This is when a character reveals that she or he was educated in (or is being educated in) a field or subject that is unexpected for the character. Typically, this gag takes the form of a college minor, as per the title suggests.
For example, a tough macho man could minor in Women's Studies or a ditzy society girl is minoring in Particle Physics.
A great, if narratively cheap, way to showcase Hidden Depths. It may come up at a plot relevant moment and not just as small talk. In such a situation this can act as a justification for a Deus ex Machina or Ass Pull (possibly softening the blow). Sub-Trope of Suddenly Always Knew That. Compare Subject 101. Minored in Ass-Kicking is when combat ability is the character's secondary but notable asset. Compare and contrast Expert in Underwater Basket Weaving, where the character's expertise is portrayed as completely useless.
- One of the Sigma Tau Delta Alpha Bitches in Hazed is majoring in "Hitler Studies". Main character Ileana's major is Women's Studies, which wouldn't be so unusual if she weren't a Sigma Tau herself.
- Harley Quinn is known as a ditzy supervillain in Mad Love with The Joker. She's also trained as a psychologist (or sometimes a psychiatrist, which is even more difficult to become licensed for). This was initially subverted. Harley originally only got through college by cheating, but future retcons depict her either as getting through college by her own merit or cheating because it's easier (not because she finds the schoolwork too difficult).
- Justice Society of America: In All-Star Comics #2, Alan Scott suddenly has the medical knowledge to both perform an autopsy and fabricate a cure for a drug that is turning men into very strong and obedient soldiers for an (implied) Nazi agent. The explanation? He took a few years of pre-med in college.note
- Inverted in Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Team Four Star's Nappa graduated from Sayian University with a major in Child Psychology and a minor in PAIN.
- Doctor Jeremiah from Code MENT has a PhD in Ass kicking, a Bachelor's in Pain and a minor in Women's Studies.
- The Next Frontier gives us Kurt Kerjel, the Communications Officer and token military liaison aboard Kerbin's first FTL starship. His degree turns out to be in Sociology. He also turns out to be an intelligence officer rather than a pure radioman.
- In Mr. Holland's Opus, it becomes a minor plot point that that the school's physical education teacher "minored in modern dance."
- James Bond:
- In You Only Live Twice, James Bond claims to have earned a first in Oriental languages from Cambridge. However, he only says this to Moneypenny and never demonstrates any great language skills, so it's probably just a joke.
- The same shows up in The World Is Not Enough, where Bond manages to impersonate a Russian nuclear physicist, to the point that it is his suspiciously good English, rather than bad Russian, that sets off the bad guy's stank detector. Though the fact that he was about two decades younger than the man he was impersonating didn't help.
- In Up in the Air, George Clooney's character inspires a recently fired man by reminding him that he had minored in French Cuisine.
- Adam frequently makes jokes to this extent about Jamie in MythBusters. While it's true Jamie has done some peculiar things — like being a licensed SCUBA instructor — most of them are made up by Adam on the spot for the lulz. Most of them gags on Jamie's age, such as offhanded mentions of his supposed actions during the Great Depression, though it is a fact that Jamie has a major in Russian Literature of all things.
- A Running Gag on Greek is that Cappie has supposedly majored in pretty much anything plot-relevant.
- A stripper in Bones mentioned majoring in Criminology while giving Booth a lapdance. In another episode, Sully mentions having minored in kinesics - he knew what a scapula was.
- The Have I Got News for You perennial gag of Paul Merton's CSE in metalwork.
- Annie Cartwright, quiet and put-upon mild-mannered WPC of Life On Mars, turns out to be a psychology graduate.
- Used as a joke in an episode of Full House. Normally straight-laced uptight Danny reveals that he's an ace at billiards since he played it all through college. Another character challenges him to darts and, when Danny scores two bullseyes in a row, Danny says, "I minored in Darts."
- Mad Men: Betty majored in Anthropology.
- In Parks and Recreation, Andy goes to community college and takes (one) class in Women's Studies.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Bashir took extension courses in engineering at Starfleet Academy. O'Brien is actually grudgingly impressed by his abilities. Subverted in that it's later revealed that it was a changeling saboteur rather than Bashir who had carried out the work.
O'Brien: Not bad for an extension course.
- In The Sifl and Olly Show, Sifl reveals that he only has, "8 doctorates, one is just a masters in theoretical biomechanical interplanetary advancement".
- In the crossover game Poker Night at the Inventory, the massive, ultra-violent mercenary Heavy Weapons Guy from Team Fortress 2 reveals that he has a PhD in Russian Literature.
Tycho: "Does that come in useful in your line of work?"Heavy: "More than you think..."
- One stage in Kid Icarus: Uprising is set in an underwater palace. When Pit asks how he's going to get there, Palutena jokingly asks Pit how good he is at branchial respiration (breathing with gills), to which Pit says that he minored in branchial respiration before realizing what she meant.
- Dr. Eggman is a scientist and the Big Bad of Sonic the Hedgehog. A joke at the end of Sonic Generations reveals that he went to college to become a teacher.
- In Spirit Hunter: NG, after pretending to be a teacher to satisfy a tortured spirit, journalist Ban reveals to Akira that he actually does have a teaching license from his college days.
- Fighter from 8-Bit Theater minored in an ancient, almost unreadable language, making him a Genius Ditz. Even though he never went to college.
- Kari of Crimson Dark took "Applied Riftspace Dynamics" in flight school. Not very useful for a fighter pilot.
Kari: I had a crush on the tute leader. [beat]. Hey, don't give me that look. I was seventeen, give me a break.
- The Real Man who plays Qui-Gon, and now Amidala, in Darths & Droids is doing a Ph.D. in geophysics. It turns out he is a serious academic in Real Life, but it counts for this because the focus of the story is on the events of the game, and he likes to shut his brain off in those.
- Captain Bob Smith of Legostar Galactica took a "Complex Linguistics" course at the "Academy"... which explains why he can talk to the engineer's cat (he also claims he can speak Wookiee and "a few other weird languages").
- The Order of the Stick:
- Roy took goat herding instead of horse riding as his compulsory animal husbandry class in fighter college, because it sounded like a easy A. He also studied engineering and architecture.
- Belkar is a gourmet cook.
- In Questionable Content, Faye studied Art at college, and Raven has started studying Physics.
- Trigger Star has Sauerkraut, who has a masters degree in Liberal Arts and Finance, and paid for her education by using her football player physique to crush various monsters and people for money. Easier than getting a student loan, anyways.
- In Mission Hill, Andy mentions that he minored in massage at his alma mater, the notorious (fictional) party school Borthchmore, who's main claim to fame is its high number of fraternity drinking deaths.
- In one episode, Bender mentions that he went to Bending College, majoring in Bending and minoring in Robo-American Studies.
- In another episode, we even got a flashback to him getting this "major": as you would expect, it consisted of a data upload to his head. And then getting a diploma via robotic arm.
- In the first "Anthology of Interest" episode, Zoidberg says that he took correspondence courses in Murderology and Murderonomy.
- Zoidberg's medical specialty is supposedly humans. However, he was shocked to find out that Fry only possessed one mouth... because he majored in Art History.
- Jim "I'd Rather Not Talk About It" Moralès of Code Lyoko seems to have an Expansion Pack Past composed entirely of these, in Noodle Incident format.
- Kim Possible: Dark Action Girl and supervillain's sidekick Shego majored in Child Development, which is plot-relevant when it's introduced but still unexpected.
- The VeggieTales spoof of Star Trek had this conversation:
Junior: But why ask me for help?
Bob: Didn't you minor in aerospace technology at the Happy Tots Preschool?
Junior: Why, yes I did!
Larry: What did you major in?
Larry: Me too!
- An early pre-Flanderization episode of The Simpsons has Flanders joke that he had a PhD in "Mixology" and make Homer a cocktail that gets him immediately hammered.
- Ratso, one of the lower leveled intellects in Jackie Chan Adventures, says he studied Theoretical Physics before becoming a crook.
- An early episode of Family Guy reveals that Dr. Dre does indeed have an actual PhD, but when Chris asks him if he can fix himself up if he gets shot in a rap feud, Dr says that his degree is in optometry.
- A variation occurs in an episode of DuckTales (1987), when it turns out Fenton's girlfriend Gandra knows how to pilot a Humongous Mecha. When asked about how she learned that...
Night school. Nail polishing class was full, so I took Advanced Espionage Robotics instead.
- Subverted with Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series. The episode "Mad Love" reveals she was a rookie psychologist who fell in love with the Joker. Psychology seems like an unusual career for the wacky and villainous Harley Quinn, but it's been shown that she only got into the career to make money off of being a "talk show psychologist".
- Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, claims to have a degree in violence.
- Indiana University offers a "Build Your Own Major" major. It's the same way New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz got his degree in Enigmatology.
- Uwe Boll holds a doctorate in Literature.
- Thanks to Polish psychologist Andrzej Łobaczewski, students may now receive an actual degree in evil—ponerology, in his terms. It's the study of societal causes of sociopathy and social injustice, although nonetheless his students can legitimately claim to have least taken a few courses in evil.
- Indie actress and screenwriter Brit Marling majored in Economics at Georgetown University and was offered a job with Goldman Sachs, then turned it down to pursue acting.
- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and 2016 Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. Her undergraduate major was philosophy and medieval literature.
- Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel holds a law degree. As an undergraduate, he studied philosophy.
- Oscar winner Natalie Portman holds a Bachelors in Psychology from Harvard.
- Actress Rashida Jones majored in Philosophy and comparative religion at Harvard.
- Dwayne Johnson holds a Bachelors in Criminology and Physiology from the University of Miami.
- Dolph Lundgren (yes, that Dolph Lundgren) has a Master's in chemical engineering.