General Education Requirements

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General Education Requirements (GERs) provide you with the opportunity to discover interests you never knew you had while earning credits toward graduation. No matter what your future holds, be it a career or graduate school, GERs prepare you by emphasizing skills employers want (like critical thinking, problem solving, written and oral communication) along with giving you an opportunity to become more aware of our increasingly diverse and interconnected world. GERs are at the core of our education.

CGS's current General Education Requirements (effective Fall 2018 and later) are listed below. Students should select courses to satisfy their general education requirements from the list approved by the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the College of General Studies. For the list of approved General Education Courses, see CGS General Education Catalog (PDF).

CGS General Education Catalog »


Written communication is central to almost all disciplines and professions. Developing written proficiency is a lifelong process, and it is especially important that undergraduate education accelerates and directs that process toward the achievement of writing skills that will provide a base appropriate for professional or graduate education, or for professional employment.

Introductory Composition Course (3 credits)

Students are required to take the college-level introductory composition course ENGCMP 0200 Seminar in Composition (SC). Students are exempted from this course if they earned 660 on the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section and a 5 on the Advanced Placement Exam. Given the importance of establishing a sound foundation for a student's writing, all students are required to pass SC with a grade of C- or better by the time they have completed 24 credits in enrollment. (Students who do not have a 560 on the SAT or a 24 or above on the ACT might also be required to take the skill-development course ENGCMP 0150 Workshop in Composition before enrolling in SC.)

Note for students transferring from the School of Engineering into CGS: successful completion of ENGR 0012 Intro to Engineering Computing may be used in place of ENGCMP 0200 Seminar in Composition.

Two Writing Intensive Courses (6 credits if not overlapped with other General Education requirements)

Writing-intensive courses (W-Courses) are designed to teach writing within a discipline through writing assignments that are distributed across the entire term. In these courses, students will produce at least 20-24 pages of written work. A significant portion of this work should be substantially revised in response to instructor feedback and class discussion. All students must complete two courses that are designated as W-Courses. Students should satisfy one of these requirements by taking a W-Course in their major if it is available. Students may not transfer credits in to satisfy this requirement. W-courses can be overlapped with other General Education courses (except for Professional Communication).

Math / Algebra

Mastering college-level algebra (3 credits) is required for all students. These skills are foundational for student success in other general education courses.

Students are exempt from having to take Algebra if they earned 620 on the SAT Math or 27 on the ACT Math. Students who do not meet these criteria must earn a C- or higher in MATH 0020, MATH 0025, MATH 0031, CS 0004, or CS 0007. Given the importance of establishing a sound foundation in mathematics, all students are required to satisfy the Algebra requirement by the time they have completed 30 credits in enrollment.

Quantitative and Formal Reasoning

All students are required to take, and pass with a grade of C- or better, at least one course in university-level mathematics (3 credits) (other than trigonometry) for which algebra is a prerequisite, or an approved course in statistics or mathematical or formal logic.

A C- or better is needed in a course that satisfies this requirement. Students who qualify for placement in an upper-level course in mathematics on a proficiency placement test are exempt.


Diversity courses focus centrally and intensively on issues of diversity, and do so in a manner that promotes understanding of diversity. They provide students with analytical skills needed to understand structural inequities and the knowledge to be able to participate more effectively in our increasingly diverse and multicultural society. The courses may address, though not be limited to, such issues as race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religious difference, and/or economic disparity.

All students must complete one course (3 credits) that is designated as a Diversity course but may take this course within their major field of study, if available. Diversity courses may also be courses that fulfill other General Education Requirements. (3 credits if not overlapped with another General Education course).

Language/Oral and Professional Communication

All students are required to take a sequence of two courses (6-10 credits)that provide them with advanced study of a second language other than English, or the ability to develop their skills in oral and professional communication. Students choose one of the following options below:

Option 1: A Sequence of Two Courses in a Second Language (6-10 credits)

Students complete with a grade of C- or better two terms of university-level study in a second language other than English. Exemptions will be granted to students who can demonstrate elementary proficiency in a second language through one of the following:

  • Having completed three years of high school study of a second language with a grade of B or better in each course;
  • Passing a special proficiency examination;
  • Transferring credits for two terms or more of approved university-level instruction in a second language with grades of C or better;
  • Having a native language other than English.

Option 2: A Sequence of Two Courses in Oral and Professional Communication (6 credits)

These classes advance the skills of the student to perform effectively in workplace environments or the public by communicating ideas and concepts, and/or introducing students to theories that analyze and explain effective communication in these settings. The six (6) credits are distributed as follows. Students must

  • complete one of these two courses (3cr.): COMMRC 0520 Public Speaking or COMMRC 0500 Argument, with a grade of C- or better, and
  • select a second class (3cr.) from a list of approved COMMRC, ENGCMP, THEA, and CS courses in the CGS general education catalog. Note: Students who select an ENGCMP course from the list of approved courses to count toward the Oral and Professional Communication requirement cannot also count this class toward the Writing requirement for General Education.
Humanities and Arts, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences

Each student is required to take nine courses in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences (27 credits total) as indicated below. Such courses allow students to pursue their own interests while they explore diverse views of a broad range of human cultures, modes of thought, and bodies of knowledge. The courses that fulfill these requirements are in the disciplines that truly draw on the unique resources of a research university.

  • One course in Literature (3 credits)

    By studying a range of literary and other texts in this course, students will be introduced to the techniques and methods of textual analysis and will develop critical perspectives on a variety of forms of cultural expression.

  • One course in the Arts (3 credits)

    This course introduces students to modes of analysis appropriate to music, theater, or the visual and plastic arts. It may take the form of a survey, the study of a genre or period, or may focus on a particular artist.

  • One course in Creative Work (3 credits)

    In this course, students are expected to produce some form of creative work, and they will also be trained in the techniques and modes of its production. The course could be situated in theater, studio arts, writing, visual arts (including photography, film), music, and dance; or it may be a course that engages in innovative or original work in relation to written, oral, or visual material, new media, social media, and other contemporary forms of communication and representation.

  • One course in Philosophical Thinking or Ethics (3 credits)

    This course will emphasize close and critical reading of theories about knowledge, reality, humanity, and values. Courses could focus on human nature; scientific reasoning; theories of cognition and consciousness; human/social rights; competing systems of belief; morality; concepts of freedom; theories of justice; social obligations/constraints; or ethics, including applied or professional ethics.

  • One course in Social Sciences (3 credits)

    A course that treats topics considered of significant importance in the social or behavioral sciences (including social psychology). Courses will introduce students to the subject matter and methodology of a particular discipline and will involve them in the modes of investigation, analysis, and judgment characteristically applied by practitioners.

  • One course in Historical Analysis (3 credits)

    In this course, students will develop skills and methods by which to understand significant cultural, social, economic, or political accounts of the past. The course may focus on pivotal moments of change, or important transitions over longer periods of time. Courses could explore developments in science, technology, literature, or art, and the ideas around them, or examine critical historical shifts by analyzing various data or cultural forms.

  • Three courses in the Natural Sciences (9 credits)

    These will be courses that introduce students to scientific principles and concepts rather than offering a simple codification of facts in a discipline or a history of a discipline. The courses may be interdisciplinary, and no more than two courses may have the same primary departmental sponsor.

Global Awareness and Cultural Understanding

Each student must complete three courses (9 credits) as distributed below:

  • One course in Global Issues (3 credits)

    This course will examine significant issues at the global scale. Courses could address, for example: globalization; the global and cultural impact of climate change/sustainability; the effects of and resistances to colonialism; or worldwide issues related to health, gender, ethnicity, race, technology, labor, law, or the economy.

  • One course in a Specific Geographic Region (3 credits)

    This course will be an in depth study and analysis of a particular region or locality outside the United States.

  • One course in Cross-Cultural Awareness (3 credits)

    This course, through cross-cultural perspective, will promote knowledge of and reflection upon the cultures of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, or the indigenous peoples of the world past and present. Students will develop an understanding of cultures, traditions, and societies that differ substantially from those that prevail in North America and Europe.

Note: Overlapping of General Education Courses

  • Courses taken for general education requirements can also be applied to major requirements, when applicable.
  • Diversity courses are allowed to overlap with other general education requirements.
  • Writing ('W') courses are allowed to overlap with other general education requirements, except for the Professional Communication requirement.
  • Students may overlap the second course in their language sequence, taken at the college level, with the Geographic Region requirement, except for American Sign Language. This does not apply to students who satisfy the Language requirement through high school study, a proficiency examination, or native proficiency.

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Note for Students Admitted to the College of General Studies before Fall 2018: If you were admitted to the University of Pittsburgh prior to the fall 2018 (2191) term, your General Education Requirements are listed on our Pre-Fall 2018 CGS Degree Requirements website. See also the CGS Comprehensive Course List (PDF) for courses that satisfy your General Education Requirements.