A Caltech education requires not just the depth of an option, but also considerable breadth in basic science, humanities, and social science. Caltech’s core curriculum prepares students for the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary research in science and technology. This encourages a culture of problem solving, collaboration, and communication while providing valuable experience in all fields of science. Significant study in the humanities and social sciences is an important component of Caltech’s core curriculum, giving alumni the ability to navigate the societal, political, and economic factors that influence, and are influenced by, their work.
The following requirements are applicable to incoming first-year students for 2022-23. Some information for continuing students has been provided as footnotes, but guidance on special cases must be sought. Courses used to satisfy core requirements may not be used to satisfy option electives.
|1. First-Year Mathematics (Ma 1 abc)||27|
|2. First-Year Physics (Ph 1 abc)||27|
|3. First-Year Chemistry (Ch 1 ab)||15|
|4. First-Year Biology (Any Bi 1 course or Bi 8 and Bi 9) 1||9|
|5. Menu Class (currently Ay 1, EE 1, ESE 1, Ge 1, or IST 4)||9|
|6. First-Year Chemistry Laboratory (Ch 3 a) 2||6|
|7. Additional Introductory Laboratory||6|
|8. Scientific Writing 3||3|
|9. Humanities Courses (as defined below)||36|
|10. Social Sciences Courses (as defined below)||36|
|11. Additional Humanities and Social Sciences Courses||36|
|12. Physical Education||9|
1 The biology core requirement can be met by any Bi 1 course. Alternatively, the requirement may be fulfilled by taking both Bi 8 and Bi 9. Nine units must be taken on grades.
2 This requirement can also be met by completing Ch 3 x, Ch 4 a, Ch 8, or Ch/ChE 9.
3 This requirement may be met either by taking a course approved by the student’s option to satisfy this requirement, or by taking En/Wr 84.
Menu classes are specifically designed for breadth. The intent of the menu class requirement is to introduce students to a subject that they did not plan to study. In many cases, it is the only class in that subject that they ever take; in other cases, they may decide to take more classes in that subject as a result. Students cannot take a menu class in a subject that they have already taken classes in or in their current option. This requirement must be completed by the end of sophomore year.
First-Year Biology Requirement
All students are required to take 9 units of first-year biology, which can be satisfied by taking any course numbered Bi 1. Several different course options are available, with each Bi 1 course representing a different approach to providing an introductory understanding of the biological sciences. Bi 1 courses are offered in different terms (for 2022-23, they are offered in winter and spring terms; for 2023-24 we anticipate offering them in all three terms). All Bi 1 courses may be taken pass/fail if they are taken in a first-year student's first year, independent of the term in which the course is taken. For students who are interested in a more in-depth introduction to biology, the first-year biology requirement can also be satisfied by completing both Bi 8 and Bi 9.
Introductory Laboratory Requirement
All students are required to take at least 12 units of laboratory work in experimental science during their first-year and sophomore years. Ch 3 a (6 units) or Ch 3 x (6 units) shall be taken during the first year. The additional 6 units must be chosen from one of the following: APh/EE 9 (6 units), APh/EE 24 (9 units), Bi 1x (9 units but only if Bi 1x is not being used to satisfy the biology core requirement), Bi 10 (6 units), Ch 4 ab (9 units), Ch 8 (9 units), Ch/ChE 9 (9 units), EE/ME 7 (6 units), Ge 116 (9 units), ME 8 (6 units), Ph 3 (6 units), Ph 5 (9 units), Ph 8 bc (6 units), or a more advanced laboratory. Computational laboratory courses may not be used to satisfy this requirement.
Humanities and Social Sciences Requirements
All students must complete satisfactorily 108 units in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Of these, 36 must be in the humanities (English, history, history and philosophy of science, humanities, music, philosophy, and visual culture) and 36 in the social sciences (anthropology, business economics and management, economics, law, political science, psychology, and social science), in each case divided equally between introductory and advanced courses. The remaining 36 may be drawn from humanities and social sciences, including HSS tutorial courses and 9 units of either Wr 1 or Wr 2. They may not include BEM 102. They may not include reading courses unless credit has been granted by petition to the humanities or social science faculty. Language courses may count toward the additional 36 unit requirement, with the exception of beginning, intermediate, and advanced classes in the student’s native language. In general, no more than 18 units of first-year humanities may be counted toward the 108-unit requirement.
Entering first-year students are required to take two terms of first-year humanities; that is, cross-listed humanities courses numbered 60 or below in the Catalog. These classes introduce students to the basic issues and methods in the disciplines of English, history, philosophy, and visual culture. Successful completion of two terms of first-year humanities is a prerequisite for all humanities courses, except for foreign languages. It is not a prerequisite, however, for introductory social sciences. The first-year humanities classes may be taken in any two terms of the first year.
To encourage breadth, students will have to take their two first-year humanities courses in different disciplines, the disciplines being English, history, philosophy, and visual culture.
A student must take 18 units of advanced humanities courses as well. The classes that count as advanced humanities courses are those numbered 90 or above in English, history, history and philosophy of science, humanities, music, philosophy, and visual culture. Language courses do not count toward the advanced humanities requirement, except for courses that are cross-listed or taught concurrently with one of the listed subjects, such as humanities or visual culture. Courses used to fulfill the advanced humanities requirement must be taken for grades. Courses taken on a pass/fail basis will not fulfill the requirement.
Since writing is an important method for developing and sharing ideas, all first-year humanities courses and other humanities courses numbered above 90, with the exception of some foreign languages and courses, require at least 4,000 words of composition. Instructors give extensive feedback on written work and help students improve their prose. As entering students may not be fully prepared for the writing in first-year humanities, all first-year and transfer students take a writing assessment before the beginning of the fall term. On the basis of this assessment, some students may be required to pass WR 1, 2, 3, 4 and/or 50 before entering either first-year or advanced humanities classes.
Students are required to take two introductory social science courses and 18 units of related advanced undergraduate social science courses. Courses used to fulfill the advanced social science requirement must be taken for grades; courses taken on a pass/fail basis will not fulfill the requirement. The introductory social science courses must be drawn from the following list: either An 14 or An 15 or An 16, Ec 11, PS 12, or Psy 13. The 18 units of advanced undergraduate social science courses (numbered 100 and above), in fields following at least one of their introductory courses, must be taken as indicated here:
|Introductory Course||Following Course|
|An 14, 15 or 16||advanced anthropology|
advanced economics or
BEM (except BEM 102)
|PS 12||advanced political science|
|Psy 13||advanced psychology|
For instance, a student who has taken An 14 and Ec 11 may use 18 units of advanced anthropology courses, or 18 units of advanced economics, or 9 units of advanced anthropology and 9 units of advanced economics to fulfill the advanced social science requirement.
Included in the 12 humanities and social science courses, students must take at least 3 writing-intensive courses and these must be taken on grades. The graded advanced humanities courses count towards this total. A student can select another course from advanced humanities or a social science course with writing content (specifically An/PS 127, Ec 105, Ec 129, Ec 130, Ec 140, PS 99 ab, PS 120, PS 123, or PS 141). These three writing-intensive courses should be spread out over the student’s sophomore, junior, and senior years.
Physical Education Requirement
Before graduation, each undergraduate is required to successfully complete 9 units of physical education. This requirement may be satisfied entirely or in part by participation in intercollegiate athletics, or successful completion of physical education class course work. All grades are issued pass/fail. A maximum of 6 units per term may be applied toward graduation requirements, with the total not to exceed 36 units. Participation as a bona fide member of an intercollegiate team for the period covered by the sport in a given term satisfies the requirement for that term.
A broad program of instruction is provided each term. Late registration is permitted during the first week of each term, provided there is space available and with permission of the instructor. Standards for evaluation of student performance will be clearly defined at the beginning of each course.
Scientific Writing Requirement
The scientific writing requirement can be satisfied by taking an appropriate course offered by any division, or by taking En/Wr 84. The course used to satisfy this requirement must be taken on grades. All options also require a three-unit course in oral communication. Some options combine these two requirements into one course. At the discretion of the option, the scientific writing requirement can be satisfied by three units of additional work associated with a senior thesis, focused on effective written scientific communication.
ACM, APh, CNS,
CS, EE, EAS, IDS, ME, MS
|SEC 10||one of SEC 11, SEC 12, or SEC 13|
|Ay||Ay 30||Ay 31|
|Bi, BE||Bi/BE 24||same|
|BEM, Ec, PS||En/Wr 84||same|
|ChE||ChE 126||Ch/ChE 91|
|Ch||Ch 90||Ch/ChE 91|
|En, H, HPS, Pl||En/Wr 84||same|
|GPS||See Option Requirements||En/Wr 84 or one of SEC 11, SEC 12, or SEC 13|
|Ma||Ma 10||Ma 11|