What Are General Education Courses?

General education courses are courses, outside of the student's field of study, that he or she must complete in order to obtain a degree. The purpose of general education courses is to expand students' perspectives and improve their skills in analytical and critical thinking. Schools offering Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

General Education Coursework

While schools may vary in their specific requirements, most degree and certificate programs include a number of similar core courses that establish and improve students' skills in basic areas of knowledge. Schools, overall, give students a choice of courses they can take in a given subject area.

Important Facts About General Education Coursework

Degree Levels Undergraduate; graduate programs assume competency and are more specialized, meaning they rarely require students to take general education courses
Competencies Critical thinking, information management
Online Availability Yes
Additional Requirements Some colleges also require a First Year Seminar (FYS), an examination of a specified topic intended for students with no prior college experience


Schools often have a minimum credit requirement in each of the following areas of study:

Writing and Composition

Freshmen usually need to take one or two courses in composition. Additional writing courses, such as business writing, may also be required within a specific major.

Quantitative Reasoning

College-level algebra, calculus and statistics are possible general education courses that would satisfy the requirement in this area. Other possibilities may include computer, engineering or philosophy courses.

Natural Sciences

Coursework in the natural sciences, such as biology, teaches students about the scientific method and science's relationship to the modern world. Courses are generally at the introductory or first-year level, although a school may allow a student to substitute a higher level course with permission.

Social Sciences

General education requirements in social sciences introduce students to the ways social, economic or political factors can affect society. Anthropology, sociology and ethnic studies courses are among the options that may be included in this area.

Arts and Humanities

Philosophy or music history may fall into the category of general education courses for the arts and humanities. Courses in this category expose students to human values, traditions and historical development.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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