What Exactly Is College Course Work?

Course work is the essential, required component of most undergraduate college programs. It includes the overall required courses for an individual degree program (in other words, the classes required for a specific college major), as well as general educational requirements and capstone courses.

The term “course work” refers not only to the list of required classes that are necessary to obtain a degree, but also to the work in each class that is necessary to finish the class with a passing grade. Since all of the components are related, but distinct, they should each be explored and discussed separately.

Required Major Courses

In order to graduate with an undergraduate degree (typically referred to as a Bachelor’s Degree), a student must select or create a major area of focus. A major may be a specific field in the sciences or the humanities (such as Biology or Theater), or it may be a specific vocational or skill-based enterprise (such as Hospitality or Welding).

For every major a university offers, there is a curriculum of required courses that a student seeking the degree must take. A degree in Theater, for example, might require individual courses in Set Design, Performance, Dance, Lighting, and Costuming. A degree in Biology might require courses in Chemistry, Earth Science, and Anatomy. These required courses are part of the “course work” for the degree.

General Education Requirements

The average university also requires that all its students take courses in a variety of fields, regardless of the student’s major. These courses typically span a variety of disciplines, and are required for all students because they are believed to provide essential information that every educated adult will be expected to have. Examples of such courses include Introductory History, Writing, Basic Mathematics, and foreign language courses.

General educational requirements often comprise half or more of a student’s overall credit requirement for school. This means that over half of the “course work” a student must complete to earn a degree is in general areas unrelated to their major.

Capstone Courses

In addition to major and general requirements, many universities require its senior students to take additional courses on social and cultural issues of current importance. These advanced courses typically have a large writing component and present its students with tricky ethical dilemmas or current political problems plaguing the culture at large. These challenging classes are required because they are believed to make graduating college students better, more thoughtful citizens, and are thus are a key part of a degree program’s coursework.