Major and Minor FAQs

Major and Minor FAQs

Students often have a lot of questions about majors and minors. For in-depth discussion, you’ll want to meet with an advisor, but here is some basic information that should provide guidance as you make your academic choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a major and how do I choose one?

Your major is the program of study that focuses on your strongest academic interest. Majors vary in number of credits. You can explore in-depth information about every major on our Major Resource Pages. Pay attention to what interests you most, and check out How to Choose a Major for help in making this decision. 

What else do I need in addition to a major in order to graduate?

There are three components to your degree: general education requirements, major requirements, and electives. You will need to:

  • complete a major
  • finish all general education requirements
  • take enough elective credits to reach the required 120
  • earn a minimum 2.0 (C) average overall and in your major

When should I declare a major?

If you expressed an interest in a particular major in your application, you will arrive at John Jay with a major already declared. However, you will have a year or two to explore a variety of possible majors and to make a final choice about which major you would like to pursue. By the end of your sophomore year (around 60 credits earned), you should not only have decided on your major, but also have taken the prerequisite courses and some courses in the major as well.

How do I declare a major?

To declare a major, you can go to the Jay Express counter in the New Building and fill out a Declaration of Major Form. If you have earned 45 or more credits, discuss your major interest with a general academic advisor, who will sign the form if your plan makes sense. No advisor signature is needed if you have earned fewer than 45 credits.

Note that it's possible to fill out the form online and submit it electronically to Jay Express.


Exceptions: Please note that Science Department approval, rather than general academic advisor approval, is needed for any student interested in declaring a science major (Forensic Science, Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB), or Toxicology), regardless of how many credits have been earned. Also, students who have earned at least 45 credits and are interested in a Spanish major must receive approval from a Spanish major advisor rather than a general academic advisor.

Are there special major advisors, or do I get major advising from my general academic advisor?

Yes, there are major advisors. See the Major Resource Pages for specifics about individual majors and how to get advising for them, since departments have different procedures for advising students.

If I change my mind about my major, is it difficult to switch to another major?

No! Just go to the Jay Express counter in the New Building and submit a Major Declaration form that indicates you are dropping one major and choosing a different one. You can submit the form electronically to Jay Express if you prefer. Be sure to do your research and consult with a general academic advisor before switching majors. In addition, keep the following points in mind:

  • You can only change your major once per term.
  • Depending on when you change your major, it may go into effect either in the current term or the upcoming term. Look at the Academic Calendar to see the deadline.
  • If you have completed 45 credits, you will need an academic advisor’s permission/signature on the declaration form to change your major. Of course you should also meet with a major advisor to discuss course planning as soon as possible. Any science major (Forensic Science, Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB), or Toxicology) declaration requires permission/signature from the Science Department rather than permission from an academic advisor. Also, the Spanish major requires Spanish advisor permission rather than academic advisor approval.
  • Some majors have certain criteria for admission and do not allow you to declare automatically. If you are interested in switching into Forensic Science, Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB), or Toxicology, take a look at the admission requirements on their major resource page.

How often can I change my major?

You can change your major once per semester. The deadline for major declaration in a fall or spring term is fairly early, and you can find the deadline on John Jay's Academic Calendar. If you change your major after that deadline, the new major will go into effect for the following term. Remember if you have earned 45 or more credits you will need to discuss your plan with a general academic advisor, who will sign your Declaration Form if your plan makes sense. If you plan to major in Spanish, you must consult with a Spanish major advisor for permission to declare rather than a general academic advisor.


Please note that John Jay's science majors (Forensic Science, Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB), or Toxicology) have their own admission requirements, and declaration into one of these majors requires authorization by the Science Department rather than a general academic advisor.

Can general education courses also count toward my major?

In general, there is no official rule that prohibits you from overlapping (sharing) general education and major courses. However, in order to get a well-rounded education, it's important to take a range of courses that give you different perspectives and help you develop different skills.


Note: If you are considering the Global History major, there may be some restrictions on overlapping major courses with your general education requirements. Take a look at the Global History Major Resources for more information.

What's the difference between a major and a minor?

A major is required, and is your main focus as you pursue your academic plan. Majors will require anywhere from 36 to 75+ credits, depending on which one you choose.


A minor consists of 18 credits and is not required. We strongly encourage you to consider a minor as a way of organizing some of your elective credits into an interesting program of study.

Is a minor required?

No. That said, you will need elective credits in order to reach the total of 120 credits required for graduation. If you need at least 18 elective credits, declaring a minor will help you to reach this number in a focused way, rather than taking random credits.

How do I declare a minor?

To declare a minor, go to the Jay Express counter in the New Building and submit a declaration form.

Can I have more than one minor?

Yes! It all depends on how many more elective credits you still need. See a general academic advisor to determine whether it’s possible for you, considering how many credits you’ve earned and what general education and major requirements you still need to complete. Adding a minor shouldn’t cause you to exceed the 120 credits you need to graduate.

Can I overlap my major and minor courses?

You can overlap (share) a maximum of two courses between a major and a minor.

Can I double major? If so, what do I need to do?

You may be able to double major, depending on how many elective credits you still need. A second major is seen as “elective” since a double major is not required. Freshmen and sophomores usually have time to pursue a double major, and sometimes juniors do as well. Here’s what you need to do:

  • First, check in with a general academic advisor to confirm whether you have enough electives to accommodate a second major.
  • Next, submit a Major Declaration form at the Jay Express counter (or electronically). On the form, indicate that you are keeping your current major and adding another one, rather than replacing one with the other. If you've already earned at least 45 credits, you'll need a general academic advisor's approval/signature on the declaration form.


Note: If you are majoring in Forensic Science, Cell and Molecular Biology, Toxicology, Computer Science and Information Security, Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics, or any other major requiring over 45 credits, you cannot pursue a double major without permission from the Dean of Undergraduate Studies. It may still be possible to pursue a minor. See a general academic advisor to discuss your options.

What questions should I ask myself if I'm considering a double major?

If you are considering a double major, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have an equally strong interest in two majors?
  • Do I have enough room for a second major? All majors involve at least 36 credits (and often more, especially including prerequisites). Meet with a general academic advisor to find out whether you could complete a second major without exceeding 120 credits.
  • Which requirements would I still need to complete in each of my majors? See the Major Resource Pages for major requirements, checklists, course planning information, and major advisor contact information.
  • Am I considering that I can only overlap a maximum of two  courses between my majors? Even if three or more of your courses appear on both major requirement lists, remember that you’re limited to sharing no more than two.
  • Would I rather focus mainly on two areas from now to graduation (which is what I would be doing with a double major) or would I prefer to have more freedom to take a variety of elective courses (which a minor would allow me to do)?
  • Have I considered an interdisciplinary major? If you enjoy studying more than one discipline at a time, consider one of John Jay’s interdisciplinary majors (such as Gender Studies or Humanities and Justice Studies). These majors allow you to study perspectives, issues, and research from several fields - without having to complete two sets of major requirements.
  • How many credits have I earned, and how many credits do my two proposed majors require? If you’ve earned 45 credits and/or one or both majors requires 45+ credits, you will need special permission to declare the double major. Talk with a general academic advisor to see how feasible this double major would be, given your current progress towards graduation. If you still want to pursue the double major, you will need to go to the Dean of Undergraduate Studies office to discuss approval of your plan.

If I declare a minor or a double major, will it take longer to earn my degree?

Not necessarily. If you start early enough and plan well, you should be able to finish everything within the 120 credits. See a general academic advisor to get a better sense of whether you have enough room for a second major or a minor.

How can I complete one of the John Jay certificate programs?

If one of John Jay’s Undergraduate Certificate Programs looks interesting to you, meet with the advisor listed for the program to ask questions and confirm what you would still need to do. It's important to meet with a general academic advisor as well, particularly if you have already earned at least 45 credits, since in that scenario you'll need advisor approval on your declaration form. Remember that you can only share a maximum of two courses between a major and a certificate.

If I have questions about graduate school in my major, where can I go for answers?

If you want to pursue a graduate program in your major, a good place to start your research is by talking with faculty. If you have some favorite professors who are doing work in an area that excites you, ask if you can talk with them and get some guidance and perspective. If you want to pursue graduate studies at John Jay, it’s a good idea to look at the descriptions of the available programs, and contact the Graduate Admissions Office with any questions. You can also talk with the Pre-Law Institute or the Center for Post-Graduate Opportunities.

If I want to learn about the connection between majors and careers, where do I go for information?

The Center for Career and Professional Development has a very helpful website, and they are happy to talk with you about not only the academics-career connection, but internships, job fairs, resume-writing, and more. Look at our Fact or Fiction exercise to see if your assumptions about academics and careers are accurate.