What Is a Concentration?

As you plan your academic career, you have many options to consider. The array of possible courses of study can be overwhelming. After you learn the difference between major and minor degree programs and select a major, and possibly a minor, to pursue, you may encounter yet another program of study: the concentration.

The Relationship between Majors and Concentrations

For many students, the first step to earning a college degree is to choose a major program of study. A major is the broad category in which a student chooses to study, such as biology, English, art, or psychology. Within a major field of study are narrower focuses. A subfield of study is referred to as a concentration or emphasis. While some concentrations simply allow students to dig deeper into an aspect of their larger field of study, others are interdisciplinary, incorporating other disciplines of study as well as the selected major. Students pursue a concentration by taking a cluster of courses that focus on the subfield of study. Some concentrations must be officially declared, while others are pursued simply by taking the required courses.

When Might a Student Want to Pursue a Concentration?

Concentrations offer important opportunities for students who intend to pursue a higher level of education. For example, aspiring doctors often major in biology and study a concentration such as pre-medical (pre-med) during their undergraduate educations. A common educational path for these students is to. Aspiring psychologists may be offered concentrations such as cognitive neuroscience, clinical psychology, social psychology and behavioral psychology, among many others. There is much debate regarding the correct choice of an undergraduate major for students looking to become lawyers. Majoring in criminal justice or pre-law may not be the best choice to prepare for law school, according to U.S. News & World Report. However, some schools are developing interdisciplinary pre-law concentrations within majors such as philosophy, history and political science.

Pursuing a concentration may also be the right choice for students who aren’t necessarily planning to earn a graduate or doctoral degree but want to develop specialized skills, especially when the area of specialization is too narrow to be a common major in its own right. For example, an aspiring photographer might have difficulty locating a school that offers photography as a major degree program, but might instead choose to major in art with a concentration in photography. Undergraduate majors in creative writing are hard to find and may be too narrowly focused to prepare students for writing careers, but an English or writing program with a concentration in creative writing could allow students the same opportunities to pursue their This is often the case with students studying art, music or other creative endeavors.

Not all majors allow or require students to take a concentration. However, paying attention to concentration opportunities available to you as a student could help you develop new skills, find new opportunities for professional experience and explore new career choices you might never have considered before.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris