What is a Concentration in College?

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Learn the differences between a concentration in college and your major or minor.

As you plan for a major, minor, or concentration in school, you may be confused on what these terms mean for your college future and career.

Choosing a concentration or major is exciting but stressful. You have a lot to consider. From required courses and electives to how each class meets your general requirements. But before you choose a subject to study, it’s important to be informed.

When you learn the difference between major and minor degree programs and choose a major, you can look at another type of study. The concentration.

But what is a concentration in college? How is it different from a major? Also, how does it help improve your college experience and career?

Majors, Minors, and Concentrations

Read on to learn about:

  • majors
  • minors
  • concentrations

What each is and how they impact your college career.

What is a major?

Your major is the study area you choose to focus on in college. It is the first step toward getting serious about your degree.

Colleges offer a wide range of majors from business to psychology. They also allow students to explore their interests before choosing a major. In fact, most colleges won’t have you declare a major until your sophomore year.

Once you declare your major, your studies will shift. In fact, about half of your classes will move from general education requirements to your focus subject.

Popular majors in college include:

  • biology
  • business
  • computer science
  • engineering
  • English
  • psychology

What is a minor?

Your minor is a secondary subject you choose to study in college. It doesn’t always relate to your major, in fact, it often doesn’t.

Colleges don’t require minors. However, they offer minors as a way for students to explore other subjects without having to choose a second major.

To earn a minor, you take a few classes in a subject area. Because of the minimal requirements, you can pick up a minor that doesn’t relate to your major. For example, a student majoring in English can earn a creative writing minor by taking only three to four additional classes. Additionally, an engineering student with a love for film can earn a minor in film studies by taking a few electives.

The point is a minor is a good way to explore your interests and enrich your college experience without a huge time commitment.

What is a concentration?

A college concentration narrows your major. While you won’t change your major by choosing one, you will focus on a deeper level of your study area.

Since your major offers broad study in a subject, you should look at this area of focus as a subfield of your major.

But exactly what is a concentration in college?

A concentration in college lets you dig into a larger field of study – your major.

Like minors, schools don’t require you earn one. However, it helps improve your college experience.

But what does concentration mean in college?

It means you take a few extra courses that are different than your major. However, they are often related. For example, business majors with sights on owning their own business can earn a concentration in entrepreneurship. Likewise, sociology majors can earn one in gender studies by taking a few more classes.

Difference Between a Major and a Concentration

Concentrations, or subfields, require a few extra credits and courses. However, a major is your focus area in college. As such, you take many classes related to the subject. You also complete a large number of credits.

Difference Between a Minor and a Concentration

The biggest difference is that a minor is a second field of study that’s not always related to the major. However, a concentration is related. It’s a subfield.

A minor in African American studies won’t relate to your math major, but is a good minor if you’re interested in exploring other interests. A concentration in African American studies, however, will relate to your sociology major.

When to Choose a Concentration

If you want to dig into an area of interest related to your major, then consider a concentration.

Below are things you should do before choosing your area of focus.

  • Look at your high school years

Did you enjoy certain classes? What extracurriculars made you smile?

On the contrary, what classes did you hate?

Your high school years can help you decide if you should choose another area of focus.

  • Consider your career goals

What do you want to do after you graduate? Do you want to be an English teacher, lawyer, or social worker? Having clear career goals helps you choose your classes.

But you don’t need to have everything figured out. You have time. Most colleges don’t require you declare your major until your sophomore year.

  • Take different classes

Just because you’re a biology major doesn’t mean you can’t take a history class. In fact, colleges encourage students to take classes unrelated to their major.

If you haven’t declared a major, then it’s even more important to take classes in different fields. For example, an English writing class might uncover an interest in fiction writing. In doing so, you might fall in love with a new subject.

  • Reconsider your interests

It’s not uncommon for a student to change their mind after choosing a major. In fact, more than half of college students change their major. So odds are you will change your study area at least once in college.

Take time to think about what you like and dislike. Know that you’re not locked into one learning path. There’s time, for instance, to change your mind if needed.


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How Do You Declare a Concentration?

Each school has its own way of choosing a major concentration. But most colleges require that you inform your academic advisor or counselor of your decision.

Some schools have automated systems in place, while others require you fill out a paper and submit it to your registrar’s office.

In the end, though, it’s an easy process that takes only minutes to complete.

Popular College Concentration Areas

Not all majors offer concentrations. However, some majors draw students based on the extra focus areas.

And they not only attract students, but also prepare them for work in different fields related to their major.

Below are the most popular study areas for concentration college students.

Top Subjects in Business

  • Accounting
    Business majors can earn a focus area in accounting by taking a few extra courses. On the contrary, accounting majors can focus on subjects like:
    • auditing
    • cost accounting
    • financial accounting
    • forensic accounting
  • eCommerce
    Over the last ten years, this subject has grown in popularity, especially for those interested in online business and how it works. It focuses on marketing and sales strategies for the digital marketplace. It also looks at other subjects like:
    • database marketing
    • IT
    • telecommunications
  • Economics
    For ten years, economics has remained one of the most popular business degree concentrations. The field pays well and offers stable job growth. If you enjoy math and statistics, consider more study in this field.
  • Finance
    Finance prepares you for jobs in financial services industries, such as banking and insurance. Courses cover topics like:
    • buying and selling
    • money management
    • risk
  • Marketing
    Marketing teaches you how to brand and promote a business. Your classes cover everything from business ethics to social media branding.

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Top Subjects in Computer Science

  • Artificial Intelligence
    AI is a high paying field that teaches you how to:
    • solve problems
    • complete complex tasks
    • make predictions

You should have strong math skills. You should also have taken high school computer science classes.

  • Computer – Human Interface
    You study the ways in which people interact with computers and technology, from mobile phones to virtual reality.
  • Data Analytics
    You learn how big data works. What it means and how it’s used. You also learn how to mine large data sets. Courses include:
    • big data and machine learning
    • bioinformatics
    • data science
    • theory of time series
  • Game Design
    You learn about machine learning and how AI helps with game progress. Careers include:
    • software engineers
    • video game designers
    • video game programmers
  • Information Security
    IS prepares you with skills needed to prevent hackers. You also study security measures. Careers include:
    • data security analysts
    • information security analysts
    • system security analysts
  • Software Engineering
    You focus on systems and protocols used for certain applications. You also learn how to:
    • debug and test software applications
    • improve security in computers

Top Subjects in Education

  • Early Childhood
    You learn how to teach children up to eight years of age. You also learn how to help children with learning problems. You study:
    • early intervention
    • emotional disorders
    • learning disabilities
  • Special Education
    This master’s degree concentration teaches you how to help students with limitations. You focus on teaching children with physical disabilities, as well as cognitive limitations.
  • STEM
    STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math equips students with teaching methods in related subjects.

An image of a health scientist for our FAQ on What Is a Concentration

Top Subjects in Health Sciences

  • Biomedical Science
    This focus area is often seen in programs like:
    • biology
    • biomedical engineering
    • health sciences

You learn how biology affects human health. You also learn how it relates to health care. You take courses like:

    • immunology
    • nutrition
    • pathology
  • Community Health
    Growing in popularity, community health is a biology or health science focus area. You study health education. You also look at ways to improve human health. Courses include:
    • health education and promotion
    • health planning and administration
    • rehab studies
  • Health Administration
    This masters degree concentration teaches you how to lead a healthcare organization. Courses focus on health care management and patient safety and quality care.

Top Subjects in Psychology

  • Counseling Psychology
    In this program, you focus on patient care. You put psychology principles to work by learning how to help people cope with problems and challenges. You can also focus on specific subjects, such as substance abuse and sexual orientation.
  • Forensic Psychology
    This degree concentration teaches you think critically. You also learn about the criminal mind. You develop research skills that help in your career as a psychologist or worker in the criminal justice system.
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    You learn about the relationship between psychology and its connections to large and complex organizations. You also learn how to encourage and support employees and staff. Plan on taking courses that teach you about:
    • evaluation
    • training
    • personnel selection

You also take courses that cover topics like:

  • cultural psychology
  • group and team dynamics
  • leadership in organizations
  • personality and individual differences
  • Sports Psychology
    Sports psychology focuses on the performance and psychology of sport. Since most sports psychologists have graduate degrees, this is often a master’s degree concentration. Your courses cover topics like:
    • coaching
    • exercise physiology
    • performance enhancement
    • sports counseling
    • sports psychology culture

Top Subjects in Social Sciences

Seven major branches of social sciences include:

  • anthropology
  • economics
  • geography
  • history
  • political science
  • psychology
  • sociology

Within these branches are many focus areas. The most popular social science study areas include:

  • African and African American Studies
    AAAS students learn how to think critically and analytically. You also learn how to problem solve. These skills are needed in any field. AAAS students take introductory and advanced courses. You study African culture and languages, as well as art, music, and religion.
  • East Asian Studies
    EAS programs help you improve your critical thinking skills through classes and papers. You learn about the human experience in East Asia. You also learn about East Asian people in the U.S. You take classes like:
    • government and politics in China
    • Japan in Asia and the world
    • the business of China
    • traditional Korea
  • Women, Gender Studies, and Sexuality
    Once called women’s studies, this focus now brings together a wide range of humanities and social sciences subjects. Gender studies is more inclusive than women’s studies. It focuses on how social norms have changed over time. It is a popular study area for any social science major.

In summary, you now have information to answer the question: what’s a concentration in college? You know the difference between majors and minors and how a focus area will help enrich your college experience.

BDP Staff
September 2021

Related Resources:

This concludes our article on what are concentrations in college.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris