UNI students

General education may be required, but it can also be an exciting opportunity to craft a college experience that’s uniquely yours. To get that tailored experience, you have to attend a college or university that has a modern general education curriculum. Here’s an overview of the importance of general education and how you can make sure your college has a gen ed program that works for you.

What Is General Education? 

A bachelor’s degree demonstrates that you’ve acquired knowledge in a broad range of subjects. Of course, you will specialize in your degree area, but you’ll explore other areas as well. Those “other areas” are general education courses and are typically 40 to 60 credits total. While they fall outside of your major or minor classes, they are still required for you to graduate. Most students will have the same course options, meaning you end up in gen ed classes with students who have many different majors.

General education requirements may vary vastly from one college or university to another, but typically share a common goal of developing well-rounded graduates, building out soft skills, and giving students a foundation in learning. Often, you’ll see communications, humanities and math courses as required parts of a general education curriculum, but, ideally, this will just scratch the surface of a student’s options. Many modern universities are thinking outside the box by adding required courses on diversity and inclusion to the mix. Basically, anything that’s an area where everyone could benefit from the class and not just people of a specific major is a potential gen ed course. 

What Are the Benefits of General Education?

So why is general education even a good idea? Why is it necessary if a person has a clear idea of what they’d like their career to be? The reasons are many!

General Education Builds More Well-Rounded Employees

Anyone in the workforce will tell you there are plenty of things about their job that they didn’t learn in their major courses. While there’s a lot you can’t plan for, diversifying your knowledge and skillset beyond your core major classes will help you become a more well-rounded, desirable employee. 

For example, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a job description that doesn’t require excellent communication skills, even if the job is not communication-based. Taking those gen ed communication courses will help you build communication skills and prove to an employer that you have them.

It Helps Expand Your Worldview

General education courses expose you to a wider variety of people than you meet in your major courses alone, especially in your later college years when you attend most of your classes with the same groups of people. This is one of the ways that general education doesn’t just prepare you for your career but also prepares you for life. Meeting more people from many backgrounds helps foster emotional intelligence and expands your worldview. This helps you in the workplace where you’ll be working with co-workers and clients, patients or customers from all walks of life. But it also helps you navigate day-to-day life with sharper interpersonal skills. 

General Education Fosters Life-long Learning Skills

As you balance coursework in a variety of areas, gen ed courses help make you a better learner and critical thinker. These skills are crucial to succeed in the workforce because learning doesn’t stop once you leave college. As technology advances, you change jobs or you find yourself picking up extra tasks when a co-worker is on vacation, you have to continue learning if you want to keep up. Gen eds make you more adaptable so you can master each challenge as it arises.

How to Spot a Good General Education Program

Since general education courses will make up a decent proportion of your college experience, it’s essential to look into a school’s general education program. You want to find out what a gen ed program can do for your degree, not merely what gen ed courses you have to take to get your degree. 

So what makes a good gen ed program? Look for three things!

It’s Flexible to Your Interests and Aspirations

Gen ed requirements shouldn’t be a strict list of 12 to 15 courses that box you in. College is a time to truly distinguish yourself and explore all your passions. That’s why any good gen ed program should have course options as unique as you are! 

UNI Foundational Inquiry (the general education curriculum, also known as UNIFI) is highly flexible to the needs of modern college students. It’s just 37 credits total (12 three-credit courses plus a one-credit lab) divided into eight main content areas. Each one is packed full of options so you can have the college experience you want that helps you build the career of your dreams. 

University of Northern Iowa's general education requirements are based on student learning outcomes that align with the top skills employers are seeking.

It Advances Your Learning Beyond High School

A list of general education requirements shouldn’t look like a repeat of your high school experience. If requirements are simply math, English, foreign language and the like, you won’t be maximizing the value of your degree. Gen ed courses should take your learning and your skillset to a higher level.

It Looks Good on a Resume

Yes, some general education curriculums can actually amp up your resume and attract employers. The general education certificates that are built into UNIFI are the perfect example. These microcredentials, which focus on examining a subject from a variety of disciplines, don’t require any extra work on your part. They are automatically an option for how you’ll use 12 of your general education credits. 

If, for some reason, you don’t want the certificate, that’s also an option. More certificates will continue to be developed. In fact, the UNIFI Curriculum Coordinator wants to hear from you if you have an exciting idea for a new certificate! 

Find Reinvented General Education at the University of Northern Iowa

While some colleges may look at general education as an afterthought, the University of Northern Iowa sees it as an asset. UNI is reinventing general education with UNIFI by making it work harder for you while preserving the things that have always been great about it. If you’d like to learn more about UNIFI, explore the website and see the many possibilities it provides students.

As Iowa's only regional comprehensive university, we are designed to provide critical coursework with real, practical fieldwork. 

Real, relevant academic excellence for a world that expects future-ready graduates.

  • 94% of UNI grads find success within six months of graduation.
  • UNI graduates more teachers than any other university in Iowa.
  • UNI graduates more CPAs than anywhere in Iowa.
  • UNI is ranked a top regional public university by U.S. News & World Report.

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Program of Interest:
Currently we do not offer any on-campus doctoral degrees. Please see our online options.

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