Academic Terminology at KU Explained

Five students walking past Marvin Hall

Glossary of Terminology


A major is your main academic area of study. Majors are found in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) or in the many Professional Schools such as the School of Business or School of Engineering. Various majors have different degree types such as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of General Studies.


A track is different from a major. It is a set of required courses that go toward a field of study that you have elected to complete in addition to your major such as Pre-Medicine, Pre-Law, or Pre-Health Professions. For example, if you are Pre-Medicine, you are not getting a Pre-Medicine degree. You take the courses that are required for the Pre-Medicine track while you are also completing a full major at KU such as chemistry or biological sciences. Courses need for a track can either overlap with or be added to a major of your choice. Your major is the Bachelor degree you choose. View a list of pre-professional tracks on the Degree Plans webpage.

Notice: Pre-Nursing is not a track; it is a set of courses you complete to prepare to apply to Nursing School.


The three most common types of KU degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA), the Bachelor of Science (BS), and the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS). The School of the Arts in the CLAS also offers Bachelor of Fine Art and Bachelor of Art Education degrees.

All degrees are made up of three components:

To graduate from KU, you typically need 120 credit hours. The three components of a degree are what get you to 120 hours. Think of choosing your degree type as choosing what components you would like to use to reach those 120 hours.

All degrees require at least 120 credit hours. However, a few majors require more. For example, if you graduate with a degree from the School of Engineering you will have completed more than 120 credit hours.

Notice:  Degree offerings differ depending on the major you choose. For example, a biology major is offered as a BA or a BS. A psychology major is offered as a BA or a BGS. Check out what degrees are offered for which majors by visiting the Academic Catalog.

Generally, BA and BGS degrees are not offered in the Professional Schools such as Journalism, Business, or Engineering, meaning in most Professional Schools, you will be completing a BS degree. CLAS offers all three degrees. The BGS degree is only offered through the CLAS.

Notice: It's important to note that taking language courses or adding a minor can be done no matter what type of KU degree you are completing, and these can be selected via your electives. We always encourage students to learn a language or take courses outside their main academic area. Your advisor can help you choose electives that will compliment your degree program and allow you to explore further interests.

Bachelor of Arts (BA):

A degree that requires fourth level proficiency in a foreign language. This can also be done by achieving 3rd level proficiency in one language and 1 level in another (3+1). Be sure to chat with your advisor about how to reach your 4th level proficiency.

Often times if you have previous knowledge in a language you can place into a level higher than beginner by taking a language placement exam. These exams vary by department. If you feel like you can place into a higher level of a language, discuss this with your advisor.  Advanced Placement (AP) scores and credits can also be used toward language proficiency. A BA degree also requires an additional math course beyond MATH 101 and a science lab that matches the lecture class.

Bachelor of Science (BS):

A degree that tends to be more math and science heavy. Rather than taking a language, you might take a higher-level major course or an additional math course. Credit hour requirements for a BS degree might also include extra course requirements specific to the major. For example, in a Biology BS degree, you take more upper-level biology courses than you would in a BA.

Bachelor of General Studies (BGS):

A degree that requires a major and a minor. You may see the minor show as your "second area of study." There are so many ways you can combine different academic areas. Talk to you advisor about how to combine your interests. View a list of available minors.