Business

Minoring in business studies provides a solid foundation and strong complementary benefits to limitless non-business majors. Computer science majors may benefit from a business studies minor if founding a startup in the future, for example. 

Aside from the business perspective, business studies equips students with skills in communication, analytical thinking, collaboration and more — soft skills prized on any future career path.

8. Animal Studies

Animal studies is a set of courses which help to bolster many degrees in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and more. As Gen Z is more concerned about animal rights and the environment than any previous generation, its importance can only grow from here.

There are very few universities in the United States which offer animal studies as a discipline, and this one usually comes as a minor-only program. NYU’s College of Arts & Science, for example, has more than a dozen courses available on animal studies, and a student is required to complete four of them to achieve their minor. 

Is a Minor Right for Your Student?

Whether to bolster the breadth of their knowledge, to experiment with professional fields of secondary importance, or to simply learn new things, a minor is a great option for many college students. 

However, declaring a minor isn’t for everyone. 

A struggling student may need to focus solely on their major, while an ambitious student with a set career path may want to double major instead.

Make sure your student knows the limitations, struggle and effort that a minor entails. If they’re truly comfortable, together you can weigh the pros and cons and identify a minor which will be enriching, fulfilling and beneficial for their future.

Christian Eilers is a career advice writer and expert on the topics of education, entrepreneurship, employment, HR, travel and culture. As the Content Lead at Goodwall, he covers subjects including college preparation, career development, self-improvement, social impact, climate action and more. Originally from New York City (where he studied at CUNY), Christian now lives in Warsaw, Poland. He writes about culture and travel for Dauntless Jaunter, and has been featured in Business Insider, SparkPeople, Reader's Digest, Business News Daily and several other publications.
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