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Explanation of general education requirements

Penn State, like most universities throughout the country, asks its students to become educated, well-rounded, thoughtful graduates and citizens. The goals of a Penn State education, therefore, greatly exceed "job training." In order to achieve its goal of educating young men and women, the Penn State faculty has established a general education program. Under this program, students can, in many cases, select the types of courses they wish to study based on their own interests, abilities, and knowledge base.

During our counseling and advising program, you'll hear much about general education at Penn State. The purpose of this page is to give you a brief overview of the general education program. Here are some facts:

In a 4-year program, baccalaureate general education courses account for 45 credits. Most majors at the University require between 120 and 140 credits for completion. In a 2-year associate degree program, a student is required to complete 21 credits in general education. Associate degree programs typically require from 60-72 credits.

In baccalaureate degree programs, students work on their general education courses primarily in their first two years of college, prior to the majority of coursework for a specific major. In associate degree programs, students will enroll in general education courses and major courses simultaneously throughout their program.

In certain majors, a general education course is also a course required for the major. This is particularly true in math, sciences, and engineering.

General education coursework is subdivided as follows:


The Writing/Speaking Component: 9 credits (Associate Degree: 3 Credits)
In this component, ENGL 15, ENGL 202, and CAS 100 are required courses for all majors.

The Quantification Component: 6 credits (Associate Degree: 3 Credits)
These are courses in math, computer science, statistics, and logic. Placement in the correct math course for you depends upon your test results and your interests in a possible major.

B. KNOWLEDGE DOMAINS: (Distribution Requirement)

This area is subdivided into the five categories of coursework listed below.

HEALTH SCIENCES: 3 credits required (Associate Degree: N/A)
3 credits of Physical and/or Health Education are required. Students can take a combination of physical activities and classroom instruction.

NATURAL SCIENCE: 9 credits required (Associate Degree: 3 Credits)
Choice is often dependent on anticipated major.

ARTS: 6 credits required (Associate Degree: 3 Credits)

HUMANITIES: 6 credits required (Associate Degree: 3 Credits)

SOCIAL & BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES: 6 credits required (Associate Degree: 3 Credits)

Particularly within the distribution component, the student has a wide selection of courses which will fulfill the requirements. Students should always make choices based on their interest in courses, expanding their knowledge base, and looking toward a possible major.


In order to foster an appreciation of the various cultures that comprise not only Penn State, but our global world, Penn State asks its students to take one course that is inter-culturally or internationally focused in nature. Many times these courses also count toward other areas of general education.


In order to acclimate students to collegiate studies and to introduce topics within a particular field of study or major, Penn State requires students to take an introductory seminar course during either the first or second semester.

Penn State Shenango provides each student with a designated faculty advisor who can assist the student in appropriate course selection. The Division of Undergraduate Studies, likewise, will gladly answer questions and concerns for any Shenango student regarding the appropriateness of course selection.