University undergraduate General Studies requirement

In addition to preparing students for careers and advanced study, a baccalaureate education should prepare students for satisfying personal, social and civic lives. Students should both acquire a depth of knowledge in a particular academic or professional discipline and also be broadly educated, with knowledge of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to address an array of questions. They should develop the general intellectual skills required to continue learning throughout their lives. The ASU general studies requirements complement the undergraduate major by developing critical learning skills, investigating the traditional branches of knowledge, and introducing students to approaches applicable to addressing contemporary challenges.

Students in a 2024-2025 catalog year and beyond - General Studies Gold

Effective fall 2024, ASU undergraduate students are required to complete the General Studies Gold requirements. Students who began their degree at ASU before fall 2024 and are in a catalog year previous to 2024-2025, are required to complete the General Studies Maroon requirements. More information about what these changes mean and answers to some frequently asked questions are available on the Provost general studies page.

The degree requirements applicable for a student's catalog year are displayed on their major map. For more information on the determination of catalog year, students should reference the undergraduate graduation requirements.

General Studies Gold includes courses in nine required categories. Courses fulfilling each category are noted in the course catalog. General studies courses are regularly reviewed and are occasionally added to and deleted from the list. A student receives the general studies credit that a course carries during the semester in which the course is taken. Students should consult the course catalog each semester to determine which courses meet general studies requirements.

General Studies Gold requirements

Color-coded list of General Studies Gold required categories

Humanities, Arts and Design (six credit hours - two courses)

The humanities explore questions of human existence and meaning, the nature of thinking and knowing, and moral and aesthetic experience. Humanities reflect on values of all kinds and seek to make the human mind more analytical, contemplative and expansive. They are often concerned with the study of textual and artistic practices of cultures, such as traditions in literature, philosophy, religion, ethics, history and aesthetics; the humanities also explore human thought and action and its application to human environments. They deepen awareness of the breadth of human heritages, traditions and histories; build literacy and critical thinking skills in evidence analysis and argumentation; and implicitly or explicitly promote the application of this knowledge to contemporary societies.

The study of arts and design deepens our awareness of human societies and cultures. The arts have as a primary purpose the creation and study of objects, installations, performances and other means of expressing or conveying aesthetic concepts and ideas. Design study concerns itself with material objects, images and spaces; their historical development; and their significance in society and culture. Disciplines in the arts and design often employ nonverbal modes of thought and communication, and courses in these areas tend to focus on sounds, objects, images and structures, or on the practical techniques and historical development of, and innovation in, artistic and design traditions.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Humanities, Arts and Design, students will be able to complete all outcomes in one of the two following groups.

Group 1:

  1. analyze cultural creations or practices in historical or contemporary context
  2. interpret the formal, aesthetic and creative elements in literary, visual or cultural texts
  3. articulate relationships among tradition, innovation, individual creativity and communal expression in cultural creations or practices
  4. communicate narratives, ideas or arguments using such elements as evidence, creativity and critical thinking

Group 2:

  1. analyze cultural, political or social practices, texts or discourses in historical or contemporary context
  2. communicate coherent arguments or narratives using evidence drawn from qualitative or quantitative sources
  3. identify perspectives or values as manifested in a given philosophical or religious framework or a given historical or cultural context

Social and Behavioral Sciences (three credit hours)

Courses in social sciences and behavioral sciences expose students to the systematic investigation of human institutions, relationships, social structures, behavior, emotions, communication and health. Students learn about evidence, methods and approaches that social and behavioral scientists use to analyze, understand and describe human activities, experiences and systems. They learn how social scientists and behavioral scientists conduct research, how they disseminate their findings, and how the findings from social and behavioral science can be used in the pursuit of individual, societal and policy goals.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Social and Behavioral Sciences, students will be able to do the following:

  1. utilize behavioral or social science approaches, qualitative or quantitative, to examine aspects of human experiences or explain social or behavioral phenomena
  2. describe the strengths and limitations of behavioral or social science methods in predicting or understanding human behavior
  3. communicate coherent arguments using evidence drawn from qualitative or quantitative sources

Scientific Thinking in Natural Sciences (eight credit hours - two courses)

Courses in scientific thinking in natural sciences promote public scientific literacy, which is critical for sound decisions about scientifically infused issues such as climate change. Scientific thinking in natural sciences includes understanding basic science concepts, such as the fundamental behavior of matter and energy, as well as understanding that science is not an encyclopedic collection of facts. Science is a process of exploration that embraces curiosity, inquiry, testing and communication to reduce uncertainty about nature. In Scientific Thinking in the Natural Sciences courses, students engage in the scientific process through lab experiences.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Scientific Thinking in the Natural Sciences, students will be able to do the following:

  1. obtain and interpret qualitative or quantitative data and communicate the findings
  2. employ evidence to construct and test scientific hypotheses
  3. assess the validity of scientific claims using evidence from biological or physical science
  4. create models to explain observable phenomena and understand biological or physical processes in the natural world
  5. communicate coherent arguments using evidence drawn from qualitative or quantitative sources

Quantitative Reasoning (three credit hours)

Quantitative and computational reasoning is essential for success in modern careers, for critically evaluating information in the age of "big data," for assessing the quality of arguments conveyed through digital media, for informed participation in community and social life, and for contributing to the formulation of effective solutions for achieving a sustainable and just future. Quantitative reasoning enables students to apply relevant mathematical, statistical, computational and visualization methods in academic, social and personal settings.

In a Quantitative Reasoning course, students learn about data, data management, data summaries, data visualization, and the use of computational tools with data. Data can take many forms, including numerical data, textual data and images. Students also learn about how quantitative reasoning can be used to make arguments clear, precise and verifiable. Finally, they learn to build quantitative models, make predictions, and communicate their findings based on available data. This may include some combination of mathematical, statistical, computational or network models, or visualizations.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Quantitative Reasoning, students will be able to do the following:

  1. understand variables, measurement and data, including how they can be used to pose and answer questions about society and nature, and to manipulate, organize, classify and visualize quantitative data
  2. evaluate arguments from everyday life or academic fields of study that are represented mathematically, statistically, computationally or in visualizations
  3. formulate hypotheses, mathematical models or narratives that are consistent with quantitative data
  4. communicate how quantitative data, interpretations or models are connected to outcomes, predictions, decisions, explanations or future states
  5. employ one or more digital tools effectively to accomplish these outcomes

Mathematics (three credit hours)

The Mathematics studies requirement is intended to ensure that students have skill in basic mathematics and can use mathematical analysis in their chosen field of study. The mathematics requirement requires the student to complete a course in college mathematics, college algebra, or precalculus, or demonstrate a higher level of skill by completing a mathematics course for which a course in the above three categories is a prerequisite. A course in mathematics will include the application of mathematical skills in the solution of real-life problems and introduces or makes significant use of fundamental mathematical skills and concepts.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Mathematics, students will be able to do the following:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of mathematical relationships from multiple perspectives, such as functions from graphical, numerical and analytic points of view
  2. apply mathematical skills in the solution of real-life problems

American Institutions (three credit hours)

In each American Institutions course, students discuss people, ideas, institutions, movements and structural forces that have created and transformed the United States. Students will analyze struggles over the meaning of America’s constitutional democracy. Throughout the course, students analyze a wide range of sources drawn from both past and present and contemplate American history, ideals, and institutions in global as well as national contexts. In doing so, students refine their ability to make and evaluate reasoned arguments, engage in civil debate, and participate constructively in civic life.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in American Institutions, students will be able to do the following:

  1. demonstrate how ideas and groups have historically shaped the creation of and change in U.S. institutions
  2. identify key institutions in U.S. politics and their impacts on social, economic or political outcomes. This will include differential impacts on disparate communities.
  3. describe the impact of key ideas, people, events, institutions or movements on the nature, history and boundaries of American citizenship and the various forms of civic participation in a self-governing society
  4. communicate coherent arguments using evidence drawn from qualitative or quantitative sources

To achieve these goals, students must be exposed to the following knowledge or sources:

  • principles of American constitutional democracy and how they are applied under a republican form of government
  • the U.S. Constitution and major American constitutional debates
  • founding documents that have shaped American institutions
  • landmark policy achievements and Supreme Court cases
  • economic knowledge necessary to assess policy options affecting both the public and private sectors
  • international context of American institutions and the evolution of America's role in international affairs

Governance and Civic Engagement (three credit hours)

Courses in the Governance and Civic Engagement category explore ways in which humans confront the dilemmas and opportunities of community life and develop skills of civic communication.

Governance and Civic Engagement courses analyze principles and practices of decision-making in historical and contemporary contexts, and will explore ways in which people have defined and pursued justice and the common good. Courses in the Governance and Civic Engagement category broaden students' understanding of how collective decisions are made, how they impact communities positively or negatively, and how various groups are included, or excluded, from the decision-making process. Students will have the opportunity to explore dynamics between governance and civic engagement, which can include perceived inequality or marginalization related to a variety of factors including race, class, citizenship, gender and disability. This category also develops students' skills in civic communication, including listening, deliberation, negotiation, consensus building, and productive use of conflict, which are essential to participating more fully in their communities. Courses in this category may be entirely focused on developing skills in civic communication.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Governance and Civic Engagement, students will be able to complete all outcomes in one of the two following groups.

Group 1:

  1. analyze the context and consequences of one or more collective decision-making theories or practices
  2. define an element of the common good and propose a way to pursue it within a specific contemporary context
  3. communicate coherent arguments using evidence drawn from qualitative or quantitative sources

Group 2:

  1. articulate diverse perspectives on the common or collective good
  2. demonstrate the ability to collaborate effectively in the presence of dissenting opinions and experiences
  3. communicate arguments, narratives or information using qualitative or quantitative evidence

Global Communities, Societies and Individuals (three credit hours)

Courses in the Global Communities, Societies and Individuals knowledge area explore the world from multiple vantage points. They consider historical, ongoing or transforming global issues across multiple scales and types of human experiences. Students will analyze ways that geographical and historical contexts influence communities, societies and individuals. In addition to courses focused entirely on non-U.S. American issues, courses structured to include comparative or transnational connections between the United States and other countries, i.e., courses that consider a global issue in multiple locations one of which is the United States, fall into this knowledge area. Courses focused mostly or only on U.S. American issues or populations, however, even across diverse communities, are not included in this knowledge area. This knowledge area develops students' skills in global awareness, and the analysis of social, political, economic or cultural systems, skills essential to participating more fully in communities.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Global Communities, Societies and Individuals, students will be able to do the following:

  1. describe historical, contemporary or transforming global issues through the perspective of specific individuals, communities or societies
  2. analyze the interactions among social, political, economic or cultural systems across local, regional and global scales or spaces
  3. articulate ways in which dimensions of difference such as race, gender, socio-economic status, religion, language or citizenship separately and together affect individuals and communities
  4. communicate coherent arguments using evidence drawn from qualitative or quantitative sources

Sustainability (three credit hours)

The Sustainability requirement provides students with an interdisciplinary understanding of socio-ecological systems in relation to global challenges and opportunities. The learning objectives emphasize systems thinking, where human and non-human systems are understood as intimately connected, with human actions affecting all life on a planet with limits and boundaries. Students should also become familiar with how cultural, political, economic, social and ethical beliefs, practices and systems are related to and impact planetary systems. Students will use course concepts and systems and futures thinking to address contemporary questions or challenges.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of a course in Sustainability, students will be able to do the following:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the earth and its ecosphere, including the measures that indicate their capacities and limits
  2. trace historical impacts of a range of socio-economic, political or cultural choices on integrated human-environmental well-being
  3. envision pathways toward futures characterized by integrated human-environmental well-being
  4. articulate an approach to addressing contemporary questions or challenges that employs concepts or practices of sustainability

Meeting the general studies requirement

All students enrolled in a baccalaureate or associate degree program must successfully complete a minimum of 35 credit hours of approved general studies courses.

There is no limit to the number of Advanced Placement credits that can be used to meet the general studies requirement. Credits earned through College-Level Examination Program may be applied to General Studies Gold requirements with the exception of scientific thinking in natural sciences. A student may earn no more than 60 hours of credit by examination, including ASU comprehensive and proficiency exams, for any or all programs.

Transfer credit

Completion of general studies and composition requirements, as documented on an official transcript, from regionally accredited institutions of higher education within the United States will fulfill ASU's General Studies Gold and first-year composition requirements. Certification of completed general studies includes completion of a general education package recognized by ASU, an associate of arts degree, bachelor's degree or comparable. General studies packages and recognized degrees do not waive program requirements and prerequisites within major and minor areas of study.

Transfer students without completed and documented general education packages or degrees will receive credit for general studies based on course-by-course equivalency. Students transferring from Arizona community colleges should see the Arizona General Education Curriculum page for more information.

University requirements - First Year Composition

In addition to the 35 credit hours of General Studies coursework, university graduation requirements also require completion of both ENG 101 and ENG 102, or ENG 105 with a grade of "C" (2.00) or higher for graduation from ASU in any baccalaureate or associate degree program. Students for whom English is not a native language may meet the first-year composition requirement by completing ENG 107 and 108 with a grade of "C" (2.00) or higher.

Students who are required to take first year composition must enroll in their first required composition course within the first year and continue to enroll in required composition courses every term until composition requirements are met.

College or school and major requirements

In addition to the general studies requirement, students must also complete college or school and major requirements. Students are encouraged to work with their academic advisors to develop a program of study that efficiently meets all graduation requirements. A well-planned program should enable a student to satisfy concurrently requirements at the university, college or school levels, and within their major.

Students in catalog years prior to Fall 2024 - General Studies Maroon

In effect for students who began their degree at ASU before fall 2024 and are in a catalog year previous to 2024-2025, the General Studies Maroon requirements include courses in five core areas and three awareness areas. Relevant courses are noted in the course catalog. Effective fall 2024, new General Studies Maroon courses will no longer be added to the course catalog. General Studies Maroon courses will retain their general studies designations to ensure students may complete their degree requirements. A student receives the general studies credit that a course carries during the semester in which the course is taken. Students should consult the course catalog each semester to determine which courses meet general studies requirements.

Five core areas (General Studies Maroon)

L: Literacy and Critical Inquiry (three credit hours)

Literacy is competence in written and oral discourse. Critical inquiry is the gathering, interpretation and evaluation of evidence. The literacy and critical inquiry requirement helps students sustain and extend their ability to reason critically and communicate clearly through language.

Students must complete three credit hours from courses designated as L. Students must have completed ENG 101, ENG 105 or ENG 107 to take an L course.

The three credit hours required to meet the general studies L requirement are in addition to the upper-division L university graduation requirement. Students should review the university baccalaureate graduation requirements for more information.

MA and CS: Mathematical Studies (combined six credit hours)

This core area has two categories. Mathematics (MA) is the acquisition of essential skills in basic mathematics. Computer/statistics/quantitative applications (CS) applies mathematical reasoning and requires students to complete a course in either the use of statistics and quantitative analysis or the use of a computer to assist in serious analytical math work.

This requirement has two parts: At least three credit hours must be selected from courses designated MA and at least three credit hours must be selected from courses designated CS, and all students are expected to fulfill the MA requirement by the time they accumulate 30 credit hours in residence at ASU. Any student who has more than 30 hours of resident ASU credit and has not fulfilled the MA requirement must enroll in an MA course or an appropriate prerequisite and continue to do so every semester until the mathematics requirement is met. College officers may grant waivers to the immediate and continual enrollment requirement only when there are scheduling conflicts detrimental to the student's academic progress.

HU: Humanities, Arts and Design and

SB: Social-behavioral Sciences (combined 12 credit hours)

The study of the humanities and the disciplines of art and design deepen awareness of the complexities of the human condition and its diverse histories and cultures. Courses in the humanities are devoted to the productions of human thought and imagination, particularly in philosophical, historical, religious and artistic traditions. Courses with an emphasis in arts and design comprise the study of aesthetic experiences and the processes of artistic creation. They also may feature a design emphasis in which material culture is studied as a product of human thought and imagination.

The social-behavioral sciences provide scientific methods of inquiry and empirical knowledge about human behavior, within society and individually. The forms of study may be cultural, economic, geographic, historical, linguistic, political, psychological or social. The courses in this area address the challenge of understanding the diverse natures of individuals and cultural groups who live together in a world of diminishing economic, linguistic, military, political and social distance.

Twelve credit hours must be completed in the following two core areas: humanities, arts and design (HU) and social-behavioral sciences (SB). At least six credit hours must be taken in each of these two core areas.

The 12 credit hours required to meet the General Studies HU/SB requirement are in addition to the upper-division HU/SB university graduation requirement. Students should review the university baccalaureate graduation requirements for more information.

SQ and SG: Natural Sciences (combined eight credit hours)

The natural sciences help students appreciate the scope and limitations of science and its contributions to society. Natural science areas of study include anthropology, astronomy, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, experimental psychology, geology, microbiology, physical geography, physics and plant biology. Knowledge of the methods of scientific inquiry and mastery of basic scientific principles and concepts are stressed, specifically those that relate to matter and energy in living and nonliving systems. Firsthand exposure to scientific phenomena in the laboratory is important for developing and understanding the concepts, principles and vocabulary of science.

General studies courses that satisfy the natural science requirement are given one of two classifications: quantitative (SQ) and general (SG).

  • quantitative (SQ): These laboratory courses include a substantial introduction to the fundamental behavior of matter and energy in physical and biological systems.
  • general (SG): These laboratory courses cover aspects of scientific inquiry that lend themselves to more qualitative or descriptive discussions of science.

Eight credit hours of courses designated SQ or SG must be selected. Of these, at least four credit hours must be taken from the SQ category.

Three awareness areas (general studies)

Students must complete courses that satisfy three awareness areas. Courses that are listed for a core area and one or more awareness areas may satisfy requirements concurrently, up to a maximum of two of the awareness areas listed for that course. These awareness areas promote appreciation of cultural diversity within the contemporary U.S., the development of an international perspective and an understanding of current human events through study of the past.

1. Cultural Diversity in the United States (C)

The objective of the cultural diversity (C) requirement is to promote awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity within the contemporary U.S. This is accomplished through the study of the cultural, social or scientific contributions of women and minority groups, examination of their experiences in the U.S., or exploration of successful or unsuccessful interactions between and among cultural groups. Awareness of cultural diversity and its multiple sources can illuminate the collective past, present and future and also help students achieve greater mutual understanding and respect.

2. Global Awareness (G)

The objective of the global awareness (G) requirement is to help students recognize the need for an understanding of the values, elements and social processes of cultures other than those of the U.S. The global awareness area includes courses that recognize other contemporary cultures and the relationship of the American cultural system to generic human goals and welfare.

3. Historical Awareness (H)

The objective of the historical awareness (H) requirement is to help students develop knowledge of the past, which can be useful in shaping the present and future. History is present in languages, art, music, literature, philosophy, religion and the natural sciences as well as in the social science traditionally called history.

Meeting the general studies requirement

All students enrolled in a baccalaureate or associate degree program must successfully complete a minimum of 29 credit hours of approved general studies courses. Many general studies courses are approved as satisfying more than one requirement. The following conditions govern the application of courses toward the general studies requirements:

  • A single course may be used to satisfy one core area and a maximum of two awareness area requirements.
  • A single course may be used to satisfy a maximum of two awareness area requirements.
  • A single course cannot be used to satisfy two core area requirements, even if it is approved for more than one core area.

There is no limit to the number of Advanced Placement or College-Level Examination Program credits that can be used to meet the general studies requirement. However, CLEP credits do not satisfy the natural sciences (SQ and SG) and literacy and critical inquiry (L) portions of the General Studies Maroon requirements.

Transfer credit

Completion of general studies and composition requirements, as documented on an official transcript, from regionally accredited institutions of higher education within the United States will fulfill ASU's lower-division General Studies Maroon and first year composition requirements. Certification of completed general studies includes completion of a general education package recognized by ASU, an associate of arts degree, bachelor's degree or comparable. General studies packages and recognized degrees do not waive lower-division program requirements and prerequisites within major and minor areas of study. Additionally, students still must take six upper-division credit hours (three for L and three for SB or HU) to complete the ASU university-level graduation requirements.

Transfer students without completed and documented general education packages or degrees will receive credit for general studies based on course-by-course equivalency. Students transferring from Arizona community colleges should see the Arizona General Education Curriculum page for more information.

University requirements

In addition to the 29 credit hours of lower-division general education coursework, university baccalaureate graduation requirements also require students to take six additional upper-division credit hours. Three hours with a literacy (L) designation are required to be chosen from approved upper-division courses, preferably in the major. Three hours with either a humanities, arts and design (HU) or social-behavioral sciences (SB) designation should also be chosen from approved upper-division courses, preferably in the major. Additionally, students must complete the First year Composition requirement.

College or school and major requirements

In addition to the general studies requirement, students also must complete college or school and major requirements. Students are encouraged to work with their academic advisors to develop a program of study that efficiently meets all graduation requirements. A well-planned program should enable a student to satisfy concurrently requirements at the university, college or school levels, and within their major.