The University requires that all students take a minimum of 40 credits of Areas of Knowledge courses, with at least 10 credits in each of three Areas: Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA); Individuals and Societies (I&S); and The Natural World (NW). Each school and college of the University has established requirements that meet or exceed these minimum requirements. Check General Education Requirements of UW's Schools and Colleges to find out the requirements for your major.
For example, majors in the College of Arts and Sciences must complete at least 20 credits in each of the three Areas, plus 15 additional credits from any of the Areas, while majors in the College of Engineering must complete 24-30 credits between I&S and VLPA and 50+ credits in NW.
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts
Courses in this Area focus on the history, interpretation, criticism, and practice of the arts. The requirement is meant to help you develop a personal appreciation of the creative process. Examples of departments that offer such courses include art history, classics, dance, drama, English, music, and foreign languages. Most speech courses also count in this Area.
Individuals and Societies
This Area includes a wide variety of options for the study of human beings and societies. Courses focus on the history, development, and dynamics of human behavior, as well as social and cultural institutions and practices. Departments that offer such courses include American ethnic studies, anthropology, economics, geography, international studies, political science, psychology, sociology, and women studies. I&S includes, from departments such as history, philosophy, and religion, courses traditionally grouped with "humanities" at other colleges.
The Natural World
Courses in this Area focus on the disciplined, scientific study of the natural world. The Area can be divided into three broad categories: the mathematical sciences, the physical sciences, and the biological sciences. Departments that offer such courses include astronomy, biology, chemistry, fisheries, forest resources, geology, mathematics, and oceanography.
Any passing grades (0.7 and above) are acceptable. Courses may not be taken on the satisfactory/not satisfactory (S/NS) grading option.
Overlap with Other Requirements
- For majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, you may count 15 credits from your major department toward Areas of Knowledge. Overlap rules for majors in other colleges and schools vary; refer to the catalog listing of the specific major for details.
- If you complete two majors, and at least one of the majors is in the College of Arts and Sciences, you may count 15 credits from one major toward Areas of Knowledge, and any number of credits from the other major. You choose which major has restricted overlap.
- You may count any number of credits from courses counted toward a minor, or toward the additional writing requirement or the Q/SR requirement, toward Areas of Knowledge as well.
- The courses on the English composition list do not count toward Areas of Knowledge.
- Overlap with the foreign language requirement is a bit more complicated, and is detailed on the foreign language requirement page.
AP and IB
Except for AP credit in English composition, most credit granted from College Board Advanced Placement examinations and International Baccalaureate can be counted toward Areas of Knowledge. If you have AP or IB scores, check out the AP credit and IB credit tables.
Most transfer courses in fields related to Arts and Sciences will count toward Areas of Knowledge. Transfer courses that will not count toward Areas of Knowledge include most business, engineering, and technical courses; physical education courses; and English composition courses.
Many courses that transfer as X-credit (e.g., HIST 1XX) will be assigned to the appropriate Area of Knowledge automatically, based on the department. However, some departments (e.g., PSYCH) have courses that fall in different Areas and so must be evaluated by an adviser, who will determine in which Area(s) each course falls.
Although UW courses taken S/NS cannot be counted toward Areas of Knowledge, transfer courses taken on a pass-fail basis before you first enter the UW can be counted toward Areas of Knowledge.
You can check the course equivalency tables to determine which courses from Washington community colleges count toward the UW's Areas of Knowledge requirement; they are marked in the lists as VLPA, I&S, or NW.
A student who has a transfer associate's degree from a Washington community college is allowed to count transferred courses toward the Areas of Knowledge requirement in the category the community college counted the courses. The courses most often affected are history and philosophy courses. A student who has a transfer AA and transfer courses in history or philosophy should visit The Transfer Associate Degree Agreement and Counting History and Philosophy Courses from Washington Community Colleges toward UW's Areas of Knowledge Requirement.
Students who enter the UW with a bachelor's degree already completed, and plan to earn a second bachelor's degree from the UW, are required to complete the Areas of Knowledge requirement. Since the courses of postbaccalaureate students are not individually evaluated — that is, they are not individually translated into UW equivalents — postbaccalaureate students must meet with an adviser to determine how courses already completed apply to the Areas of Knowledge requirement.
Registering for Areas of Knowledge Courses
You can generate a complete list of the Areas of Knowledge courses with space still available with the General Education Requirement Course Search.
A list of Suggested Areas of Knowledge Courses is also available. This list is prepared before registration begins, and includes mainly lower-division, general-interest Areas of Knowledge courses. The courses are grouped by Area and by the number of credits. Courses which also count toward the additional writing requirement are indicated.
Areas of Knowledge is the breadth requirement of the bachelor's degree. It is meant to ensure that you receive a liberal education rather than narrow, specialized training in only one field.
More than a third of your bachelor's degree will be devoted to meeting the Areas of Knowledge requirement. Although it might seem like a lot — especially when added to the writing, Q/SR, and foreign language requirements — there is substantial overlap built into the general education requirements. For example, almost all students can count their Q/SR and W courses toward Areas of Knowledge as well.
Not as immediately evident is the flexibility built into the requirements. The 15 credits of overlap with your major department (in College of Arts and Sciences majors) allow you to take as few as 5 credits outside your major in one of the Areas. Many departments have courses in two or more Areas; it is then your decision which (if any) Areas you'll partially satisfy with your major.
Adding to the flexibility is the fact that many courses appear in more than one Area. You can't count such a course toward both Areas at once, but which Area you count it toward is your decision.
Virtually every undergraduate course offered by the College of Arts and Sciences, and many in other schools and colleges, count toward Areas of Knowledge. Search through the Course Descriptions and the Time Schedule and find courses that sound interesting to you. They may be spread over many departments, or you may wish to focus your general education in a few areas of special interest.
As you plan your class schedule each quarter, think of the Areas of Knowledge requirement not as a wall between you and the courses you want to take, but as a gateway to all the University has to offer.