People often talk about having a degree in a specific topic. Although the letters on their undergraduate diploma generally read "Bachelor of Arts" or "Bachelor of Science," their transcript will show a concentration in a focused area, or a major. A minor is a less intensive course of study that is secondary to the major.

Definition of a Major

A bachelor's degree typically requires 120 credit hours of course work, with an average semester course load of 15 credit hours. Your major is the main field of study, where you direct your focus as an undergraduate student. For example, you might choose to focus on mathematics, engineering, business or something particular course of study. Most majors require 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework for completion, depending upon both the major itself and the university.

Refining a Major

The requirements for a major are defined by different academic departments within the university. Majors can be broadly or narrowly defined depending upon how specific the options offered by the department. For instance, some schools might offer a major in economics," while others might offer more narrowly defined studies, such as Latin American economics. A broad major allows you to choose an array of electives, or optional classes, while the major with a narrower focus often allows fewer choices in courses.

Defining a Major

A college minor may be optional, and it requires fewer courses than your major. Whereas a major will often require prerequisite classes and classes across a different fields within the department, a minor may be more of a survey of the department. Completion of a minor sometimes requires completion of as few as five classes within the academic department. Not all academic departments offer courses of study for minors.

Purpose of Minors

Students can elect to minor in a field for a multitude of reasons. A very common reason is to supplement a major. Business majors frequently minor in economics, while majors in the liberal arts underpin their primary study with a minor in philosophy. Education majors are often required to select a teaching field as their minor. Some students also choose to minor in something they are passionate about but that does not pertain to the field in which they seek employment. An interesting minor can also be a good way to make a student stand out in the job market or when applying to grad school.