Baccalaureate Degree General Education Requirements

The baccalaureate degree General Education program consists of 45 credits that are distributed among three General Education components:

  • Foundations courses in writing, speaking and quantification (15 credits)
  • Knowledge Domains in the Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Health and Wellness (30 credits)
  • Integrative Studies that bridges commonality and intersections between the Knowledge Domains

A summary of the applicable attributes to determine if a course satisfies a requirement is available on the University Course Description page. The keystone symbol appears by the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements that may also satisfy General Education requirements vary for each program and is detailed on each degree requirements page. 

Students whose academic majors are in the areas of natural sciences, arts, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences may not meet the General Education Knowledge Domains components by taking courses in the department or program identical to that of the academic major (this is commonly referred to as the General Education Firewall). All General Education courses are to help students explore and integrate information beyond the special focuses of their majors. 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 Domain, e.g., a Theatre major may not register for THEA 208/AFAM 208 Workshop: Theatre in Diverse Cultures and have it count in the Arts requirement.

The General Education requirements for students who enrolled at Penn State prior to Summer 2018 can be found in the Archive.


Baccalaureate Degree Requirements 


Total 15 credits

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

Requires a grade of C or better

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

Knowledge Domains

Total 30 credits

Requirement Credits
Health and Wellness (GHW) § 3
Natural Sciences (GN) § 9
Arts (GA) § 6
Humanities (GH) § 6
Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS) § 6
Integrative Studies (either Inter-domain or Linked) courses (6)

 Students must complete at least 3 credits of Single Domain coursework in each of the Knowledge Domains (GA, GH, GHW, GN, GS). A student’s use of Inter-Domain courses, substitutions, or other flexibility options cannot replace this requirement. 

Flexibility of the Baccalaureate Degree 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.
  3. Substitute a course in one of the Knowledge Domains areas of Arts, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, or Health and Wellness for a course in one of the other areas. For example, a student might take three courses in the Arts, and only one course in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. In another example, a student might take two courses in the Natural Sciences and two courses in Health and Wellness; or a student might take two courses in the Natural Sciences and three courses in the Humanities. This substitution is referred to as the Move 3 substitution.
  4. The use of these substitutions (No. 2 and No. 3 above), either alone or in combination, may not lead to the complete elimination of any area in the Foundations or Knowledge Domains categories in the student's general education program, nor may they be applied to reduction of credits in the same domain.

Additional University Requirements

These requirements may be completed by designated courses that also complete other degree or General Education requirements.

Total 9-12 credits

Requirement Credits
First-Year Engagement Program ± 0-3
United States Cultures ‡ 3
International Cultures ‡ 3
Writing Across the Curriculum 3

May include a First-Year Seminar; 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.

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