Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

The Liberal Studies (LS) major has a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary curriculum that encompasses many areas of knowledge in the arts and sciences. The program consists of innovative courses in the areas of literature, communication, performance, education, environmental studies, science and technology studies, social sciences, humanities, the creative arts, and medical anthropology.  This richly diversified major gives students skills and knowledge that will serve them well for work and life in our increasingly complex and interconnected world.  Its well-rounded curriculum provides robust preparation for future teachers, and the LS major is specifically recommended as a pathway for students who want to become elementary school teachers.

Our graduates have also pursued advanced degrees in counseling, education, public health, gerontology, law, health fields, environmental studies, mathematics, English, psychology, film studies, library science, theology, and more.  Many of our alumni work in public service, resource policy, technology and innovation, library studies, creativity and communication, social media, education, health, and criminal justice fields.

The elementary subject matter emphasis provides the broad academic background necessary for teaching in an elementary classroom and, when completed along with a set of additional courses, allows future teachers to waive the CSET exam.

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Reflect critically on students' education and their program of study.
  2. Recognize scholarship on which practice and knowledge in a discipline are based.
  3. Write critical and/or argument-based papers that can distinguish between different disciplinary methods and perspectives and potentially integrate them.
  4. Identify and utilize modes of inquiry within their major field or discipline and be able to compare and contrast these modes with those in other disciplines and fields.
  5. Analyze a complex issue, theme or problem by applying multiple perspectives, theories, concepts, and modes of inquiry.

Liberal Studies (B.A.) — Minimum 42 units

LS 300GW introduces important concepts of interdisciplinary study and should be taken either before or concurrently with the Area Core Courses, usually no later than the junior year. Students are strongly encouraged to complete all Area Core Courses before taking LS 690, the culminating experience for the major, in the senior year. Courses that count toward the ESMR (Elementary Subject Matter Requirements) are noted below.

Required Core Course (3 units)

LS 300GWPerspectives on Liberal Studies - GWAR3

Literature (3 units)

Select one:

AA S 322Chinese American Language and Literature3
AA S 332Japanese American Art and Literature3
AA S 352Filipina/o American Literature, Art, and Culture3
AA S 372Vietnamese American Literature3
AA S 512Asian American Children's/Adolescent Literature3
AFRS 411African and African American Literature3
AFRS 645Literature of the Harlem Renaissance3
CWL 440"Typical American": Narratives of Multiculturalism in the Americas from 1492 to the Present3
CWL 450Literary Crossings3
E ED 681Teaching Language and Literature with Elementary and Middle School Students (ESMR)3
ENG 398/MGS 397Greek American Literature3
ENG/JS/CWL 451Jewish Literature of the Americas3
ENG 526Age of the American Renaissance: 1830-18603
ENG 533Holocaust and Literature3
ENG 535Literature and Ecology3
ENG 54620th Century American Jewish Women Writers3
ENG 601Literature and Psychology3
ENG 602Literature and Society3
ENG 655Literature and the Adolescent Reader3
LTNS 560Contemporary Latina/o Literature3
RRS/ARAB 450Contemporary Arabic and Arab American Literature3
WGS 541Women Writers and Social Change3
WGS/SXS 551Queer Literatures and Media3

Communication Studies (3-4 units)

Select one:

COMM 551Persuasion4
COMM 552Performance and Feminism4
COMM 553Performance and Identity4
COMM 554Performance of Children's Literature (ESMR)4
COMM 559Theory and Practice in Advanced Public Speaking4
LS 403/COMM 557Performance and Pedagogy of the Oppressed for Educators3

Life and Physical Sciences (3 units)

Select one:

BIOL 300Nature Study3
BIOL 310Biology for Today's World (ESMR)3
BIOL 313Principles of Ecology3
BIOL 318Our Endangered Planet3
BIOL 326Disease!3
LS 209Physical Sciences for Elementary School Teachers (ESMR)3
LS 310Physics for Future Elementary School Teachers3
LS/HUM 317Critical Animal Studies3
LS 430Future of the Forests3
LS/HUM 440Mind, Body, and Culture3
ERTH 325Geology of the National Parks3
ERTH 335Global Warming3
ERTH 360California Weather Events3
ERTH 365Extreme Weather in a Warming World (ESMR)3

Integrated Social Sciences (6 units)

Select two:

LS 200Self, Place, and Knowing: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Inquiry3
LS 401International Development and Resource Justice3
LS 402Introduction to Human Rights Education for Teachers and Local Communities3
LS 404Social Science and Medicine3

Interdisciplinary Humanities (3 units)

Select one:

HUM 415Contemporary Culture3
HUM 425Thought and Image: Humanities3

Visual Studies (3 units)

Select one:

HUM/CMX 325Comics and Culture3
LS 426Thought and Image: Creative Arts3

Culminating Experience (3 Units)

LS 690Liberal Studies Senior Seminar3

Electives (15 units)

Choose one of the following options, in consultation with an advisor:

A. Complete at least 15 units that are part of a minor on campus. (In the case of 12-unit minors, choose an additional 3 units from the ESMR course list). Suggested minors include: Education, Special Education, any minor in Ethnic Studies, American Studies, California Studies, Comics Studies, Counseling, Holistic Health, Health Education, Earth Sciences, Communication Studies, any minor in Modern Languages (Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Russian), Humanities, Math, History, Global Peace Studies, Criminal Justice Studies, Women and Gender Studies.

B. Complete 15 units of additional courses (not already counted for the core) drawn from the Elementary Subject Matter Requirements. (See program website or advisor for full list of courses to choose from.)

C. In consultation with a faculty advisor, design and complete a 15-unit cross-disciplinary elective pattern on a particular topic.

Complementary Studies

All students completing a B.A. degree must satisfy the 12 unit Complementary Studies requirement. Students who complete the Liberal Studies major will automatically satisfy complementary studies with 12 units of courses outside of the Liberal Studies prefix (LS) and not cross-listed with LS. Students must consult with an advisor to identify the courses that will be used to satisfy the requirement.

Students who have earned AA-T or AS-T degrees and are pursuing a similar B.A. degree at SF State are required to fulfill the Complementary Studies requirement as defined by the major department. Students should consult with a major advisor about how transfer units and/or SF State units can best be applied to this requirement to ensure degree completion within 60 units.

Elementary Subject Matter Requirements (ESMR)

Students who intend to enter a multiple subjects credential program (to become Elementary School teachers) will have either to pass the CSET exam or successfully complete an Elementary Subject Matter Requirements program. The ESMR program includes 84 units of coursework distributed across the major and GE (both lower- and upper-division). Please consult with the LS advisor in selecting courses that are included in the ESMR program.

The following courses, included in the LS major's menu options for the B.A., also count towards ESMR:

BIOL 310Biology for Today's World3
COMM 554Performance of Children's Literature4
E ED 681Teaching Language and Literature with Elementary and Middle School Students3
ERTH 310The Violent Earth3
ERTH 365Extreme Weather in a Warming World3
LS 209Physical Sciences for Elementary School Teachers3

General Education Requirements

Requirement Course Level Units Area Designation
Oral Communication LD 3 A1
Written English Communication I LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
Physical Science LD 3 B1
Life Science LD 3 B2
Lab Science LD 1 B3
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning LD 3 B4
Arts LD 3 C1
Humanities LD 3 C2
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Social Sciences: US & CA Government LD 3 D3
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD 3 E
Physical and/or Life Science UD 3 UD-B
Arts and/or Humanities UD 3 UD-C
Social Sciences UD 3 UD-D
SF State Studies
Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper or lower division in General Education (GE), a major or minor, or an elective.
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities LD or UD 3 AERM
Environmental Sustainability LD or UD 3 ES
Global Perspectives LD or UD 3 GP
Social Justice LD or UD 3 SJ

Note: LD = Lower-Division; UD = Upper-Division.

First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)

Find the correct roadmap (A, B, C, or D):

  1. Select the row that matches your English Course choice for A2.*
  2. Select the column that matches your QR Category (found at your student center under Math Alert).
  3. Click the Roadmap that lines up with your row and column.

For example, if you are taking ENG 104 as your first English course and your student center math alert says you are QR Category III, you should choose Roadmap D.

Pathway QR Cat I/II QR Cat III/IV
ENG 114 Roadmap A Roadmap C
ENG 104/ENG 105 Roadmap B Roadmap D

*Composition for Multilingual Students: If taking ENG 209 as your first English course, choose the ENG 114 row. If taking ENG 204 for your first English course, choose the ENG 104/ENG 105 row.

Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)

For students with an AA-T in Elementary Teacher Education. This roadmap opens in a new tab.

This degree program is an approved pathway (“similar” major) for students earning the ADT in Elementary Teacher Education

California legislation SB 1440 (2009) mandated the creation of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to be awarded by the California Community Colleges. Two types of ADTs are awarded: Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T). 

Note: no specific degree is required for admission as an upper-division student. However, the ADT includes specific guarantees related to admission and graduation and is designed to clarify the transfer process and strengthen lower-division preparation for the major.

An ADT totals 60 units and in most cases includes completion of all lower-division General Education requirements and at least 18 units in a specific major. (The Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science AS-T degrees defer 3 units in lower-division GE area C and 3 units in lower-division GE area D until after transfer.) Students pursuing an ADT are guaranteed admission to the CSU if minimum eligibility requirements are met, though not necessarily to the CSU campus of primary choice.

Upon verification that the ADT has been awarded prior to matriculation at SF State, students are guaranteed B.A. or B.S. completion in 60 units if pursuing a “similar” major after transfer. Determinations about “similar” majors at SF State are made by faculty in the discipline.

Degree completion in 60 units cannot be guaranteed when a student simultaneously pursues an additional major, a minor, certificate, or credential.

A sample advising roadmap for students who have earned an ADT and continue in a "similar" major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab on the degree requirements page for the major. The roadmap displays:

  • How many lower-division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • Which lower-division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • How to complete the remaining 60 units for the degree in four semesters.

Students who have earned an ADT should seek advising in the major department during the first semester of attendance.

General Advising Information for Transfer Students

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
    • a course in U.S. History
    • a course in U.S. & California Government

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine:

  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower-division major requirements for this major;
  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units required for admission.

Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper-division transfer (for example, if a course was not passed on the first attempt or was taken to earn a better grade).

Before leaving the last California Community College of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower-division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.

Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding the award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.

Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower-division General Education in Areas C and D until after transfer to focus on preparation courses for the major. This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.

Transferring From Institutions Other Than CCCs or CSUs

Review SF State's lower-division General Education requirements. Note that, as described below, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3, and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower-division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit

Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.

All Students Must Meet the Transfer Eligibility Requirements Outlined Below for Admission.

For more information, visit the Undergraduate Admissions section.

  • Complete 60 or more transferable semester units or 90 or more quarter units.
  • Earn a college grade point average of 2.0 or better in all transferable courses. Non-local area residents may be held to a higher GPA standard.
  • Be in good standing at the last college or university attended.
  • Complete 30-semester units (45-quarter units) of General Education, including four basic skills courses:
    1. One course in oral communication (same as CSU GE Area A1)
    2. One course in written composition (same as CSU GE Area A2)
    3. One course in critical thinking (same as CSU GE Area A3)
    4. One course in mathematics or quantitative reasoning (same as CSU GE Area B4)
  • The four basic skills courses and a minimum of 60 transferable semester units (90-quarter units) must be completed by the spring semester prior to fall admission, or by the fall semester prior to spring admission. Earn a C- or better grade in each basic skills course.