Student Guide to the General Science Major

General Science can be a great major!  If you enjoy (and are good at) science and math and want to pursue a science-related career, you should definitely consider General Science, because it offers a broader selection of science courses most undergraduate degree programs. The General Science curriculum enables students to develop skills that relate to a wider variety of topics, ideas, and experiences. The program is multi-disciplinary (requires basic mastery of several sciences beyond the introductory level) and quite flexible, so that the General Science major can design his/her academic program to meet specific goals.


  1. What Can I Do with a General Science major?
  2. How Do I Become a General Science major?
  3. What are the Requirements for the General Science Major?
        Lower Division Requirements
        Upper Division Requirements
  4. Should I Take Courses in My Major Pass/No Pass?
  5. What About Earning Honors in General Science?
  6. Should I Double-Major or Minor in Another Area?  What Courses Outside the General Science Major Would Be Useful?
  7. What About Transfer Credits?
  8. How Will My General Science Courses Fit Into the University of Oregon Graduation Requirements?
  9. Who Can Help Me Plan My Academic Program?
  10. Other Advising Resources for the General Science Major
  11. How Should I Prepare for Advising Sessions? 
  12. How Do I Make Petitions to the GenSc Program? 

What Can I Do with a General Science major? General Science can work for many career interests. It can be an appropriate major for students interested in health-related careers (including medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and medical technology). Pre-engineering students have used the major to gain a broader scientific background than is provided in traditional pre-engineering programs in chemistry or physics. General Science may be particularly useful to students whose scientific interests do not fit well within a single discipline. The neurosciences, environmental sciences, and biophysical sciences are examples of such cross disciplinary areas. Combined with a second major or minor in  English, General Science can be excellent preparation for a writing career in science, technology, or natural history. The major also works well for students who want to teach elementary school or middle school science.

How Do I Become a General Science major?
To become a GenSc major, simply send your name and ID number to stating that your wish to become a GenSc major and that you understand the program requirements (i.e., read this handbook). We will transfer your major to GenSc.

What are the Requirements for the General Science Major?
The General Science major requirements include both lower division and upper division courses, with upper division course work building on the foundations established at the lower division level. All courses for the major must be passed with C-minus or better grades. The major requirements described here and in the UO Bulletin are minimum requirements. These requirements are the least you can get by with and still graduate with a General Science degree; however, we encourage you to design your program to meet your academic goals. Do not be bound by the minimum requirements.

To secure the best academic preparation and thus enhance your chances for desirable employment or going on for graduate or professional study, you will choose to do more than the required minimum. Take advantage of the many advising resources available to you to choose a second major or a minor, elective courses, and/or work/internship experiences that will increase your knowledge and skills and maximize your options following graduation. If you approach your major and university graduation requirements as opportunities and guidelines rather than barriers and if you seek out knowledgeable advisers when you have questions, you'll have a good chance of graduating as a well-educated person with strong, transferable skills and more than one avenue to future employment.

Briefly, the GenSc requirements are:

Lower Division Requirements

 1. All General Science majors must become proficient in mathematics through and including Math 251 and 252 or 246 and 247 or their equivalents(Calculus).  Math 253, the third course in the  calculus sequence, is also highly recommended, though not required. Depending on your math placement score, you may be able to start with Math 111 (College Algebra), possibly 112 (Functions); or you may need to take math courses at a less difficult level first. It is not possible to substitute Math 241 and 242 (Calculus for Business and Social Science) for Math 251 and 252. However, if you've already taken Math 241, 242, and 243, you need only complete Math 252. [Bear in mind that you cannot earn additional credits for 252 if you have already completed 242.] You should complete the calculus requirement before you begin your upper division courses.

 2. You must take at least three approved lower division science sequences. These sequences consist of a specified set of interrelated courses and laboratory experiences designed to prepare you for upper division work in these disciplines. Which sequences you choose will depend on your particular interests and goals. Some students find it necessary to choose four sequences instead of three.

  At least two of your lower division science sequences must include the associated laboratories. Again, your particular career/professional goals may require you to take the labs for more than two of your sequences. For example, the admissions requirements of some professional schools stipulate courses and labs in three different areas.

  Science sequences usually begin in the fall quarter and must be taken in order. An exception is the Foundations of Biology Sequence (BI 261-264). The beginning course for the foundations sequence (261) is offered in the winter session and is a prerequisite for the other three courses in the sequence. Organic chemistry is a pre-or co-requisite for Foundations of Biology; thus, you will need to complete a year of general chemistry prior to taking organic chemistry. There are currently two organic chemistry tracks, a two-term track and a three-term track. You will be wise to consult an adviser before choosing which organic track to pursue, since you cannot  move from one to the other once the first course is completed.

  If you choose physics as an emphasis area you should take one of the physics sequences that has an associated laboratory, since they are prerequisite to upper division physics courses. All of the approved lower division chemistry sequences will prepare you for upper division chemistry: you should choose the one that best fits with your math and chemistry background.

Approved lower division science sequences with associated labs include: Biology, Chemistry, Computer and Information Sciences, Geology, Physics

Approved lower division non-lab sequences include: Anthropology, Geography

Upper Division Requirements
 By the time you are ready to enroll in upper division (300-level and above) science courses, you should have satisfactorily completed all or at least most of your lower division courses. Your upper division work should flow naturally from what you have done at the lower division, introducing you to more complex theoretical and applied issues and concepts (i.e., providing disciplinary depth and building your skill level in the discipline).
1. You will need a minimum of 32 credits in approved upper division science courses. At least 24 of your upper division credits must be taken for a grade and completed with grades of C minus or higher and must be taken in residence at the UO.
 2.   Of the 32 upper division credits,  with permission, 4 of these 32 credits may be research or thesis credits.  Seminars, readings & conference, and    practicums may not be used to meet this requirement.
 3. You will need two upper division emphasis areas. At least 12 of your upper division credits must be taken in one emphasis area and at least 12 in another.
 4. Upper division science courses may be selected from the complete list at GenSc Checklist.
 5. Tutorials may not be used for upper division credit for the General Science major.
 6. Upper division credits used to satisfy minimum requirements of another major may not be used to satisfy the upper division requirements in General Science.

Should I Take Courses in My Major Pass/No Pass?
We recommand that all your GenSc credit be taken for graded credit. University requirements state that at all your lower division and at least 24 of your upper division credits must be taken for a grade, however, you must apply for permission from the GenSc director to take course for Pass/No Pass. Note also that if graduate or professional study is even remotely a part of your future plans, you should elect to take your academic courses graded, for many post-graduate schools do not allow P/NP credit. While admissions committees in graduate/professional schools are interested in your grade point average, they will also scrutinize your transcript(s). (It's not difficult to recognize g.p.a. "protection strategies" by noting which courses were taken for a grade and which were not)

What About Earning Honors in General Science?
Honors in General Science centers on a thesis which is the culmination of research conducted under the direction of a faculty adviser. The adviser should be a member of the teaching faculty of the science department relevant to your thesis topic. To graduate with honors you must have a 3.50 overall g.p.a. and a g.p.a. of 3.5 in the sciences. In addition, you must complete 9 credits of research (401) or thesis (403) or both in the appropriate department. These must be distributed over at least two quarters, and cannot be used to fulfill emphasis area requirements. You will also be expected to present your findings during an oral presentation. Your thesis adviser, the director of the General Science Program and one other committee member must approve your thesis before honors will be awarded.

Students should try to identify an area of research interest during their junior years and approach members of the faculty with whom they want to work. It is best if a student can take a class taught by the faculty member during the junior year (at the latest). Some faculty members require students to take a course from them before allowing students to work in their laboratories.

If you intend to pursue honors in General Science you will need to notify the program director no later that the first term of your senior year.
Should I Double-Major or Minor in Another Area?  What Courses Outside the General Science Major Would Be Useful?
Adding a second major in a non-science field is an excellent idea. For example, a language or business may suit your career goals. In addition, many students interested in science teaching will take follow an Education program as well.

However, a second major in a science field is strongly discouraged for GenSc majors. The reason being that the primary reason for the General Science program is to allow student to design their own science degree. A second major in a science area would seem contrary to the goals of the GenSc program. Having a minor is often desirable. Science minors (biology, chemistry, geology, physics, mathematics) are relatively easy for the General Science student to obtain, since you can double-count upper division courses taken for the General Science major in your minor.

This is *not* true for a double major. The upper division credits that you use for your second major can *not* be counted towards your General Science upper division credits. In general, you will have to find two other emphasis areas to use for your upper division GenSc credits. Exceptions are made, but these are rare. Any credits hours beyond what you need for your major can be used for GenSc upper division credit.

 Whether or not you decide to do a minor or a second major, there are many courses at the University of Oregon that you can take to enhance your General Science major. An obvious example is WR 320 Scientific and Technical Writing. The General Science Adviser has a list of some of the more obvious ones (most of which carry upper division credit) and can suggest others. Some may have prerequisites: however, you may be able to get the instructors permission because of your background in related areas. And don't stop here. Read through the course descriptions in the UO Bulletin for ideas and talk with advisers for their suggestions.

What About Transfer Credits?
The University of Oregon accepts most academic work taken at other accredited higher education institutions.  Evaluators in the Admissions Office create documents (U of O Transfer Evaluation Report and U of O Transfer Work Summary) that summarize and specify exactly how your transfer courses equate to U of O courses and academic requirements. Students transferring to the U of O sometimes find that while their previous science courses are group-satisfying, they are not evaluated as equivalent to approved sequences for the General Science major. Transfer students need to consult a General Science Adviser to work out ways of handling deficiencies or to resolve questions about transfer work.

If you decide to take science courses at another college or university after you declare the General Science major, you should obtain prior approval from a General Science adviser. While the courses and their credits may be transferable to the U of O, they may or may not be allowed to count toward the major. Transfer courses with grades lower than C- are not acceptable for major credit.  Furthermore, the General Science program has a residency requirement:  24 upper division science courses (i.e. 6 courses) must be completed at the U of O.

How Will My General Science Courses Fit Into the University of Oregon Graduation Requirements?
1. All credits earned toward your major count toward the total credits you need for the Bachelors Degree (180).
2. All upper division credits earned in the major count toward the total upper division credits required for the Bachelors degree (62).
3. The lower division science sequences you take for the General Science major more than satisfy your science (Group III) requirements.

Who Can Help Me Plan My Academic Program?
Although you can exercise considerable freedom in choosing your courses, you will need to design your General Science program carefully. Selecting courses randomly and/or choosing courses that barely meet the requirements is definitely  not the way to go. Ultimately your General Science degree will be as good (or bad) as you make it. You need a clear idea of where you are headed and how to get there. Since your future career opportunities may depend on how well you put your academic program together, it is critical that you make  good use of the advising resources available.

General Science Advisers provide routine advising, progress and graduation checks, and generally act as resources for majors. Your initial exploration of the major will probably begin with an advisor. Later the advisor can help you identify the faculty members in your fields of interest who can best assist you in developing a workable academic plan and/or advise you regarding particular areas of study and related careers.

Other Advising Resources for the General Science Major
Early Pre-professional Advising (health sciences, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, engineering, teacher education) is essential for students planning to go on to professional programs when they complete the bachelorUs degree. See the Preparatory Programs and Special Studies section of the UO Bulletin for the names, campus addresses and phone numbers of pre-professional advisers.

Sample academic programs for particular professional goals or specific disciplinary emphases are available in the General Science advising office. These sample programs are meant to be suggestive only, and should not be blindly followed without also consulting an adviser.

The Career Center, 117 Hendricks Hall, provides job listings in numerous fields around the country, has an excellent resource library, and skilled career counselors who are experienced in helping students define their career goals.

How Should I Prepare for Advising Sessions?
To make the most of advising sessions you need to hold up your end of the advising relationship:

1) Become familiar with university graduation requirements and the General Science major requirements.  You will be responsible for meeting all of these.

2) See your adviser as often as necessary, but try to schedule your advising appointments away from the busiest times of the academic calendar, avoiding the beginning of a term and registration periods when advising time is in high demand.

3) Write down a list of the questions you want to ask so you won't forget anything.

4) Make a list of the topics covered during your advising session and follow through on suggestions/strategies discussed.

How Do I Make Petitions to the GenSc Program?
Any special requests or changes you wish to make to your GenSc degree program should be addresses as petitions to the GenSc Director. Write our your request (clearly) and email to You petition will be considered and ruled on in the shortest possible amount of time. If you are unhappy with the result of your petition, you may appeal to the Assoc. Dean of Natural Sciences.

Student Guide to GS Major (revised December 2012)