By Loren Germann-McClain
Senior Academic Advisor II, School of STEM
Adding a certificate or minor to your degree program is a great way to become more knowledgeable in a particular field or widen your understanding in other areas. A degree provides a comprehensive academic experience, but you can shape your educational journey even further with a certificate that shows your knowledge. With a minor, you can dig deeper into a subject you are passionate about.
But before you embark on a certificate or minor, it is worthwhile to carefully consider each option and how it can affect your academic plan in order to determine which (if either) is the best choice for you.
We offer a wide variety of certificates at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These certificate programs are open to students of all skill levels; they are also great for tailoring an education path to a specific goal or even as a study tool for an industry certification.
You can review the differences between certificates and certifications in the Success Center of the ecampus. Please keep in mind that certificates start with higher-level courses, so having strong background skills in that area of study is fundamental for your academic success when you’re taking classes for a certificate.
Certificates are available to students who seek a shorter program than a degree; these programs are mainly focused on improving your academic development or knowledge of a specific discipline. You are required to take a minimum of 18 semester hours (six classes) to complete a certificate, but some certificates may require up to 27 semester hours (nine classes).
In some cases, if you add a certificate to your academic program and there are overlapping courses from your major, concentration, or core requirements, the number of semester hours needed to complete a certificate can be reduced. In other words, a course you take for your main academic program could apply to the certificate requirements as well.
Certificates can be added to an associate, bachelor’s or master’s program, but they can also be in a directly related field of study. For example, if you were enrolled in the bachelor of science in environmental science with a concentration in fish and wildlife management, you could add the undergraduate certificate in fish and wildlife management as well. Completing a certificate alongside an associate or bachelor program is a great way to earn a credential and build your resume.
Stuck between deciding which certificate to add to your program? Our Career Coaches are here to discuss your options and help you decide which certificate may be more appropriate for you and your goals.
Related link: How to Choose between a Certificate and Certification
As a student, it is important for you to develop an understanding of multiple academic disciplines, and this is where minors can shine. A great example of this diversification can be found in pairing a degree in military history with a minor in intelligence studies. The combination of the major and the unrelated minor will enable you to expand your thinking beyond a single discipline and allow you to create a broader academic portfolio, which can be especially useful for graduate schools.
You may not add a minor in a discipline that is directly related to your major. For instance, you cannot add a psychology minor to the bachelor of arts in psychology. While duplication of content in a minor may not have academic value or help your resume stand out, you can utilize the electives within your degree to pursue your desired courses or maximize transfer credit to get you closer to degree completion.
Minors can only be added to bachelor degrees, and they must include at least three unique courses that do not overlap with your academic program requirements (major and concentration classes). You are required to take a minimum of 18 semester hours (six classes) to complete the minor.
Also, note that the requirements for the minor will take up room in the electives section of your degree, sometimes reducing your transfer credit potential. In some cases, if there are overlapping courses between your major, concentration or core requirements, the number of semester hours you’ll need to complete the minor can be reduced.
Funding Minors or Certificates
Before opting for a certificate or minor alongside your degree, it is also a good idea to review financial eligibility based on your funding source. If you are using military tuition assistance, we recommend reaching out to your branch’s Education Office to see if they will fund a certificate and/or minor alongside your main degree program. Your academic advisor can also share the specific guidelines for tuition assistance with you.
Reach Out to Academic Advising If You Need Help
Adding course for a certificate or a minor is optional. But your Academic Advisor can help with any questions or concerns about how your credits may be affected by adding a certificate or minor.
Please be sure to reach out to Academic Advising to discuss your options. We’re here to help!
About the Author
Loren Germann-McClain is currently in her second year as a Senior Academic Advisor II with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She holds an M.A. in English – Rhetoric and Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, as well as an M.A. in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University.
Loren previously worked in human resources and public relations at a public library in Indiana, where she helped develop a project to bring mental health first aid and awareness to public and academic libraries across the state. She has earned grants to help develop coding programs for school-age children and develop free, extracurricular activities to help align with the Indiana State standards for computer science, technology, and coding. Her work has helped empower Hoosier students to be equipped with the critical and computational problem-solving skills they will need in order to succeed in a digitally powered and ever-evolving world.