Undergraduate Education

Degree Requirements

General Education (GE)

American Institutions

Ethnic Studies

SF State Studies


Complementary Studies


Undergraduate Degree: Overview

San Francisco State University undergraduates will emerge from their studies with a breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding developed from integrating their coursework and academic experiences in both General Education and the major. The abilities, knowledge, and qualities of mind fostered by General Education will be reinforced, extended, and deepened in the major. We expect the following interconnected educational outcomes from a baccalaureate of San Francisco State:

  1. Competencies for Lifelong Intellectual Endeavor: SF State's baccalaureate graduates will be competent in critical questioning and analysis, creative and independent thought, attentive reading and interpretation, written and other forms of communication, quantitative reasoning, research drawing upon a variety of resources, problem-solving, and collaboration.
  2. Intellectual Attainments: Graduates will be conversant with the principal domains of knowledge associated with liberal learning: the sciences and mathematics, the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. They will be able to apply the modes of inquiry associated with these domains and will have engaged questions and issues of enduring importance. They will also gain in-depth knowledge and understanding of at least one major course of study. These competencies and attainments will provide graduates with intellectual foundations for careers or advanced study.
  3. Appreciation of Diversity: Graduates will know, understand, and appreciate multiple forms and variations of human diversity, both within the United States and globally. Graduates will respect themselves and others. They will have obtained a historical perspective about the development of our diverse nation and will be able to engage in informed, civil discourse with persons different from themselves in intellectual and cultural outlook.
  4. Ethical Engagement: Graduates will have an appreciation of the necessity and difficulty of making ethical choices, both private and public, and will be able to identify and analyze the values that inform those choices. Graduates will demonstrate ethical conduct in their own work and their acknowledgment of the work of others. Graduates will recognize their responsibility to work toward social justice and equity by contributing purposefully to the well-being of their local communities, their nations, and the people of the world, as well as to the sustainability of the natural environment.
  5. Integration and Application of Knowledge: Graduates will know how to make connections among apparently disparate forms of knowledge and modes of inquiry across academic disciplines and between the principal domains of knowledge and their majors. They also will be able to place such knowledge and approaches within their cultural, historical, and sociopolitical contexts. Graduates will be able to apply academic knowledge to what is important in their own lives and to local and global communities.
  6. Qualities of Mind and Spirit: Graduates will take with them dispositions that facilitate lifelong learning and growth, including curiosity, a sense of wonder, intellectual flexibility and adaptability, a refusal to simplify what is inherently complex and ambiguous, a sense of responsibility and accountability, critical self-reflection, independence of mind, respect for wellness and healthy living, a readiness to assume leadership roles, and reverence for all that unites us as human beings across time.

At SF State, students acquire these skills and this knowledge through General Education (GE), major, minor, and elective courses. All are important parts of the overall experience of a liberal education to prepare students to be successful in the 21st Century.

SF State awards three baccalaureate degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
  • Bachelor of Music (B.M.)

Requirements for all three degrees are listed on the following pages. Consult your major department for specific degree requirements.

Introduction to General Education

Your major provides in-depth study in one subject matter, often one directly related to a particular career. General Education (GE), on the other hand, involves study in breadth -- for acquiring knowledge and skills for a range of future experiences throughout life, for providing the intellectual agility for moving from one career to another, and for making future contributions in a number of possible communities. The University requires students to complete 48 units of General Education requirements (GE).

Areas A through D of GE contain only lower-division classes and should be taken in the first two years of college. They provide basic skills as well as breadth in a variety of disciplinary areas. Area A of GE is designed to improve student’s basic skills in communication in English (oral and written) and critical thinking. Area B of GE provides a breadth of knowledge about the physical and life sciences, including laboratory experiences. Area B also provides students an opportunity to expand their mathematics and quantitative reasoning skills. Area C of GE focuses on the Arts and Humanities and gives students a chance to explore the Humanities through literature. Area D of GE covers the social sciences and includes the US History and Government requirements.

Area E courses are the second part of the first-year experience. The courses cover rhetorical knowledge, the writing process, information literacy, and reflection and metacognition.

Overview of General Education at San Francisco State University

General Education Breadth requirements have been designed to complement the major program and electives completed by each baccalaureate candidate, to assure that graduates have made noteworthy progress toward becoming truly educated persons. These requirements are designed to provide the knowledge, skills, experiences, and perspectives that will enable SF State students to expand their capacities to take part in a wide range of human interests and activities; to confront personal, cultural, moral, and social problems that are an inevitable part of human life; and to cultivate both the requisite skills and enthusiasm for lifelong learning. Courses approved for GE Breadth are responsive to the need for students to have developed knowledge of, or skills related to, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, intellectual inquiry, global awareness and understanding, human diversity, civic engagement, communication competence, ethical decision-making, environmental systems, technology, lifelong learning and self-development, and physical and emotional health throughout a lifetime.

General Education Requirements for all Baccalaureate Degrees

Requirements 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 11 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
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities (AERM) LD or UD 31
Environmental Sustainability (ES) LD or UD 31
Global Perspectives (GP) LD or UD 31
Social Justice (SJ) LD or UD 31

These graduation requirements are for first-time freshmen entering SF State fall 2014 or later. Other students should consult the Division of Undergraduate Education and Academic Planning for information about their requirements.

Notes: LD = Lower Division; UD = Upper Division

Area A: English Language Communication and Critical Thinking - 9 units

Students taking courses in fulfillment of A1 and A2 will develop knowledge and understanding of the form, content, context, and effectiveness of communication. Students will develop proficiency in oral and written communication in English, examining communication from the rhetorical perspective and practicing reasoning and advocacy, organization, and accuracy. Students will practice the discovery, critical evaluation, and reporting of information, as well as reading, writing, and listening effectively.

In critical thinking (A3) courses, students will understand logic and its relation to language; elementary inductive and deductive processes, including an understanding of the formal and informal fallacies of language and thought; and the ability to distinguish matters of fact from issues of judgment or opinion. In A3 courses, students will develop the abilities to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas; to reason inductively and deductively; and to reach well-supported factual or judgmental conclusions.

Area B: Scientific Inquiry and Quantitative Reasoning - 9 units

In B1-B3, students develop knowledge of scientific theories, concepts, and data about both living and non-living systems. Students will achieve an understanding and appreciation of scientific principles and the scientific method, as well as the potential limits of scientific endeavors and the value systems and ethics associated with human inquiry. The nature and extent of laboratory experience is to be determined by each campus through its established curricular procedures.

Courses in subarea B4 shall have an explicit Entry Level Math II prerequisite (Intermediate Algebra), and students shall develop skills and understanding beyond the level of intermediate algebra. Students will not just practice computational skills, but will be able to explain and apply basic mathematical concepts and will be able to solve problems through quantitative reasoning.

Area C: Arts and Humanities - 9 units

Across the disciplines in their Area C coursework, students will cultivate intellect, imagination, sensibility, and sensitivity. Students will respond subjectively as well as objectively to aesthetic experiences and will develop an understanding of the integrity of both emotional and intellectual responses. Students will cultivate and refine their affective, cognitive, and physical faculties through studying great works of the human imagination. Activities may include participation in individual aesthetic, creative experiences; however, Area C excludes courses that exclusively emphasize skills development.

In their intellectual and subjective considerations, students will develop a better understanding of the interrelationship between the self and the creative arts and of the humanities in a variety of cultures.

Area D: Social Sciences - 9 units

Students learn from courses in multiple Area D disciplines that human social, political, and economic institutions and behavior are inextricably interwoven. Through fulfillment of the Area D requirement, students will develop an understanding of problems and issues from the respective disciplinary perspectives and will examine issues in their contemporary as well as historical settings and in a variety of cultural contexts. Students will explore the principles, methodologies, value systems, and ethics employed in social scientific inquiry.

The CSU American Institutions requirement (D2 and D3) may be met either by examination (AP, CLEP, or SF State competency exam) or by taking at least one course in subareas D2 and D3.

In U.S. History courses (D2), students learn about the relationships among regions within the area of study and with external regions and states and the role of major ethnic and social groups in such events and the contexts in which the events have occurred, with attention to the multiple heritages of US culture, including Native American peoples and cultures.

The events covered in D2 courses will be presented within a framework which illustrates the continuity of American experience and its derivation from other cultures including consideration of three or more of the following: politics, economics, social movements, and geography. D2 courses will also cover basic American values and ideals, including freedom, equality of opportunity, equality before the law, equality of moral regard for each other, and social fairness.

In U.S. and California Government courses (D3), students learn about the political philosophies of the framers of the Constitution and the nature and operation of United States political institutions and processes. Students learn basic concepts in political theory, political structure and process, the legitimacy and authority of the government, and the application of these concepts to understanding the US political system, particularly the roles of law and the Constitution. Students also learn about the rights and obligations of citizens established under the Constitution, in the context of basic American values and ideals.

Students also learn about California government, particularly the constitution of the State of California within the framework of the evolution of Federal-State relations and the nature and processes of State and local government under that Constitution. D2 courses will explore contemporary relationships of State and local government, the resolution of conflicts and the establishment of cooperative processes under the constitutions of both the State and Nation, and the political processes involved.

Area E: Lifelong Learning and Self-development (LLD)

Area E courses are the second part of the first-year experience. The courses cover rhetorical knowledge, the writing process, information literacy, and reflection and metacognition.

Upper-Division General Education

Upper-Division General Education is designed to provide students with the opportunity to integrate and apply the knowledge, skills, and insights gained from their lower-division General Education courses. All students must complete a total of 9 units with one course in each of the following CSU-mandated groupings of domains of knowledge and inquiry:

  1.  Upper-Division Physical and/or Life Sciences (Area UD-B),
  2.  Upper-Division Arts and/or Humanities (Area UD-C), and
  3.  Upper-Division Social Sciences (Area UD-D).

SF State Studies Requirement

SF State Studies courses fulfill graduation requirements but do not have specific unit requirements. They are meant to ensure that students take a least one course in areas that the campus feels are important to graduates of our University. There are currently four graduation requirements that students must meet:

Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper- or lower-division, may be in General Education, a major or minor, or an elective. Because of the large number of SF State Studies courses, most students will take more than one SF State Studies course and will not have to seek out such courses. 

A detailed listing of all General Education areas and courses begins on General Education Lower Division. You can find specific areas of our GE program by visiting the General Education Table of Contents.

Other Academic Programs

Certificate programs provide individuals the opportunity to develop specialized skills in areas that may complement majors or minors. These programs focus on a narrow spectrum of knowledge or skills and require fewer units than a major. SF State's College of Extended Learning also offers certificate programs. Students who are pursuing a baccalaureate degree and certificate at the same time are encouraged to complete both programs within 120 units.

Pre-credential programs are offered for students interested in pursuing teaching credentials after completing the baccalaureate degree. Students may complete preparatory coursework as an undergraduate student and are encouraged to seek advising from the College of Education's Credential and Graduate Services Center, the Liberal Studies office, and/or the Child and Adolescent Development Program.

Pre-professional programs are available for students who are interested in pursuing professional school studies after the baccalaureate degree. For information and referral, consult the Undergraduate Advising Center.

Second Baccalaureate Degree

Subject to restrictions imposed by the CSU Chancellor’s Office, in rare instances a student who already holds a bachelor's degree may apply for admission to work toward a second baccalaureate degree. If approved, the student will be admitted to the undergraduate program, typically at the senior level. Check Admissions for programs open to second baccalaureate applications.

Students who have previously earned a baccalaureate or higher degree from an institution accredited by a regional accrediting association will not have to complete any GE or additional graduation requirements. These students will only be held to completing courses specifically required for the secondary major.

Whether or not the second baccalaureate degree is ever completed, none of the credits earned may later be considered for post-baccalaureate status at this University. The only possible exception is in the last semester before the award of the degree as provided for under the section Courses in Excess of Bachelor Degree Requirements.

Undergraduate Education continues in Undergraduate Advising.