What Are General Education Courses? | Study.com

Purpose of General Education Courses

General education courses are typically designed to teach diverse skills that every person should master in order to lead a productive life, become a knowledgeable citizen, and communicate ideas as a useful member of society, regardless of her chosen course of study.

Most colleges and universities require every student to take a certain number of classes that satisfy general education requirements. The course topics and number of mandatory credit hours vary between schools, but most general education classes focus on:

  • Development of critical and analytical thinking skills
  • Acceptance of cultural diversity in society
  • Communicating clearly through the formation of logical arguments
  • Intellectual problem-solving that is effective in a society undergoing constant change
  • Understanding emerging technologies and how to incorporate traditional information into new ideological perspectives
  • Appreciation for the arts, humanities, and social sciences
  • Evaluating biological/physical data, as well as environmental issues, to expand knowledge of the natural sciences

General Education Course Topics

Generally, students must complete a certain number of credit hours in each of these topics to meet general education requirements:

Arts & Humanities

Classes that satisfy an arts and/or humanities requirement could include music, visual arts, theatre, or dance. Study.com offers college-level courses to augment your studying in these subjects:

English Language and Literature

The majority of higher education institutions require an English course to ensure that students are receiving an educational foundation that teaches them to write, appreciate world literature, and analyze written words to form educated opinions. Study.com delivers engaging courses covering some of the most common college English topics:

Foreign Language

Proficiency in a foreign language can help students gain awareness of various global cultures and expand their worldview in addition to learning new linguistic skills. At many colleges, students can choose from a range of languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Japanese. Get a head start on your language training with this online language course from Study.com:


History courses provide students with an opportunity to connect cultures from across the globe, and students can find a broad range of history classes that work within the scope of general education requirements. To get an idea of what's available at the college level, check out one of these online history courses:

Mathematics and Science

While most colleges and universities offer math and science majors to keep up with the demand for technologically advanced workers to fill positions in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math – even students pursuing majors outside of STEM fields should possess basic math and science knowledge. Study.com can help students improve their math and science skills with these diverse course offerings:

Social Sciences

The ability to interact with others in society and develop meaningful relationships are two of the main ideas taught in the social sciences field. At Study.com, students can find courses that can enhance their understanding of the social sciences:

Fulfilling General Education Course Requirements

At most universities, general education courses that fall within a student's major course of study can be used to satisfy requirements for both general education and a student's major.

However, with the breadth of courses required for general education, it is likely that every student will be taking classes outside of their chosen major or minor. Students should consult with their academic advisor to make sure they are meeting all general education mandates needed to graduate from their academic institution.