Majors, Minors, and Certificates – Explained

Posted by Megan on June 10, 2014

Journey to the Centre of York

Some of the university lingo can be a little confusing to new first years so I thought I would try my best to explain three very important concepts today – Majors, Minors, and Certificates. You might know a little bit about the first two but the third is also quite important.


Majors are your main academic interest. When you applied to York University, whatever you chose would be considered your major. Some people also choose to double major meaning that they have two academic interests. This doesn’t necessarily cost more money, rather you just have less electives in your degree because you choose to concentrate them on your new major’s requirements. You don’t necessarily have to double major in similar academic areas either – it just depends on the requirements and whether the two are compatible. Meeting with an advisor for the major you want to add is highly recommended as they can help you see whether it’s a viable option whether you are in first year or your third!


A meme of a duck
This can actually be a good rule of thumb, especially if your parents are paying for your education. Otherwise you should do both in something you feel passionate about!

Minors are something that you can add to your degree to concentrate in a specific academic field – but not as intensely as a major. For instance, majors often want you to take around 60 credits in the field. Minors generally only require 30. Minors are a great option for students who develop an academic interest in their second or third year of university but don’t have enough credits left to add a major. It’s important to note that you cannot double major and minor at the same time. You can either have a major, a double major, or a major and a minor.


Certificates are similar to minors in that they often don’t require many credits to attain. However, you can pursue many of them simultaneously with your degree meaning you could technically double major or major and minor in something and still attain a certificate. I wasn’t actually aware of this until very recently (thank you to adminbeast on /r/yorku) otherwise I probably would have added a certificate to my degree. A final important note is that certificates can make your resume even more impressive.

York has a page dedicated to certificates you can pursue at the same time as you do your degree. Some highlights include practical ethics, marketing, management, professional ethics, digital design, and so many more!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does adding a major, minor, or certificate cost more money?

Not necessarily. If you are in your first or second year, it likely won’t cost more. Why? Because adding these can just take away from your available electives. So instead of having 36 (or however many) credits for courses you take just because, you can use those credits to focus on a specific academic area.

How do I add a major, minor, or certificate?

An image of the Program Change Request app.
This is what the Program Change Request page looks like.

Use the Program Change Request. However don’t skip to Step 5 (where you actually apply) before reading the first four steps. There is really important information regarding eligibility, timelines, and even more that will affect your application’s success if don’t pay attention.

What are the main advantages of having a major, minor, or certificate?

I personally think this looks better to grad schools and even on your resume because you essentially double up on what you are educated in. Certificates in particular seem quite practical in nature and can give you that edge over someone who doesn’t have one.

Have a question, comment, or concern? Comment below!



Megan is a third-year Psychology student. Follow her on her journey of self-development as she explores and ventures through campus.

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