College of Arts and Sciences


Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science Degrees

Degree Requirements
for Students in the College of Arts and Sciences

 The goal of the College of Arts and Sciences is to provide liberal and pre-professional education grounded in scholarly excellence for undergraduate students.  This education gives students the knowledge, understanding, analytical tools, and communication skills that they need to become perceptive, reflective and intellectually self-conscious citizens within a diverse and rapidly changing world.   

The curriculum of the College of Arts and Sciences is based on the belief that these educational goals for students are best achieved through a process that involves three elements: 

1.      The development of the foundational skills that will facilitate future learning;

2.      Exposure to the broad range of disciplinary approaches to subject matters, modes of thought and analysis found across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences;

3.      In-depth study in one or more major fields of disciplinary or interdisciplinary study that:

a.      Develops a facility and appreciation of the knowledge, modes of analysis, and critical thinking skills of the discipline.

b.     Offers students the opportunity to integrate and apply what they learned during the college years.

c.      Continues the development of many of the foundational skills that are needed for post-college life, work, and study; these include the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing, to utilize modern information technology effectively, and to think in quantitative terms. 

To see a complete list of approved courses,
click on each requirement.

1.  Foundational Skills (Minimum 6 credits)

These requirements assist students in developing the skills in writing and quantitative reasoning that provide the foundations for future learning.  The University offers placement tests in writing and algebra during summer orientation sessions (PittStart). Initial placement is based on these exams.

A.  Writing Requirements

Written communication remains the hallmark of our culture and is central to almost all disciplines and professions.  The writing skills a student acquires in college provide a base for future graduate education and professional employment.

        Workshop in Composition or Intensive Workshop in Composition:  Students scoring below three on the University writing placement exams (see Initial Placement below) are required to take one or both of these courses. Courses must be completed by the second term of full-time enrollment and students must pass the courses with a C- or better.

        Seminar in Composition (or its equivalent): One approved college-level composition course such as the Seminar in Composition course offered in the English Department.  To fulfill this requirement students must pass this course with a grade of C- or better, and the requirement must be completed by the end of the fourth term of full-time enrollment. 

o       A student may be required to take a one-credit Composition Tutorial concurrent with Seminar in Composition, if it is determined that this is necessary to strengthen their writing.  If so, the student must complete these courses by the end of the second term of full-time enrollment and must pass the courses with a C- or better.

o       Initial placement is based on a writing exam given during the PittStart sessions. Students scoring at least 600 on the Verbal SAT are exempt from this placement exam and automatically placed into Seminar in Composition.  Final placement is based on a diagnostic exam given the first week of Seminar in Composition (or its equivalent).

o       Exemption:  Students scoring 600 or higher on the verbal SAT and scoring five on the English AP test are exempted from the Seminar in Composition requirement.


        Two Writing Intensive Courses:  After the successful completion of Seminar in Composition or its equivalent, each student must complete two courses that are designated as writing intensive (W-courses) or one W-course and a second English composition course for which Seminar in Composition is a prerequisite.  W-Courses are designed to promote writing within a discipline through the use of writing assignments spread over the course of a term.  Each student must satisfy one element of this requirement within his or her major field of study.


B.  Quantitative and Formal Reasoning Requirements

Mathematics and courses involving formal reasoning are an integral part of the liberal arts education. These courses provide the student with skills in the universal language of measurement, quantitative analysis and reasoning, as well as forming an understanding of the predictive power that is the base of science and technology.

        AlgebraAn approved course in algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus or other approved course is required for students scoring less than 600 on the math portion of the SAT, or scoring below a certain level on the University algebra placement testIf required, the student must complete the course by the end of the second term of full-time enrollment and must pass the course with a C- or better.

       Quantitative and Formal ReasoningOne course in college mathematics (calculus or above) or an approved course in statistics or mathematical or formal logic offered by variety of departments including Philosophy, Statistics, and Economics. To fulfill the requirement, courses must be passed with a grade of C- or better.  Students are exempt from this requirement if they demonstrate proficiency in mathematics adequate for placement in an upper-level course in mathematics, based on the University calculus placement exam.



2.  Disciplinary Approaches (46 credits)

A liberal education is intended to provide a foundation for future study and work and for life-long learning, and our aim is to educate students so that they become perceptive, reflective, and intellectually self-conscious citizens of their world.  To achieve this liveliness of mind each student must engage in a program that is both rich in content and rigorous in analysis or practice; such a program is traditionally grounded in the disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences while benefiting from the insights that derive from contemporary interdisciplinary approaches. 


Humanities Requirements:


       A Course in Literature that introduces students to the techniques of literary analysis through a course in which the readings include a broad range of literary texts.


       A Course in the Arts that introduces the student to the modes of analysis applied to music, theatre, or the visual arts.


       A Second Course in Literature, the Arts, or in Creative Expression a second course in literature or the arts, or a course in which the student is given training in creative expression in writing, the theatrical arts, studio arts, filmmaking, photography, musical performance, musical composition, or dance.


       A Course in Philosophy in which students read classic works of philosophy.


Social Science Requirements:


       A Course in Historical Change dealing with a crucial human time sequence, such as: economic, political, social and cultural change within a society, or from one society to another; change in science, and the idea of science; change in literature and the arts. 


       A Social Science Course that treats topics considered of fundamental importance in the social or behavioral sciences.


Natural Science Requirements:


       Three Courses in the Natural Sciences that introduce students to scientific principles   and concepts.  Students must take courses from at least two different departments.


Global Citizenship Requirements: 


       A Two-Term Sequence of a Single Foreign Language that each student is required to complete successfully with a grade of C- or better.   Students may exempt this requirement if they can demonstrate elementary proficiency in a foreign language through: the completion of three years of high school study of a single foreign language with a grade of C or better, successful completion of a special proficiency examination, or transfer of credit for two terms or more of CAS approved college-level instruction in a single foreign language with grades of C or better. A student whose native language is not English, or who is bilingual, is exempted from this requirement.


        Three Foreign Culture/International Courses chosen from at least two of the following categories:


Regional courses that address a single culture or society within a particular country or focus on cultures or societies in any region of the world other than the United States,


Comparative courses that utilize a comparative perspective in examining problems, issues, or topics that crosscut regional or national boundaries,


Global courses focus on global processes by examining worldwide issues or topics comprehensively.


       A Course in Non-Western Culture addressing a culture or cultures other than those of the Mediterranean, Central and Western Europe, and French or English speaking North America.  This requirement may be satisfied in conjunction with one of the courses used to satisfy the international culture requirement or another Disciplinary Approaches requirements.


3.  Major Fields of Study (24-60 credits)

Major Requirements:  In-depth studies in one or more major fields of disciplinary or interdisciplinary study, selected from amongst the programs of study devised, offered, and supervised by one of our departments or interdisciplinary programs.  The College of Arts and Sciences offers more than 50 majors and joint majors. Requirements vary widely and some majors require certain courses in other departments called co-requirements. The following majors are offered:

Africana Studies                      Economics (BA, BS)               Japanese                                  Political Science     

Africana Studies & English     Economics & Statistics           Linguistics                               Psychology

Anthropology                         English Literature                    Mathematics                           Religious Studies

Astronomy (see Physics)       English Writing                       Mathematics & Economics     Russian                  

                                                Environmental Geology         

Applied Math                         Environmental Studies            Mathematics &Philosophy    Scientific Computing

Architectural Studies              Film Studies                            Microbiology                          Sociology

Biological Sciences                  French                                     Molecular Biology                  Spanish

CAS/Business Dual Major     Geology                                  Music                                      Statistics

Chemistry                               German                                   Neuroscience                           Studio Arts

Chinese                                   History                                   Philosophy                             Theatre Arts

Classics                                   History & Phil of Science       Physics                                   Urban Studies

Communication &Rhetoric     History of Art & Arch.          Physics & Astronomy (BA, BS)                                           

Computer Science                   Interdisciplinary Studies         Polish

Ecology & Evolution              Italian                                      Politics & Philosophy


Minor/Related Area Requirement:  At least 12 credits in a related area or official minor specified by the studentís major department.  The related/minor area may represent a thematic cluster, geographic grouping, certificate program or some other combination.


 4.  Credits and QPA Requirements

A Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree requires 120 credits (approximately 40 courses).  A cumulative quality point average  (QPA) of 2.00 is required in all courses applied toward the degree, and a minimum cumulative QPA of 2.0 for courses within the major and within the related area.  Keep in mind that some courses can be used to fulfill more than one requirement and a CAS advisor will assist the student in planning coursework and completing requirements in a timely manner.


Special Programs and Opportunities


Certificate ProgramsCertificate programs allow students to complete a concentrated area of study in addition to the major.  Certificates typically require 18-24 credits and can be used to fulfill the related area requirement. The following certificates are available to CAS students: African Studies, Asian Studies, American Sign Language, Childrenís Literature, Structural Engineering for Architectural Studies majors, Conceptual Foundations of Medicine, Film Studies, Geographic Information Systems, German Language, Global Studies, Historic Preservation, Jewish Studies, Latin American Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Photonics, Russian and East European Studies, West European Studies, and Womenís Studies. Completion of a certificate is noted on the transcript upon graduation.


Multiple Major and Degree Options:  In addition to the individual majors, CAS students may choose to pursue a variety of academic programs leading to multiple majors, majors within more than one department, or majors that either prepare students for or offer advanced admission to graduate or professional programs at the University.  See the University of Pittsburgh Undergraduate Bulletin ( for details.


Transfer to Undergraduate Professional Programs of Study at the University:

The Arts and Science curriculum provides a foundation of study which allows interested students to apply for admission to undergraduate programs offered by other schools at the University, including the Colleges of Business Administration and General Studies, and the Schools of Education, Engineering, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Information Sciences, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Social Work.


Pre-Professional Studies (Dental Medicine, Law, Medicine, Teacher Certification):

CAS does not offer undergraduate majors in pre-dental science, pre-medicine, pre-law, or education.  Interested students prepare for these graduate professional programs by taking the necessary prerequisites while they pursue the CAS degree of their choice.  Special advising is provided for these pre-professional students.


University Honors College:

The Honors College offers unique courses, special degrees, and supplemental advising to highly motivated students who have been invited to participate at the point of application. However, UHC does not have a formal membership and students throughout campus can take honors courses by requesting special permission to do so.   For more information see


The CAS Office of Experiential Learning:

All CAS students are encouraged to integrate the various skills and approaches to knowledge learned in individual classes in ways that allow them to continue to learn and explore beyond the traditional classroom setting.  The CAS Office of Experiential Learning assists students in identifying opportunities to develop these skills through participation in research, teaching, service learning, internships, and study abroad. 

For more information on CAS programs,

please contact

College of Arts and Sciences

Advising Center

252 Thackeray Hall

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

(412) 624-6444


For information on other majors, please contact

Office of Admissions and Financial Aid

4227 Fifth Avenue , Masonic Temple

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

(412) 624-PITT