What’s the Difference Between a Degree and a Concentration?

As you get ready to move into your collegiate career, it’s easy to get baffled by the dizzying array of terms that surround every degree program.

For example, what exactly is a degree major? And what’s a concentration? How do you tell the differences between the two? And what about a minor?

Those are good questions. You’ll want to know the answers before you go much further into your academic adventure.

What is a Degree Major?

A degree major defines your area of study, as you will take specific courses to satisfy the degree requirements. Typically, students don’t have to declare a major right away, as they usually start with “core courses” that apply to all degree programs.

Choosing a degree major is important because it sets both the pathway for your studies and prepares you for a career once you graduate. For example, if you are interested in going into marketing, you may want to pursue a business degree rather than, say, art history.

That doesn’t mean an art history major won’t end up a marketing manager. It happens. But to get the best chance of leaving college with a solid career path before you, it’s important – especially in jobs that require specific technical skills – to find a career you think you’d like and then pick a degree program that gives you the best opportunity to enter that field.

It’s not uncommon for people to change their mind after getting into classes for a specific degree program and deciding it’s not what they really want. But once you are set on what will ultimately be your degree, most of your classes will fall into that area of study, ranging from lower-level courses to more complex topics as you progress along your student journey.

What’s a Concentration?

Once you pick a degree major, you may find there are specialties you can “concentrate” on. A concentration is simply a focus of study within the overall degree program.

For example, a New England College student majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing would take courses in advertising, marketing research and sales, in addition to the courses required to earn a business degree.

It’s important to note that a concentration is not a “minor.” A minor is typically an optional area of study outside of your declared major. For example, a student pursuing a sociology degree may minor in psychology.

So, to sum up:

  • A major is a field of study that leads to your degree.
  • A concentration is a specialty within the degree program.
  • A minor is an optional field of study, typically outside your major.

Keep these in mind as you prepare to begin your collegiate journey. And don’t stress too much – there’s time to choose. But it’s an issue that you want to start thinking about now to figure out what you like, eliminate what you don’t, and put yourself on the best path for success in your academic and professional career.

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