For students interested in literary criticism, business management, and the scientific method, choosing one major might feel restrictive. The general studies program, sometimes known as independent or interdisciplinary studies, is perfect for students with diverse academic interests. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, general studies equips students with the skills necessary to adapt to a rapidly evolving economy. Check out the following guide for more information about the general education degree, including coursework, admissions, and professional licensure.

Should I Get a Bachelor's in General Studies?

General studies is ideal for students with interests in the arts and sciences (and often in business, law, or other professional programs) who want to translate these passions into independent research. Most colleges require general studies students to pursue balanced coursework in math, science, and literature. Graduates with a degree in general studies develop diverse skill sets that include critical thinking, artistic creativity, and expertise in business management.

Schools with general studies programs often offer online and on-campus options. Working professionals or other nontraditional students returning to school usually benefit from online degrees, as the flexibility of virtual classes makes it easier to juggle a busy work schedule and family life. On-campus programs are usually suitable for students attending college directly after high school.

A balanced arts and sciences curriculum helps students develop the skills necessary for jobs in editing, public relations, project coordination, or market research. Additionally, because general studies programs include faculty from multiple disciplines, students often create multiple professional networks. The degree's independent nature particularly benefits graduating students, as employers seek candidates able to conduct independent research and oversee the design and presentation of multifaceted projects.

How to Choose a Bachelor's in General Studies Program

The general studies degree offers students the flexibility to pursue individualized study and investigate critical questions. However, many schools for general studies also offer professional tracks in which students take business and communications classes. Students can build their own concentration or enroll in humanities, sciences, or career-oriented concentrations. Usually, on-campus programs emphasize the liberal arts and sciences, while online programs focus on business and professional studies. Students do not need to participate in an internship or practicum to graduate, but they must usually complete a thesis or capstone project, typically a 30-50 page final essay. Like most bachelor's degrees, a general studies major requires four years of full-time study, or about 120 credits of coursework.

On average, tuition for an on-campus bachelor's degree ranges from $25,000-$50,000. However, students should also account for other fees, like books or room and board. A school's location can significantly increase expenses: Students attending schools in urban environments often have access to more job and internship opportunities, but must also grapply with higher costs of living. Rural campuses, on the other hand, often have lower living costs. Visiting a campus before committing to a school can help applicants determine how each programs fits their academic, professional, and personal needs.

Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in General Studies Programs

Students must ensure they attend an accredited college or university. Accreditation verifies that schools meet standards of excellence in education. Both regional and national agencies provide accreditation, and regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious standard. Most employers strongly prefer candidates with accredited degrees.

Additionally, because general studies often shares coursework with professional degree tracks, programs might earn accreditation from career-specific organizations like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Bachelor's in General Studies Program Admissions

Applicants should prepare early for applications, especially for on-campus programs, which have many steps and differ significantly from online admissions. While online programs often feature rolling admissions, on-campus programs deadlines typically fall between early December and late February. Additionally, while many online schools do not require test scores, applicants to on-campus programs usually must provide either SAT or ACT scores.

Students should apply to at least six programs, but should consider as many as 15 colleges if they are applying to selective schools. General studies applicants should pay attention to available concentrations within the program and how well the general studies curriculum aligns with their interests. It is also important to note which schools require an additional application for the general education degree program, as some colleges require students to formally apply as sophomores or juniors.


  • Minimum GPA: Minimum GPA requirements range from 2.3-3.0, but applicants with at least a 2.7 are usually successful. Most universities consider applications holistically, taking into account GPAs and test scores alongside essays and letters of recommendation.

Admission Materials

  • Application: The college application process can take several months. While most colleges accept the CommonApp, an online application that allows students to apply to multiple schools simultaneously, general studies programs usually require an additional application before a student's third year.
  • Transcripts: Students request transcripts from their high school administrative staff to be sent to the colleges they apply to.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Applicants should request at least two letters of recommendation from teachers they have worked closely with. Letters of recommendation can take a month or more to write, so students should contact their recommenders two or three months in advance.
  • Test Scores: Most universities require either SAT or ACT test scores, sometimes with the writing component. Test score requirements vary, but candidates with an SAT score of at least 1150 or an ACT score of at least 24 are generally competitive.
  • Application Fee: Universities charge application fees between $50 and $80. However, most institutions waive the fee for applicants who demonstrate financial need. Colleges generally award fee waivers on a case-by-case basis.

What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in General Studies Program?

General studies programs allow students to pursue diverse intellectual interests through a unique academic specialization. Colleges for general studies often permit students to develop individualized coursework, so available concentrations and classes can vary widely from school to school. This section outlines some of the most common general studies concentrations.

Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor's Degree in General Studies
Concentration Description Careers
Arts and Sciences Professional Track In this concentration, students take literature, social science, and math classes in conjunction with business coursework like research management or design thinking. By teaching students to apply the liberal arts in practical work settings, the professional concentration prepares graduates for a variety of careers. Management, journalism, marketing and advertising
Business and Management The business concentration provides students with a broad understanding of business and management principles. This track prepares graduates for career opportunities in business settings. Some schools incorporate a social sciences focus, where students analyze the psychological influences of organizational behavior and practices. Human resources managers, training and development managers
Women's Studies This concentration draws on critical analyses of history, race, and class, for a broad understanding of women's experience. Students in this concentration typically take classes in literature, art, politics, and philosophy. The women's studies specialization is highly customizable and alluring for students interested in the construction of gender and identity. Education, political science, publishing

Courses in a Bachelor's in General Studies Program

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the general studies degree incorporates classes across many subjects. Most commonly, students pursuing degrees in general studies take several classes in the humanities, math, the sciences, and professional tracks.

Introduction to Public Administration

This class serves as an introduction to public policy and management and often focuses on organizational behavior, financial administration, and the process of creating policies. Public administration classes prepare students for a variety of management and policy-centric occupations, including environmental science and administrative services management.

U.S. History

U.S. history classes investigate the history of political, cultural, economic, and legal organizations in America, often in a global context. This class provides analytic and critical reasoning skills, essential in any career.

Gender, Sexuality, and Society

This course explores historical and contemporary trends of gender and sexual identity. These classes also often analyze intersections between feminism and race. This coursework is foundational for careers in postsecondary education and social work.

Humans and the Environment

Classes studying humans and the environment consider the effects of human society on the natural world and debate strategies for environmental protection. Future urban planners and environmental protection technicians benefit from humans and the environment classes.

Information Technology

Most general education technology courses introduce students to databases, the data organization, and digital information management. Information technology classes are essential for future database administrators, but can also benefit managers who work with quantitative data.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in General Studies?

The average general studies degree is 120 credits and takes approximately four years to finish. Typically, on-campus students take between 15 and 18 credits per semester (30 to 36 credits per academic year). Students wishing to graduate sooner can usually transfer up to 60 credits from prior institutions or attend summer classes.

Unlike online programs, most on-campus programs do not include accelerated courses or offer self-paced study. Students must attend on-campus classes for an entire semester to earn credit. For busy students, part-time enrollment is usually available, though part-time students occasionally pay more per credit than full-time students.

How Much Is a Bachelor's in General Studies?

Most general studies degree students pay $25,000-$50,000 in tuition per year. Public school tuition tends to cost less than private school tuition, and students often save money by transferring core education requirements from other institutions.

The cost of a college education includes more than just tuition, however. Altogether, additional fees can total $10,000-$20,000 on top of tuition. Room and board, for instance, usually costs between $10,000-$15,000, while students spend roughly $1,000 per year on books. Again, these costs tend to fluctuate, depending on the course of study, whether a school is private or public, and the course of study. Science classes, for instance, often charge lab or technology fees, while humanities courses generally charge very little for books.

Prospective students need not allow high tuition or fees to deter them from applying: Schools charging higher tuition generally award more scholarships, especially to applicants with significant financial need. It is important to explore financial aid options to accurately calculate a program's cost.

Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in General Studies Prepares For

Professional in Human Resources Certification

The professional in human resources certification is crucial for human resources management careers. The certification requires an exam and prior experience working in human resources, but applicants can usually apply for certification after working in the field for one year or less.

Accredited in Public Relations Certification

While most positions don't require this certification, earning one can make applicants more competitive. Candidates earning this certificate must demonstrate their knowledge of ethics and strategic communication through an online course and final exam.

Teacher Licensure/Certification

Graduates of schools for general studies have the educational foundation required to teach in K-12 settings. While state requirements vary, candidates for teaching certification must pass a preparation program and apply directly to the state for an initial teaching credential.

Resources for General Studies Students

U.S. News and World Report

In addition to ranking on-campus and online programs in almost every discipline, U.S. News and World Report provides extensive digital resources about the college application process, standardized tests, and financial aid.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

The Online Writing Lab is an invaluable resource for undergraduate writers, providing useful guides for MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. The Purdue writing center also disseminates online research regarding literacy, rhetoric, and composition studies.

Humanities Research Center

This Rice University institution supports research initiatives for interdisciplinary humanities research, especially research in medical humanities and cultural heritage. The Center also provides a host of resources, including seminars, student internships, and regular publications.

Professional Organizations in General Studies

Graduates who join professional organizations are often more successful in finding employment after college. Professional organizations make it easier to build career networks by connecting students and recent graduates to experts in their chosen fields. Most organizations hold regular conferences, maintain extensive job listings, and offer continuing education or certification programs to help young professionals.

American Marketing Association

The American Marketing Association connects professionals and academics with the latest marketing research tools. The organization publishes online resources specifically for its student members, offering access to webcasts, training opportunities, and professional certification discounts.

Modern Language Association

One of the largest humanities organizations in the world, the Modern Language Association supports scholarly literature, language, and digital humanities research. The association supports a network of more than 20,000 members and regularly hosts thousands of humanities academics at its annual convention.