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What are general education courses?

Students looking attentively ahead to their lecturer at in a lecture hall

By University of Phoenix

At a glance

  • General education classes introduce subjects that are meant to lay a solid foundation for obtaining well-rounded knowledge on a variety of topics.
  • Most general education classes are taken while obtaining an associate or bachelor’s degree.
  • Some required general education classes may not be required if you can demonstrate through testing or another method that you already understand the topic.
  • Explore more than 100 degrees and certificate options at University of Phoenix!

A general education course provides an introduction to a particular topic. These classes are typically required for an undergraduate degree program and help create a foundation for future learning in that field.

A general education course contributes to a student’s well-rounded education in several ways. For individual students, such courses develop knowledge that is useful in both personal and professional environments. You might learn skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, communication or data analysis through a general education program, for example. All those skills can be applied in daily life at work and at home.

A well-rounded education also contributes to social cohesion on a community level. General education programs provide students with an appreciation of cultures, voices, opinions and perspectives that might be familiar to or different from their own. This education helps to create broad-minded, inclusive communities where people can integrate and work together more effectively.

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Why are general education courses required?

Many colleges and universities require students to pass general education classes before they continue with their degree. These courses help provide students with a baseline understanding of a particular field that may be different. In hands-on fields like science, introductory classes can also provide students with basic skills they will need in future courses.

Some general education courses are also required because of the mission of the institution. For example, a particular college might require students to participate in a general education course that teaches diversity or inclusion. The course, while not in the same field as a student’s degree, aims to foster an appreciation of different cultures and perspectives that can be applied in any field of study.

Some students might not need to take a general education course even if the institution requires it. For example, a student who transfers related credits from another institution might be exempt from relearning the same content in a general education program. In other cases, students might be able to bypass an intro course if it doesn’t align with their degree programs.

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How much of your degree is typically general education?

The total credits that contribute toward a degree depend on a few factors, including your field of study and your institution. However, there are some general guidelines that determine how many general education credits count toward a degree.

Each institution likely has a slightly different alignment of general education requirements across its degree types. Some colleges or universities might require more math-related courses for particular degrees than in other fields. Other institutions might not require any science-related education if students are pursuing a career in language.

It’s also important to consider the relevance of your college course credits. Some institutions might not accept them if you took classes more than a certain number of years ago. For example, degree requirements might have changed if you’ve stepped away from your academic career for a long period. As curricula change and students learn new concepts, some institutions are hesitant to accept general education credits from classes that might have taught skills or information that is now obsolete.

Courses that are considered general education

General education courses are designed to provide students with a greater understanding of a particular topic. Many intro classes are also meant to create more receptive, open-minded learners and include course materials from a variety of perspectives.

Here are some of the fields that typically offer general education classes:

These programs represent only a few of the general education options that colleges and universities may require. Institutions offer education from a variety of disciplines depending on where you attend.

Do you have any choice in general education courses?

While most institutions require that students take and pass general education courses, many students can choose which classes they want to take. For example, a college might require that students take three intro courses in humanities — but it will allow the students to decide which three humanities courses they want to take.

Sometimes an institution might make a particular course mandatory for all students. Although, a college or university will more likely offer a blend of flexible and mandatory general education classes.

One common exception is a non-degree-seeking student — a person who enrolls in a course to develop new skills rather than to pursue a diploma. Because a non-degree-seeking student is interested in only a few courses, and they do not intend to graduate with a degree, many institutions allow them to choose their classes without any required general education.

Considering your field of study as you pursue general education

Many students keep their major in mind while participating in a general education course. Choosing a major can be difficult and time-consuming — a process that’s often made easier if students pay attention to the types of intro classes they enjoy.

Consider your preferred degree as you complete general education courses. Pay attention to the concepts you enjoy learning and the skills you enjoy practicing. If you’ve already chosen your degree, certain intro courses can support your study focus. If you’re still choosing your preferred degree path or you’re considering a degree change, intro courses can teach you more about interesting fields and how you learn best.

It’s important to note that depending on your program, general education courses can change and end up not being eligible to transfer. This can be disappointing for those eager to finish their credits, and taking another course might be necessary. Stay in touch with your academic advisor each quarter or semester to ensure you’re on the right track with your goals.

Even if you already have your degree, general education courses can help you grow your knowledge base in particular areas. Online certificate programs provide flexible education in a wide variety of fields, refreshing your skills in in-demand fields like cybersecurity, marketing or business analytics.

Developmental and remedial courses

Developmental and remedial courses are designed to help students improve their skills in specific fields as they prepare for college-level coursework. These courses are typically offered to students who haven’t met the minimum requirements for college-level classes. They provide foundational instruction that help students eventually succeed once they enroll at a college or university.

Many developmental and remedial courses help students improve core skills in reading, writing or communication. Other classes might help students grasp basic concepts in math or science.

Some academic institutions require that students pass a developmental or remedial course before they’re allowed to begin college-level studies. In other cases, students might be allowed to take a remedial or developmental course alongside their current courseload. Colleges use factors like a student’s GPA, test scores, high school teacher recommendations and other academic indicators when recommending developmental or remedial courses to students.

General education courses at University of Phoenix

Whether you’re hoping to fast-track your degree or simply gain new skills, University of Phoenix offers a variety of general education courses in several disciplines, including the following:

  • English
  • Math
  • Accounting
  • Humanities
  • Communication
  • Business
  • Social science

Some students prefer to take classes through UOPX because of the fixed tuition rate. If you currently or plan to attend a traditional university, double-check with that university first, before taking courses at UOPX, to ensure it will accept credits from UOPX. You can take advantage of UOPX’s academic counselors to ensure you’re taking the courses you need to fit your educational goals.


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