Students Prior to SU18
Students Prior to SU18

Baccalaureate Degree Requirement

Baccalaureate Degree Requirements

The baccalaureate degree General Education program consists of 45 credits that are distributed among two General Education components: (1) Skills (15 credits) and (2) Knowledge Domains (30 credits) in the Natural Sciences, Arts, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Health and Physical Activity. Every baccalaureate degree student also completes the First-Year Seminar, United States Cultures and International Cultures, and Writing Across the Curriculum requirements.

A restriction is placed on students in majors that are closely linked to the Knowledge Domains of Natural Sciences, Arts, Humanities, and Social and Behavioral Sciences to ensure that they participate in the full breadth of General Education. These students may not use a course in their academic major to satisfy one of the Knowledge Domain requirements. For example, an Economics major may not use an economics course to fulfill his/her social and behavioral sciences requirement. Also, students may not count courses cross-listed with courses in their major to fulfill one of the General Education Knowledge Domains, e.g., a Theatre major may not register for THEA 208 (GA; US; IL) / AAAS 208 (GA; US; IL) and have it count in the Arts requirement.

Total 15 credits

Requirement Credits
Writing/Speaking (GWS) 9
Quantification (GW)* 6

* 3-6 credits are selected from mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics; 3 credits may be selected from computer science or symbolic logic.

Total 30 credits

Requirement Credits
Health & Physical Activity (GHW) 3
Natural Sciences (GN) 9
Arts (GA) 6
Humanities (GH) 6
Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS) 6


Requirement Credits
First-Year Engagement Program (S, T, X, or PSU)** credits vary
United States Cultures (US)*** 3
International Cultures (IL)*** 3
Writing Across the Curriculum (W, M, X, Y)*** 3

** May include a First-Year Seminar (often S, T, X, or PSU); a student's campus of enrollment determines whether or not a First-Year Seminar is required.  Students at the University Park campus are required to complete at least 1 credit of first-year seminar and meet any other first-year requirements specified by their home college.  Students at the Commonwealth campuses are required to complete the first-year experiences specified by their campus.  First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their enrollment home for these requirements. 

*** May be completed by designated courses that also meet other degree or General Education requirements.


Penn State wants students to use General Education to experiment and explore, to take academic risks, to discover things they did not know before, and to learn to do things they have not done before. To that end, the General Education program extends the concept of flexibility to all aspects of the degree program.

Students may, with the permission of their adviser and dean's representative:

  1. Substitute a 200- to 499-level course in an area of General Education for a course found on the General Education list. For example, a student may take a 400-level course in history and use it to meet the General Education requirement satisfied by a comparable lower-level history course.
  2. Substitute a world language at the twelfth credit level of proficiency, as measured by the Penn State foreign language offerings, for 3 credits in any of the categories of General Education. Baccalaureate degree students may substitute study in a world/second language at the twelfth credit level of proficiency or higher for any 3 credits in any of the categories of general education only if those 3 credits are in language study beyond their degree requirements. SS
  3. Substitute a third course in one of the Knowledge Domains areas of Arts, Humanities, or Social and Behavioral Sciences for a second course in one of the other areas.  For example, a student might take 3 courses in the Arts, two courses in the Humanities, and only one course in the Social and Behavioral Sciences.  This substitution is often referred to as the 9-6-3 sequence, representing the 9 credits, 6 credits, and 3 credits completed in place of the specified 6-6-6-.SS
  4. Meet the United States Cultures (US) and International Cultures (IL) requirement through completion of an experiential learning program or practicum (one-semester or year long) approved by their College Dean's Office.  Approved Penn State Education Abroad Programs may be used to satisfy the International Cultures (IL) requirement.
  5. Meet First-Year Engagement Program requirements through completion of a First-Year Experience offered by any unit of the University.  Thus, a student who successfully completes a First-Year Engagement Program in one college or campus, prior to transferring to another college or campus, will not be required to complete another First-Year Experience.  However, since there are various modes of offering First-Year Seminars throughout the University, students transferring to a new college may find that a required course that is also a First-Year Seminar must still be taken

SS The use of these two substitutions (No. 2 and 3 above), either alone or in combination, may not lead to the complete elimination of any area in the skills or knowledge domains categories in the student's general education program.