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General Education and Liberal Studies Requirements—School of Education

The general education and liberal studies requirements provide an opportunity to do some academic exploration. Students take course work in areas of particular interest and also have an opportunity to sample the wide selection of courses offered across the university. Course work is required in communication and quantitative reasoning, humanities, social studies, and science. Some elective course work is also needed to reach the required number of credits.

The requirements listed below are effective for students first enrolled as new freshmen, summer 2007 or later. For students admitted prior to Summer 2007, general education and liberal studies requirements are available here for students in teacher certification programs, and here for students in Art, Dance, Individual Major: Education, Kinesiology, or Rehabilitation Psychology. Students with a previous undergraduate degree, regardless of what year they began as a freshman, have satisfied the liberal studies requirements.

Important: Information regarding general education and liberal studies course selection is provided at the end of this document. Requirements of different programs can vary slightly. Students should read these notes to ensure that their course selections meet their expectations.

General Education Requirements

All new freshmen must complete a group of campus-wide, basic course requirements known as the General Education Requirements. This initiative is designed to provide all students with a comprehensive, well-rounded program of studies on the Madison campus. Each school or college implements these requirements slightly differently. The General Education requirements include communication and quantitative reasoning requirements as well as humanities/literature/arts, social studies, and natural science course work (included in the liberal studies requirements below).

Complete GER Communication Requirements Parts A and B 
  • Comm A: Literacy proficiency. 2–3 credits of course work focusing on reading, listening, and speaking, with an emphasis on writing. Students meet this requirement by completing English 100, 118, Com Arts 100, EPD 155, or Fam Com 100/L Sc Com 100, or any other courses designated with an a. Students may be exempt from this requirement through placement scores.
  • Comm B: Enhancing literacy proficiency. 2–3 credits of course work for students who have completed or been exempt from Part A. Complete a course with the designation of a b. Other program requirements may also be used to meet this requirement; see the notes at the end of this document.  
Complete GER Quantitative Reasoning Requirements Part A and B 
  • Quant A: Mathematics or formal logic. 3 credits of mathematics or formal logic. Complete Math 112, 114, 130, 141, 171 or Philos 210; a Math course numbered above 114 (excluding 120–129, 131, and 132), or any other courses designated with a q. Students may be exempt from this requirement through placement scores. Other program requirements may also be used to meet this requirement; see the notes at the end of this document.
  • Quant B: Enhancing quantitative reasoning skills. Courses that satisfy this requirement will be available in a variety of fields of study, including mathematics, formal logic, statistics, computer science, the sciences, and social science. Courses are designated with an r. Other program requirements may also be used to meet this requirement; see the notes at the end of this document. 

Liberal Studies Requirements—40 Credits

Most liberal studies courses are offered by academic departments in the College of Letters & Science. Each course is assigned a number of codes that provides information about its content. For example, the breadth designation indicates what kind of course it is—a science course, a literature course, etc. Level designations describe how advanced the content of a course is in relation to other courses in the department—Elementary (E), Intermediate (I), Advanced (A), or Intermediate/Advanced (D) level. 

The breadth codes used at UW–Madison are:  

B — Biological Science S — Social Science
H — Humanities W — Social or Natural Science
L — Literature X — Humanities or Natural Science
N — Natural Science Y — Biological or Social Science
P — Physical Science Z — Humanities or Social Science

Course listings in both Course Guide and Class Search provide breadth and level designations 

Humanities—9 credits

Complete a minimum of 9 credits to include 1, 2, and 3:

  1. Literature (minimum of 2 credits). Courses designated with an L.
  2. Fine Arts (minimum of 2 credits). Currently approved courses include:
    • Afro American Studies 156, 241, 242, 308, 309, 310, 311, 316, 320, 400, 403, 413, 540, 603, 643
    • Art—any course
    • Art Hist—any course
    • Com Arts 350
    • Dance—any course
    • English 203, 301, 302, 303, 305, 306, 307, 506
    • Gen&WS St 410, 412
    • Music—any course
    • Music Perf—any course
    • Theatre—any course
  3. Other Humanities. Courses to reach the minimum of 9 credits. May include courses designated H, L, X, or Z, elementary and intermediate level foreign language courses, or approved Fine Arts courses. May also count Com Arts 105, 181, and any English department intermediate or advanced level creative writing or composition course toward this requirement (English 100–118 and other elementary level composition courses are excluded).
Social Studies—9 credits

All students must complete a minimum of 9 credits. Select from courses designated S, W, Y, or Z. Teacher education, Athletic Training, and Kinesiology students have unique requirements in this category; see below: 

  • Teacher education students must complete a Local, State, and National Government requirement by enrolling in one of the following courses as part of the 9 credits:
    • Poli Sci 104 Introduction to American Politics and Government, 4
    • Poli Sci 205 Introduction to State Government, 4
    • Poli Sci 404 American Politics and Government, 4 (course has been discontinued)
  • Athletic Training and Kinesiology–Exercise and Movement Science students must complete Psych 201, 202, or 281 as part of the 9 credits.
Science—9 credits

Minimum of 9 credits to include 1 and 2. Must include one laboratory science course.

  1. Biological Science. Select from courses designated B or Y.
  2. Physical Science. Select from courses designated P. 

Other biological, physical, or natural science (designated B, P, N, W, X, or Y) to reach the 9-credit minimum. Most lab sciences are identified as such in Class Search and Course Guide.

Laboratory requirement. In addition to courses with lab sections, the following courses include some lab experience and will meet the lab requirements for students in the School of Education: Astronomy 100, Atm Ocn 101, Botany 100, Botany/Plant Path 123, Geosci 100, Physics 109. Suggested courses outside L&S that meet the lab science requirement include Agronomy 100, Food Science 235 & 236, or Horticulture 120. An AP Biology score of 4 or 5 will also fulfill the lab science requirement.

Cultural and Historical Studies 

Complete 3 courses. These courses can also be used to meet any of the requirements above, but a single course cannot satisfy more than one of the three Cultural and Historical Studies requirements listed below. 

  1. Ethnic Studies Requirement (minimum 3 credit course). Select from courses coded e.
  2. United States or European History (minimum 3 credits). The courses listed here will meet this requirement, but additional courses can be considered. Confer with an Education advisor for consideration of additional courses.
    • Afro-American Studies 156, 231, 297, 301, 302, 310, 311, 316, 323, 324, 326, 330, 341, 344, 347, 467, 509, 523, 567, 577, 628, 631, 632, 635, 636, 671
    • American Indian Studies 100, 250, 314, 320, 471, 516, 546, 658, 676
    • Asian American Studies 102, 160, 161, 220, 246, 369, 470
    • Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies 201, 220, 245, 301, 332, 425, 436, 461, 462, 516, 519, 601, 630
    • History Department—U.S. History courses: 101, 102, 140, 150, 160, 161, 219, 221, 222, 247, 258, 272, 290, 301, 302, 322, 330, 331, 343, 344, 353, 354, 355, 390, 391, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 411, 412, 416, 433, 434, 451, 460, 461, 462, 465, 466, 468, 490, 504, 560, 569, 607, 625, 626, 628, 635, 636, 644, 672
    • History Department—European History courses: 110, 115, 119, 120, 121, 123, 124, 208, 215, 223, 224, 251, 253, 254, 271, 303, 306, 307, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 316, 317, 318, 320, 321, 323, 324, 325, 326, 333, 334, 339, 340, 348, 349, 351, 352, 356, 357, 358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 372, 373, 374, 409, 410, 415, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 423, 424, 425, 426, 429, 430, 431, 432, 437, 447, 467, 469, 470, 473, 474, 475, 477, 478, 479, 507, 508, 511, 512, 513, 514, 515, 517, 518, 529, 531, 532, 539, 540, 541, 554, 561, 568, 570, 577, 578
  3. Global Perspectives (minimum 3 credits). Global perspectives courses include courses whose primary emphasis is on (1) cultures whose origins lie outside of the western tradition, or (2) analyzing and interpreting cultural differences through the study of language, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or class, or (3) cultural pluralism within specific geographical areas. The courses listed here will meet this requirement, but additional courses can be considered. Confer with an Education advisor for consideration of additional courses.
    • African 120, 201, 210, 211, 230, 270, 277, 297, 300, 306, 370
    • AfroAmer 241, 260, 277, 297, 320, 330, 367, 377
    • AAE 344, 350, 373, 374
    • Agronomy 350, 377
    • Amer Ind 317
    • Anthro 104, 105, 106, 211, 260 , 277, 300, 314, 317, 318, 319, 321, 322, 326, 327, 329, 330, 333, 334, 335, 350, 365
    • Art Hist 203, 241, 307, 308, 354, 362, 370, 371, 372, 375, 377, 378, 379
    • C&E Soc 140, 260 
    • Comp Lit 379
    • Dance 153, 165, 177, 277, 353, 377
    • E A Stds 222, 300 (specific topic must be approved), 301 (specific topic must be approved)
    • E Asian 235, 251, 253, 273, 277, 300, 336, 337, 338, 340, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 357, 363, 364, 367, 371
    • Econ 365
    • English 336
    • Envir St 139, 309, 339, 344, 368
    • Folklore 100,103, 210, 211, 270, 279, 326, 352, 353, 374
    • Gen&WS 102, 322, 325, 367
    • Geog 101, 139, 140, 244, 252, 260, 277, 309, 319, 339, 348, 355, 358
    • Hebr St 343, 346, 351, 356, 377
    • History 103, 104, 105, 106, 138, 139, 142, 205, 225, 226, 241, 242, 243, 244, 252, 260, 265, 277, 278, 279, 297, 309, 319, 330, 332, 336, 337, 338, 341, 342, 371, 375, 376, 377, 378, 379
    • ILS 209
    • Inter-AG 350
    • lnter-LS 220—topic: Legacies of Colonialism in East Asia
    • Intl Bus 200
    • Intl St 374
    • Jewish 377, 378
    • LCA 100, 106, 140, 201, 205, 235, 244, 251, 252, 265, 273, 274, 279, 300, 311, 312, 314, 355, 357, 361, 362, 364, 367, 370, 373, 374, 379
    • Littrans 211, 212, 214, 217, 226, 261, 262, 263, 264, 273, 301, 303, 304, 313, 368, 372, 373
    • Medieval 309
    • Music 103, 361, 377
    • Nutr Sci 350
    • PE Activ 277
    • Poli Sci 106, 186, 201, 222, 231, 244, 252, 260, 261, 277, 297, 333, 342, 346, 353, 362
    • Relig St 205, 217, 235, 251, 273, 274, 309, 340, 350 , 351, 352, 357, 363, 364, 367, 370, 377, 379
    • Soc 140, 170, 225, 244, 252, 260, 277, 380
    • Spanish 223, 260
    • Theatre 277, 326, 351, 353
Liberal Studies Electives

As necessary to reach 40 total liberal studies credits.

Important Notes Regarding the General Education and Liberal Studies Requirements 

  • Completion of the liberal studies requirements is not a prerequisite to professional program application or admission.
  • For the most part, courses listed in School of Education departments may NOT be used to satisfy the liberal studies requirements. For example, PE Activ 100 Exercise, Nutrition, and Health, cannot count toward the liberal studies requirement even though it is coded as a biological science. Ed Psych 320 and RP & SE 300 cannot count toward liberal studies even though they are coded as social science courses. Exceptions include some courses that are cross-listed in departments outside the School of Education such as Ed Pol/ History 412 History of American Education. Some programs also allow Art and Dance department courses to count toward the humanities requirement. (School of Education departments include Art, Art Education, Counseling Psychology, Curriculum and Instruction, Dance, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, Educational Policy Studies, Educational Psychology, Kinesiology, PE Activity, and Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education.)
  • Courses that transfer to the Madison campus as departmental electives (e.g., Poli Sci X10) might meet specific liberal studies requirements. Consult an EAS advisor to discuss transfer electives that appear to meet specific course requirements at UW–Madison.
  • While one course may cover two requirements, students must still complete both the 40-credit total and the 9-credit minimum requirements in humanities, social studies and science. For example, Theatre 120, a literature course also on the fine arts list, may be used to meet both the specific fine arts and literature requirements of the humanities area, but a total of 9 credits of humanities are still required.
  • Courses in other schools/colleges (excluding the School of Education) may count as liberal studies if they have an L&S Credit Type designation of C and/or assigned a level or breadth code.
  • No liberal studies course work may be taken on a pass/fail basis.
  • Courses taken to meet the general education requirements may also be applied toward other degree requirements, e.g., liberal studies, major, etc. 
  • When completing the General Education Requirements:
    • All courses taken to meet Comm A or Quant A can be applied toward the liberal studies requirements if they meet the other conditions of the liberal studies requirements.
    • For Comm B: Curric 305, 313, 314/315, 368/369 and RP&SE 465, meet this requirement. At least one of these courses is required in each of the teacher certification programs except for the Early Childhood/ESL option in Elementary Education. Dance and Dance–BFA students are required to complete Dance 200, a course that is also on the Comm B list of courses. Kines 355, 457, 521 and 600 are also on the Comm B list. Rehabilitation Psychology students are required to complete RP &SE 501, a Comm B course. 
    • All courses taken to meet Comm B or Quant B can be applied toward the liberal studies requirements, with two exceptions. Math 131/132 and also courses listed in School of Education departments can be taken to meet Comm B or Quant B, but the credits will not count toward liberal studies. For example, Kines 600 can be used to meet Comm B, but cannot be counted toward the total liberal studies credit because the Kinesiology department is in the School of Education.
    • Regarding Quant A: Elementary Education students are required to complete Math 130, a Quant A course. Kinesiology students have Math requirements that also can apply to the Quant A requirement.
    • Regarding Quant B: Some Elementary Education students are required to complete Math 130, 131, and 132. Math 131 and 132  together will meet the Quant B requirement. Kinesiology students are required to complete a number of courses that are on the Quant B list.     
Guidelines for Specific Program Areas 
  • All Teacher Education students, except those in Music Education or Art Education, may apply any appropriate course work from the major or minor toward the liberal studies requirements. Students in Music and Art Education are restricted in this overlap. For students in Music Education, no more than 6 credits of music history and no more than 4 Art and Dance credits may count toward the 40 total credits. Music History courses (e.g., Music 211, 212) may not be used to meet the U.S./ European History requirement. Art Education students may apply all of the aesthetics credits (usually 14) toward the liberal studies requirements.
  • Elementary Education, Secondary Social Studies, and Secondary Science students can use a Science course or Social Studies course from the environmental education course list to meet both the liberal studies and environmental education requirements.
  • Art and Art–BFA. In general, students may not satisfy liberal studies requirements with courses meeting studio or aesthetics requirements. However, Art–BFA candidates may apply 4 aesthetics elective credits toward the Humanities credits. 
  • Kinesiology students will meet the Science requirement by completing their required science courses, e.g., Chemistry and Physics.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders students should consult both this document and the Communication Sciences and Disorders program requirements, particularly the "related courses" section, when selecting liberal studies course work. Courses may count in both places.
  • Dance and Dance–BFA students must complete Anatomy 329, which will meet both a science requirement and the science laboratory requirement. In general, liberal studies requirements cannot be met with courses taken to meet other program requirements.
  • Rehabilitation Psychology. In general, students may not satisfy liberal studies requirements with courses taken to meet the Professional Education and Background requirements. However, courses that can meet either the Ethnic Studies requirement or the Global Perspectives requirement but could also be applied to the Professional and Background requirements are allowed to count in both places.

This page was updated 5/15/14.