I advise about 35 college undergraduates in gerontology and family services. The university that I work for does not require students to have a minor, but about half of my students do. Why do I encourage them to choose a minor?
First of all, a minor does not typically extend the time it takes students to finish college. The exception to this is when students declare a minor very late in their college career. In general, a minor just requires that a student take less elective courses and not more overall courses. And, if an area interests you, you might be taking elective hours in this area anyway. You might as well consider getting a minor.
A minor can also give students an edge in job hunting. Students can choose a minor that complements their major. For students in family services, that might mean a minor in psychology, criminology, or communications. For students in gerontology, that might mean a major in health promotion. If a major and a minor are closely related, many times they will have several overlapping courses, making it even easier to obtain. For instance, a course in developmental psychology counts for a family services major and a psychology minor. I often have advisees who inquire about getting a certan minor, and when we explore that, I realize that they only need 3-4 extra courses to fulfill the minor requirements.
Another strategy, however, is to choose a minor that has little to do with one’s major. I feel that not enough students consider this. On a resume, it shows you’re well-rounded and have diverse interests–and might even give you something to make small talk about with potential employers. I had a family services major last year who graduated with a minor in dance. She had no hopes of being a professional dancer or making a career of dance; she just loved dancing. When she applied to graduate programs, she said many interviewers asked her about it, and she got to explain her passion for it as a hobby.
An underrated minor is a foreign language. Spanish is particularly marketable, but the most useful foreign languages may differ by the area in which you plan to live and work. Another advantages of choosing a foreign language as a minor is often the opportunity to study abroad. At my university, students minoring in Spanish can study in a Spanish-speaking country in order to fulfill part of the hours required.
In summary, considering a minor is a great idea for most students. Sometimes it is even feasible to choose more than one minor. If you are interested in a minor that complements your major, that’s great. If you are interested in something unrelated to your major, go for that!