Types of Classes in Your Degree Plan

Learning Objectives

  • Identify differences in types of classes within your degree plan, such as electives and core requirements

Just as you have choices about the delivery format of your courses, you also have choices about where specific courses fit academically into your chosen degree program. For example, you can choose to take various combinations of required courses and elective courses in a given term. Typical college degree programs include both required and elective courses.

  • A core course is a course required by your institution, and every student must take it in order to obtain a degree. It’s sometimes also called a general education course. Collectively, core courses are part of a core curriculum. Core courses are always essential to an academic degree, but they are not necessarily foundational to your major.
  • A course required in your major, on the other hand, is essential to your specific field of study. For example, as an accounting student you would probably have to take classes like organizational theory and principles of marketing. Your academic adviser can help you learn which courses within your major are required.
  • An elective course, in contrast to both core courses and required courses in your major, is a variable component of your curriculum. You choose your electives from a number of optional subjects. Elective courses tend to be more specialized than required courses. They may also have fewer students than required courses.

Most educational programs prefer that students to take a combination of elective and required courses during the same term. This is a good way to meet the demands of your program and take interesting courses outside your focus area at the same time.

Since your required courses will be clearly specified, you may not have many questions about which ones to take or when to take them. But since you get to choose which elective courses you take, some interesting questions may arise.

What are some strategies you can employ to help you decide which electives are right for you? The following video, “Choosing Electives,” gives helpful advice.

You can view the transcript for “Choosing Your Electives” here (opens in new window).

It’s important to track and plan your required and elective courses from the outset. Take advantage of a guidance counselor or another adviser to help you make sure you are on the best trajectory to graduation. Reassess your plan as needed.

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