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Common Academic Language at KU

What is a major?
A major is your main academic area of study! Majors are found in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or in the many Professional Schools that KU has. Different majors have different degree types that they pair with.

What is a track?
What is the difference between a track and a major? A track is not a major – it is a set of required courses that go towards of field of study that you have elected to complete in addition to your major. Example: Pre-Medicine, Pre-Law or Pre-Health Professions. So, if you are Pre-Med 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. Courses for a track can either overlap with, or be added to a major of your choice. Your major is the Bachelor degree you choose.
You can see some of the tracks that KU offers above such as Pre-Law, Pre-Medicine, and some Pre-Health Professions. Pre-Nursing is not a track, it is a set of courses you complete while applying to Nursing Schools.

What makes up a degree?
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 College also offers Bachelor of Fine Art and a Bachelor of Art Education degrees. All degrees are made up of three components: Your KU Core requirements, your degree requirements, and your major specific requirements. To graduate from KU, you need typically 120 credit hours. The 3 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 120 hours.

Note:  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 catalog.

KU Degrees and the main differences:

  • Bachelor of Art, BA - degree 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 chat with your advisor! AP scores and credits can also be used towards 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 - degree 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 Bachelor of Science 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 do in the BA!
  • Bachelor of General Studies, BGS - degree requires a major and a minor. You may see the minor show as your "second area of study". There are so many way you can combine different academic areas! Chat with us about how to combine your interests. Be sure to check out the minors tab to the left.

Additional KU Degree information:
Generally, BA and BGS degrees are not offered in the Professional Schools (like Journalism, Business, or Engineering), meaning in most Professional Schools you will be completing a Bachelor of Science degree. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences or (CLAS) offers all three degrees. The BGS degree is only offered through the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.


Electives are okay too! 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! We always encourage students to learn a language or take courses outside their main academic area.

All degrees require up to 120 credit hours. There are some majors that require more. For example if you graduate with a degree from the School of Engineering you will have more than 120 credit hours completed!

Explore all KU certificates here 

Explore all KU Minors here 

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