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Major minors

Minor decisions, major impact

Academic minors help students improve their prospects for employment

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

​When it comes to academic minors, don't let the name fool you.

These programs are a pretty big deal at Central Michigan University.

How big? Consider that in May 2017, CMU awarded 2,110 on-campus undergraduate degrees. Nearly half of those graduates also earned a minor.

Not all undergraduate students have to earn a minor, and only a handful of degrees and programs require one.

So if these minor programs aren't mandatory, why do so many students take the time to earn them? There are many reasons — including standing out in the job market.

"Employers like to see something that is in addition to regular coursework," said Rob VanDorin, CMU director of business engagement and former associate director of CMU Career Services. He regularly works with business recruiters who visit CMU to connect with students for internships and jobs, along with other partnership opportunities. "If the employer is considering between an 'A' or 'A-plus' candidate, the job likely would go to the 'A' candidate who also had a minor that complemented their major."

A minor may not guarantee a student employment, but most minors will lead prospective employers to pause and take a closer look at a candidate, VanDorin said.

'It has opened the doors'

Rachael Thomas, of Pontiac, Michigan, is a junior majoring in fashion merchandising and design while pursuing a minor in journalism.

These disciplines may seem unrelated at first, but Thomas enjoys fashion as well as writing, and she knows they will work well together.

"In choosing a minor that isn't necessarily complementing my major, I've realized how marketable it has made me," she said. "It has opened the doors to possible journalism careers in addition to careers in fashion merchandising. And by tailoring my journalism minor to my fashion-related interests, I have in a way created a complementary minor for myself."

The importance of advising

It's important for CMU students to connect with an academic advisor or faculty member early and often, said Erik Simon, assistant director of Career Services.

All students are required to choose a major, but choosing the right minor can help them fill in the gaps to complete their educational and career goals.

“If the employer is considering between an ‘A’ or ‘A-plus’ candidate, the job likely would go to the ‘A’ candidate who also had a minor that complemented their major.” — Rob VanDorin

"The minor often helps students define their major," Simon said. "It can help them look at the bigger picture to see where they want to end up and what courses and experiences will help them get there."

There are a wide variety of choices offered in the areas of undergraduate minors, said Michelle Howard, CMU's executive director of Academic Advising and Assistance.

"Faculty members and professional advisors often encourage students to consider minors that complement their academic program and fulfill goals related to career interests and graduate studies," she said.

The university continues adding minors that will meet students' interests and keep pace with industry trends, Howard said. Among the newer minors added are leadership in student affairs (10 enrollees in spring 2017), professional sales (165), entrepreneurship (20), athletic coaching (36), public administration (5) and applied business communications (18).

Some minors that matter

Here's a look at eight minors that have been among the most popular at CMU over the past five years and why current students chose to pursue them.

  1. Psychology: The No. 1 minor choice at CMU for the past four years, psychology has 386 enrollees. Bailey McCarty, a communication disorders major, had this to say about her chosen minor: "By knowing how people feel, act and think, I am able to be more efficient in both professional and personal interactions."
  2. Leadership: The top choice of minor in 2013, leadership has been the No. 2 choice since then, with 301 enrollees in 2017. "Leadership is found in the best school classrooms," said Hannah Bastian, a secondary education major. "I want to inspire young leaders to use their voices, achieve their goals and create a future they are proud of."
  3. American Sign Language: The number of enrollees jumped by 60 this year, to 204. "People tend to forget about the hearing-impaired community," said psychology major Amina Melendez-Mayfield. "My minor complements my major because it will allow me be less restricted in who I can help." 
  4. Marketing: Marketing has been a top-five minor choice for each of the past five years, with 190 current enrollees. Regina Zebell, an integrative public relations major, said this: "Marketing and public relations teams work together, so being skilled and knowledgeable in both will benefit me. I'll understand both sides of the processes and be able to fill in places when needed." 
  5. Information systems: This minor popped into the top 10 in 2015 and again this year. Computer science major Benjamin Groseclose is one of 177 current enrollees. "I find databases and analyzing data to be fascinating, and information systems is closely tied to both," he said. "The understanding of databases is necessary for creating a successful program."
  6. Professional sales: In the top 10 since 2014, the professional sales minor has 165 enrollees. Travis Sleight, a broadcast and cinematic arts major, chose it for a reason. "Sales skills are transferable to not only selling products and services, but also selling yourself," he said. "The sales program at CMU is really good."
  7. Child development: This minor has appeared on the top-10 list since 2015. It now has 146 enrollees, including Hope Davidson, a photojournalism major. "My career choice is oriented toward working with many different types of people," she said. "Working with children teaches patience and adaptability and helps me remember that not everyone I work with will share my mindset."
  8. Family studies: This year, 141 students are enrolled as family studies minors. Communication major Lorenzo Aleman is one of them. "Further into my career," he said, "I'll work with organizations that are family oriented or where family members are involved. I'll be able to draw applicants in and then work together with their families to get them where they want to be in life."

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