General Education Requirements

The following pertain to students who matriculated to SCI in the 2020 - 2021 calendar year. For general education requirements for students who matriculated prior, refer to Pitt's Archived Catalogs.

*These GERs also apply to students who opted into this set of policies and requirements.

General Education Requirements

All students are required to complete general education requirements. These courses are meant to provide foundational skills and breadth of knowledge, aiming to provide students with a broad exposure outside of their core discipline of study while encouraging a focus on the application of techniques from the classroom to meaningful problems.

Full lists of specific courses that meet the following requirements, referred to as “approved courses” or “course lists” are determined by faculty review and are available to students through the Academic Advisement Report and/or the “Plan by my requirements” tool found in the enrollment system.

Note: Transfer students receive an evaluation of their previous course work indicating the equivalent University of Pittsburgh courses for which transfer credits have been awarded. Courses will meet requirements for the major where deemed appropriate by the Department. Students who believe that they have an exceptional case for petitioning for a course to meet either a general education or a major requirement should submit the appropriate exemption form. Students should speak with their advisor before completing the form.

First Year Courses

Students must complete a gateway course, CMPINF 0010 - Big Ideas in Computing and Information, that provides an understanding of the connections between computing and information and other disciplines; the commonalities among and differences between the problems, tools, and methodologies of various computing and information sub-disciplines; and basic technical skills that will serve them as they advance through any computationally-oriented degree program. CMPINF 0010 focuses on ideas and insights that cross-cut computing and information disciplines, as well as underlie problems in other disciplines. Students learn about the complex interconnections between the natural, social, and engineered systems that we interact with every day, and explore how computing and information can be used to model, understand, and reason about the complex problems occurring within this space.

Students must also complete a required first-year seminar, CMPINF 0001 - SCI First Year Seminar, that provides an introduction to SCI and the University of Pittsburgh. This course addresses a range of issues including academic mechanics (e.g., advising, registration, university structure, financial aid, academic and professional communication), academic support services and opportunities (e.g., tutoring centers, study abroad, internships and co-ops, undergraduate research), student support services (e.g., career services, counseling center, student health services), and other student opportunities (e.g., Pitt FYE, campus recreation, cheap seats, etc.).

Skills Courses

Skills requirements help ensure that all students attain appropriate levels of competence in writing, communication, and quantitative and formal reasoning. Students may be placed in or exempted from skills requirements based upon certain achievement test scores, University of Pittsburgh placement test scores, or course work completed at other colleges and universities. Skills requirements are outlined below. All skills courses must be completed with a grade of C or higher.

Expression (3 courses): Communication in its various forms is central to all disciplines and professions. The approved courses will assist students in developing the skills to express thoughts and ideas as appropriate for professional or graduate education or for professional employment.

  • Introductory Composition
  • Technical, Business, or Research Writing
  • Communications

Quantitative (2 courses): Quantitative skills are the bedrock for success in the computing and information fields. Approved courses will provide an introduction to university-level mathematics and statistics.

  • One course in university-level mathematics for which algebra is a pre-requisite
  • An approved course in statistics

Polymathic Context

SCI degree programs address the holistic spectrum of computing and information, from producers to users and from science-oriented exploration to human-centric applications. The following requirements facilitate the development of a multidisciplinary approach to knowledge creation, information management, and computing by immersing students in a variety of intellectual contexts that are crucial to understanding problems at the confluence of natural, social, and engineered systems to which computing and information skills can be brought to bear.

Scientific Context (3 courses): These courses introduce students to scientific principles and concepts rather than offering a simple codification of facts in a discipline or a history of a discipline.

  • 2 approved sequenced courses in one discipline
  • 1 course in a second discipline OR a third course in the sequenced discipline

Ethical and Policy Context (1 course): It is crucial for students engaging in computing-and information-related studies to develop an awareness of the interplay between technology, computing, ethics, and societal implications. Approved courses emphasize close and critical reading of theories about knowledge, reality, humanity, and values. Courses could focus on human nature; scientific reasoning; theories of cognition and consciousness; human/social rights; competing systems of belief; morality; concepts of freedom; theories of justice; social obligations/constraints; or ethics, including applied or professional ethics.

At least one course from each of the following three categories (5 courses total)

  • Global Awareness and Cross-Cultural Understanding: Approved courses examine significant issues that are global in scale. Courses could address, for example, globalization, the global and cultural impact of climate change/sustainability; the effects of and resistances to colonialism; or worldwide issues related to health, gender, ethnicity, race, technology, labor, law, or the economy. Other approved courses will focus on an understanding of cultures, traditions, and societies that differ substantially from those that prevail in North America and Europe.
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences: Approved courses treat topics considered of significant importance in the social or behavioral sciences (including social psychology). Courses will introduce students to the subject matter and methodology of a particular discipline and will involve them in the modes of investigation, analysis, and judgment characteristically applied by practitioners. Other approved courses focus on significant cultural, social, economic, or political accounts of the past. The course may focus on pivotal moments of change, or important transitions over longer periods of time. Courses could explore developments in science, technology, literature, or art, and the ideas around them, or examine critical historical shifts by analyzing various data or cultural forms.
  • Humanistic Context: Generally covering courses focusing on literature, the arts, and creative work. This requirement exposes students to courses that introduce the techniques and methods of textual analysis and develop critical perspectives on a variety of forms of cultural expression. Additionally, courses may cover modes of analysis appropriate to music, theatre, or the visual and plastic arts. Finally, some approved courses will result in the production of some form of creative work, training students in the techniques and modes of its production. These courses could be situated in theatre, studio arts, writing, visual arts (including photography, film), music, and dance; or it may be a course that engages in innovative or original work in relation to written, oral, or visual material, new media, social media, and other contemporary forms of communication and representation.

Diversity (1 course): Diversity courses focus centrally and intensively on issues of diversity, and do so in a manner that promotes understanding of difference. They provide students with analytical skills with which to understand structural inequities and the knowledge to be able to participate more effectively in our increasingly diverse and multicultural society. The courses may address, though not be limited to, such issues as race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religious difference, ability difference, and/or economic disparity.

Diversity courses may also be courses that fulfill other General Education or Major Requirements.

Total: 14 courses

Secondary Field of Study

To emphasize the intersections that computing and information have with other disciplines, students will be required to achieve some depth of study within another discipline. This requirement may be satisfied via several mechanisms:

  • Completion of a joint degree program offered by SCI and another School on campus
  • Completion of a minor or second major
  • Completion of an approved certificate program
  • Completion of an approved 15-credit related area