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Which Do I Choose: A Minor or Certificate?

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By: Amanda Riggs
Academic Success Advisor at American Public University (APU)

As you may or may not know, APU offers 77 certificate options (34 are for undergraduates) and 22 minors.  When you are deciding whether or not it would be advantageous to add a certificate or a minor to your degree, first consider what type of program you are in, as well as what your personal and career goals are.  Is your degree technical?  Are certificates or minors respected in your area of study?  Have you spoken with your Academic Advisor?

[What is an Academic Advisor?]

It may seem as though a minor is the better fit for you since they appear to be more common than certificates.  However, if you are pursuing a technical degree, a certificate may be the better option.  A stand alone certificate program is also a great choice if you are looking to begin your college career but are not quite ready to tackle a full Associate or Bachelor’s degree. 

It is important to understand that APU certificates are not equivalent to industry certifications.  Although in some circumstances our certificate programs may fulfill a pre-requisite or deal with a portion of the material covered in a non-APU affiliated certification exam.  Though minors seem more familiar and traditional, a certificate may be a wise choice if you are preparing to do something specific, such as receive a promotion, or obtain a certain skill set. 

[What’s Your Major?]

If receiving a degree quickly is your highest priority, then the addition of a minor to your Bachelor’s program might be a more practical option.  All of our minors are 18 semester hours, while some of our certificate programs require more coursework (the Undergraduate Certificate in United Nations and the Graduate Certificate in Post-baccalaureate Teacher Preparation currently require the highest number of credits at 24). 

A minor is also a shrewd choice if you are hoping to study an area of interest, not necessarily an area of practicality or need.  Minors allow you to learn about a generalized area of study, such as History, English, or Religion, while certificates relate to specific topics like Infant and Toddler Care, IT Infrastructure Security, and Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness.

[Learn more about degrees in IT.]

With all this in mind, it is important to note that minors can only be incorporated into Bachelor’s degrees.  If you are a graduate student, you have the option to add a certificate to your Master’s degree, or you can enroll in a standalone Graduate Certificate.  Also remember that no more than 3 classes can overlap between with your minor, certificate, and program of study to uphold academic integrity. 

Lastly, when selecting a certificate or minor, you should be aware that your new required classes will be required as Electives for your program.  If you do not have enough Elective space to accommodate a minor or certificate, then your total program length may have to extend.  As with any change to your program, it is best to speak to your Academic Advisor about what is best for your specific situation.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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