Earning a college degree tells the world that you’re a well-educated person with a wide range of academic knowledge. General education courses help you get there.  

No matter what major you pursue, you’ll have to take one or two classes in each of the major academic disciplines. Depending on the focus of the university you attend, you may also need to take courses in religion, culture, or foreign language.

What Is General Education?

The general education curriculum (often referred to as “gen eds” or core curriculum) is a collection of credits required by all majors for a degree. No matter what degree you are pursuing (BS, BFA, etc.) and how many credits are required for it, these gen ed classes are added on top of your major courses with the intent to broaden knowledge beyond what’s required in your field. 

General education usually focuses on the interdisciplinary lens, including courses in history, natural and social sciences, technology, and humanities.

Let’s take a look at four ways general education courses can benefit you:

1. Gen eds can help shape your mind

General education courses provide learning opportunities and skills that can be applied to everyday life. Skills learned in one class can apply to an entirely different subject and eventually, situations that could be encountered during your career.

One often-overlooked benefit, regardless of the type of general education program, is the ability for students to do some exploration. For undecided students in particular, general education requirements enable them to explore the options available at their school, without the potential of getting off track and wasting credits – and therefore, wasting money.

Many students have uncovered a hidden passion for a field of study as a result of taking a required course. After enjoying a class, you may find yourself minoring or even majoring in a topic you would have never considered.

2. They help you learn soft skills 

To impress employers and prove yourself as a member of a team, it’s important you learn interpersonal skills. These include things such as empathy, conflict resolution, and being able to communicate effectively. 

This kind of knowledge is important, considering the competitive nature of the job market. There are jobs now that didn’t exist previously and these jobs have no set major – for example, someone with a career in social media doesn’t have a degree in social media, but rather, communications, marketing, or journalism. What helps you excel in your field is not just the knowledge of the field itself, but the added skills you’ve developed.

3. You’re a Jack of all trades

You can choose between many different options for your gen ed courses. For example, you could fulfill a mathematics requirement by taking Algebra, Business Math or Advanced Calculus. Sometimes you can even study abroad to meet general education requirements. 

Introducing this broad range of perspectives allows you to look at problems from different angles and help with possible solutions. Being able to communicate effectively with different audiences and display literacy in digital technology can make you an impressive candidate to potential employers or improve your chances of moving up the ladder. 

4. You can transfer (almost) anywhere

One big advantage of general education courses is how easily they can be transferred. Math is math, no matter where you take it. If you’ve taken college courses before, there’s a good chance you can apply them towards a degree now. Plus, if you want to switch between schools, you won’t find yourself retaking old courses at your new university. Many states even guarantee that you’ll be able to transfer every gen ed course you complete.

In the end, general education requirements are all about preparing students for the unknown. A student’s interests can change, careers may advance, and new jobs may be created – all situations where a foundational set of skills and broad-based knowledge are necessary for success. The purpose of these programs is to give students abilities that can’t be found in a textbook; they are the product of communication, analysis, problem solving, and experience.

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