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What is the Difference Between a Minor and a Micro-Credential?

By Charlene Lattea, WVU Online | Wednesday, October 18, 2023

From traditional minors to micro-credentials, WVU Online offers a roadmap for every learner. Explore today and elevate your educational journey!

The flexibility of online learning makes it unique. No matter where you may be in life, it offers you a specialized academic program.

One of the newest ways to design an individual program is via micro-credentials—small courses that you can take on a wide variety of topics.

A micro-credential is different from a minor because it is shorter, and you only register for the courses that offer specific skills you wish to learn.

Micro-credentials do not take the place of a degree, but they supplement them.

Minor vs. Micro-Credential

The terms "minor" and "micro-credential" may be new and confusing to you, if you don’t know a lot about how academic programs work.

In this article, we will help you learn the differences so that you can decide what kind of learning program is right for you.

What is a Minor?

A minor is a secondary area of specialization beyond the college major that typically requires a minimum of 12 credits. You earn a minor at the same time you are studying for your four-year undergraduate degree.

Although they are popular, minors are usually not required. However, they are valuable because they can either complement your major or allow the you to explore an entirely different subject.

You can even earn more than one minor at most schools. Minors contribute to your intellectual growth and future employers will be looking at them, along with all your knowledge and skills.

Having the right minor will help you define what you want in your career and it will shape your personal and professional development.

What is a Micro-Credential

Micro-credentials are mini certifications that are becoming very popular in both colleges and in the workforce today because they are quick way to earn new skills.

They are fast, flexible, reputable, inexpensive, and customizable for individual needs. You can earn a micro-credential on your own time while continuing your career or other commitments.

They are a great way to showcase your skills and expertise to an employer and to build a professional portfolio that is unique to you.

Micro-credentials are usually offered online and on demand. The coursework may last a few days or weeks and may be narrow or broad in focus, depending on the program.

When you complete a micro-credential, you receive a digital certification, usually in the form of a "badge" that you can attach to your resume or include in your portfolio when you apply for a job.

You can also "stack" micro-credentials to cover a particular topic in more detail. By stacking them, you can combine them in a variety of different ways to create your personal portfolio.

What Is The Difference Between a Minor and a Micro-Credential?

Minors and micro-credentials have their differences, with the main one being the length of time it takes to complete the program. Also, micro-credentials are not specific to any one program and will not apply to the credit hours you need to graduate.

Let’s look at the differences between minors and micro-credentials:

1. Purpose

Minors and micro-credentials serve different purposes. Minors are a group of classes that are intended to add weight and expertise to your undergraduate degree. Micro-credentials, on the other hand, are more targeted and smaller in focus and scope.

Micro-credentials should be relevant to your area of interest. They are especially appealing for working professionals or those who are looking to advance in a particular area quickly, because students only need to register for courses that cover specific skills they wish to learn.

2. Flexibility

Micro-credentials are much more flexible option than minors because you do not have to take any hours of coursework that you don’t want or need.

They are usually completed online, are less expensive, have shorter timelines, and are personalized for you. They are stackable, portable, high-quality, and in-demand.

If you decide later that a subject area is right for you, it will be easier to follow up and get a full degree and major or minor in that area.

3. Time to Completion

The main difference between a micro-credential and minor is the length of time it takes to complete.

A full undergraduate degree is usually 120 credits, while a minor is usually at least 12 credits, or more likely 16 to 20.

A micro-credential is typically made up of at least 6 credits, depending on the program.

4. Degree vs. Digital Badge

The other big difference between a minor and a micro-credential is how they are awarded. A minor appears on your college transcript and is part of your diploma, while a micro-credential is awarded via digital badges.

Badges are digitally embedded with data that demonstrate your skills and competencies and how you earned them.

Most institutions work with a badging platform to issue the digital badge once you complete the coursework. Badges cannot be duplicated and are secured using blockchain, so you can’t misplace or lose it.

They are meant to be shared on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or added to a website, résumé or sent via email.

Which is Right for You?

When deciding whether to earn a micro-credential or a minor, you should always consider your goals and what fits best into your life situation.

Consider the following questions in order to make an informed decision:

  • What skills do I need in order to achieve my career goals?
  • What courses do I need in a specific subject?
  • How much time do I have to devote to learning new skills?
  • Am I working full-time?
  • Do I know what I want to get a degree in?
  • Why should I earn a minor? How will it benefit me?
  • Why might it be more beneficial to earn a micro-credential?
  • What can I do with a micro-credential?
  • Can I possibly reach my goals without the time and expense of earning a minor?
  • Do I have the time and money I need to get a full degree?
  • Would a less expensive micro-credential be better in my situation?
  • Do I want to create a custom learning experience according to my own specific needs, or would I do better with a traditional learning program?
  • Would it be better to try out a subject area with a micro-credential before making the commitment to getting a degree?
  • Should I pair a micro-credential with other micro-credentials and stack them to earn larger credential?
  • Am I capable of sharing my micro-credential badges on online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and to employers and colleagues via e-portfolio or on a website or email?

WVU Online Ambassador Angie Berna Milliren says she found micro-credentials to be an excellent way to learn more about a specific subject in a shorter amount of time, outside of a degree program.

"Completing a micro-credential gives you an advantage because it offers the most current knowledge in a specific subject area," she said.

Feel free to contact Angie if you have questions about micro-credentials.

Ready to Transform Your Career with WVU Online?

Educational pathways can be challenging, but you need to take the time to make informed decisions. Whether you choose a minor or a micro-credential, WVU Online supports your choice and is here to help.

It is now time to do further research and evaluate whether online learning aligns with your personal learning style and life situation.

WVU Online is an ideal starting point in your search for the right school. Our degrees are perfect for working professionals or others who want the convenience and flexibility of online learning from a nationally recognized university.

Learn More

Contact the Coaches at Our Learning Engagement Center

After reading this article, if you are unsure about your goals, or how to identify your interests and skills, be sure to reach out to one of our WVU Online admissions coaches. They are trained to help you look at your individual situation and make the right choice for your future.

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