Academic major
In the United States and Canada, an academic major or major concentration (informally, major or concentration) is the academic discipline
Academic discipline
An academic discipline, or field of study, is a branch of knowledge that is taught and researched at the college or university level. Disciplines are defined , and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and the learned societies and academic departments or faculties to...

 to which an undergraduate student formally commits.

Abbott Lawrence Lowell
Abbott Lawrence Lowell
Abbott Lawrence Lowell was a U.S. educator and legal scholar. He served as President of Harvard University from 1909 to 1933....

 introduced the academic major system to Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1910, during his presidency there. It required students to complete courses in a specialized discipline, as well as in other subjects. Variations of this system are now definitive among tertiary education
Tertiary education
Tertiary education, also referred to as third stage, third level, and post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, university-preparatory school...

 institutions in the United States and Canada.

Today, an academic major typically comprises a core curriculum
Core Curriculum
The Core Curriculum was originally developed as the main curriculum used by Columbia University's Columbia College. It began in 1919 with "Contemporary Civilization," about the origins of western civilization. It became the framework for many similar educational models throughout the United States...

 of prescribed courses
Course (education)
The very broad dictionary meaning of the word course is the act or action of moving in a path from point to point . There are multiple meanings for this word, some of which include: general line of orientation, a mode of action, part of a meal, a mode of action, and many more. This article focuses...

, a liberal arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

 curriculum, and several elective courses. The amount of latitude a student has in choosing courses varies from program to program.

A major is administered by select faculty in an academic department
Academic department
An academic department is a division of a university or school faculty devoted to a particular academic discipline. This article covers United States usage at the university level....

. A major administered by more than one academic department is called an interdisciplinary major.

A student may choose a major when first enrolling as an undergraduate at a school, or while matriculated. Some schools forbid students from declaring a major until the end of their second academic year.

A student who declares two academic majors is said to have a double major. A coordinate major is an ancillary major that complements the primary one. (Compare with academic minor
Academic minor
An academic minor is a college or university student's declared secondary field of study or specialization during his or her undergraduate studies. As with an academic major, the college or university in question lays out a framework of required classes or class types a student must complete to...


Students who successfully complete the courses prescribed in an academic major qualify for an undergraduate degree
Undergraduate degree
An undergraduate degree is a colloquial term for an academic degree taken by a person who has completed undergraduate courses. It is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university...


See also

  • Academia
    Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

  • British undergraduate degree classification
    British undergraduate degree classification
    The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading scheme for undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom...

  • Course catalog
    Course catalog
    A course catalog or course calendar is an organized, detailed, descriptive list of course offerings at a college, university or other educational outlet. Educational organizations usually publish a course catalog with additional information covering academic and administrative policies and...

  • Double degree
    Double degree
    A double-degree program, sometimes called a combined degree, conjoint degree, dual degree, or simultaneous degree program, involves a student's working for two different university degrees in parallel, either at the same institution or at different institutions , completing them in less time than...

  • Higher education
    Higher education
    Higher, post-secondary, tertiary, or third level education refers to the stage of learning that occurs at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, and institutes of technology...

External links

  • Explore Majors at the College Board
    College Board
    The College Board is a membership association in the United States that was formed in 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board . It is composed of more than 5,900 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations. It sells standardized tests used by academically oriented...

  • Index of college majors at The Princeton Review
    The Princeton Review
    The Princeton Review is an American-based standardized test preparation and admissions consulting company. The Princeton Review operates in 41 states and 22 countries across the globe. It offers test preparation for standardized aptitude tests such as the SAT and advice regarding college...

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