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 Catalog Definitions, Reading a Course Description, Course Numbering System

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Catalog Definitions

The following terms are used throughout the catalog.

Academic year: The time period containing the academic terms fall, winter, and spring (currently September through June). When summer term is considered as part of an academic year, or when it is considered as part of the Banner Student Information Systems (SIS), summer term is the first term of the academic year.

Advisor: A faculty member appointed by a program, department, school, or college to advise students during their college experience.

BA degree: The Bachelor of Arts degree is conferred for broad and liberal education in humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences. College BA requirements provide: a) a breadth of preparation in these fields that is significantly greater than that required of all undergraduates through the baccalaureate core; and b) foreign language proficiency certified by the School of Language, Culture, and Society as equivalent to that attained at the end of the second year course in the language. Proficiency in American Sign Language equivalent to that attained at end of the second year also meets the BA language requirement.

BS degree: The Bachelor of Science degree is conferred for focused curricula that emphasize scientific ways of knowing and quantitative approaches to understanding in the sciences and social sciences, and for curricula in professional fields.

Baccalaureate core: The university's general education requirements. See Earning a Degree at Oregon State University in this catalog. Courses in the baccalaureate core list have an asterisk in front of the title.

Baccalaureate degree: An approved academic award given for the satisfactory completion of an instructional program requiring at least four but not more than five years of full-time equivalent college-level academic work that includes the following: (1) institutional general education requirements (i.e., baccalaureate core); (2) major area of study requirements; and (3) may include option, minor, supporting area, or elective requirements. A minimum of 180 credits is required for most degree programs. Some majors may require more. The conditions and conferral of the award are governed by the faculty and ratified by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.

Blanket-numbered courses: Reserved number courses such as 401/501/601. See Reserved numbered courses.

Certificate program (undergraduate): A specified interdisciplinary program of study leading to an official certificate and notation on the transcript. A certificate program draws courses from more than one department, rather than a single department (as with most minors). An undergraduate certificate program must be taken in conjunction with a formal degree program. An undergraduate certificate requires a minimum of 27 credits.

Certificate program (postbaccalaureate): A specified program of study of undergraduate courses leading to an official certificate and notation on the transcript. A completed baccalaureate degree program from an accredited institution is required. A postbaccalaureate certificate program requires a minimum of 27 credits.

Certificate program (graduate): A structured progression of graduate-level courses that constitute a coherent body of study with a specifically defined focus within a single discipline or a logical combination of disciplines. It is designed for students who have completed a baccalaureate degree and are in pursuit of advanced-level learning. A graduate certificate requires a minimum of 18 graduate credits.

Certificate program (professional): A site-based training and professional development certificate that is not transcript visible.

Course: An organized unit of instruction or research. Types include lectures, recitations, seminars, laboratories, discussions, internships, clerkships, reading and conference, independent study, and other categories of courses.

CRED (Credential): A student who has received a previous baccalaureate degree from either OSU or another accredited university or college may be granted a subsequent minor, certificate, major or option under the guidelines of Academic Regulation 27. It indicates the student is not seeking a degree, but rather a credential to accompany an existing degree.

Credit: Credits vary, depending upon the type of course and level at which it is offered. One credit is generally given for three hours per week of work in and out of class. For example, each hour of class lecture is generally expected to require two hours of work out of class. One credit would be given for a lecture course that met for one 50-minute period each week over a 10-week period; i.e., 10 contact hours between faculty and students. One credit is typically given for a laboratory course that meets for two to three hours per week for an entire term. Equivalent credits are given for recitations, discussions, and other types of courses. All credits given in the General Catalog refer to quarter credits. When transferring in course work from a semester system institution, multiply the number of credits by 1.5 to determine how many quarter credits will be transferred (3 semester hours x 1.5 = 4.5 quarter credits). If planning to transfer OSU credits out to a semester system institution, multiply the number of quarter credits by .67 to determine how many credits will transfer (4 quarter credits x .67 = 2.68 semester credits).

Curriculum: (plural curricula) An organized program of study and courses required for a specific degree or certificate program.

Degree: An academic award granted upon satisfactory completion of a set of collegiate-level educational requirements.

Discipline: A field of study in which a student may concentrate, such as sociology, anthropology, or mathematics.

Doctoral degree: An approved academic award given as a sign of proficiency in scholarship and for the satisfactory completion of an instructional program requiring at least three years of full-time equivalent academic work beyond the baccalaureate degree, the completion of which signifies recognized competence, original research and/or the capacity to do independent advanced graduate-level analysis. A minimum of 108 credits is required beyond the baccalaureate degree. [Note: The total number, above the minimum, will vary by degree program.] The conditions and conferral of the award are governed by the faculty and ratified by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.

Electives: Courses that students may select, either for general knowledge or for fulfilling specific degree requirements.

Endorsement: An endorsement is the subject matter (content area) or specialty in which an individual is licensed to teach. Endorsements can be part of an initial teaching license or can be added later.

First professional degree: An academic award granted for an instructional program the completion of which: (1) signifies completion of the academic requirements to begin practice in the profession; (2) requires at least two years of full-time equivalent college-level work prior to entrance; and (3) usually requires a total of at least five years of full-time equivalent academic work to complete the degree program, including prior required college-level work plus the length of the professional program itself (examples, DVM in veterinary medicine and PharmD in pharmacy). The conditions and conferral of the award are governed by the faculty and ratified by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.

Grade-point average (GPA): The total number of grade points received for grades divided by the total number of credits attempted. OSU uses a 4-point grade scale.

Graduate area of concentration: A graduate area of concentration is a subdivision of a major or minor in which a strong graduate program is available. Areas of concentration may be referenced on the student's program of study, but they are not listed on the student's transcript. "Areas of concentration" can only be used in association with graduate programs.

Graduate major: A graduate major is the area of academic specialization, approved by the State Board of Higher Education, in which the student chooses to qualify for a graduate degree. Upon completion of a graduate degree, the degree awarded and the graduate major are listed on the student's transcript

Graduate option: Options are for students of a specific major. An option is one of several distinct variants of course aggregations within a major that focus on an area of study designed to provide a student with specialized knowledge, competence, and skills while sharing a minimum core of courses.

A graduate option consists of a minimum of 12 designated quarter credits of related course work (excluding thesis credits), comprised of course work offered by the sponsoring unit as well as by other academic units. The option may be comprised of specific courses, completion of a designated number of credits from a longer list of alternative courses, or a combination of specific and alternative course lists. Approved options may be added to a graduate program of study, and approved by the faculty advisor(s) and the director of the sponsoring unit. On the program of study, there should be no overlap in course credits between options (the same course cannot be used to satisfy credit requirements in multiple options). When the unit submits the final examination card to validate awarding of the major to the Graduate School, the unit will also validate that the requirements of the option have been completed.

Hybrid Course: A hybrid course includes both regularly scheduled on-site classroom meetings, and significant online out-of-classroom components, that replace regularly scheduled class meeting time.

Interdisciplinary: A course or program that integrates concepts, knowledge, or faculty from several fields of study.

Lower-division courses: Course offerings at a level of preparation usually associated with freshmen and sophomore students (e.g., 100- and 200-level courses).

Major (graduate): See Graduate major above.

Major (undergraduate): An extensive program of study in a designated subject area. Majors require at least 36 credits, 24 of which must be upper-division.

Master's degree: An approved academic award given as a mark of proficiency in scholarship and for the satisfactory completion of an instructional program requiring at least one but not more than two years of full-time equivalent academic work beyond the baccalaureate degree. A minimum of 45 credits is required beyond the baccalaureate degree. [Note: The total number, above the minimum, will vary by degree program.] The conditions and conferral of the award are governed by the faculty and ratified by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.

Minor (graduate): A graduate academic area that clearly supports the major and consists of a group of related courses totaling at least 15 credits in a specific topical area.

Minor (undergraduate): A secondary field of specialized study that may be offered by an academic unit for its own majors and/or majors from other academic units. Minors require at least 27 credits, 12 of which must be at the upper-division level. An approved minor is placed on the student's transcript.

Option (undergraduate): Options are for students of a specific major. Options consist of at least 21 designated credits of course work, 15 of which must be at the upper-division level. If all requirements have been met, the option may be listed on a student's transcript.

Perspectives courses: Baccalaureate core courses that integrate fundamental knowledge from science and liberal arts disciplines to develop cultural, historic, and scientific perspectives.

Reading and conference: A course focused on reading assignments to be completed in conferences with the instructor.

Reserved numbered courses: Certain blocks of numbers that have been assigned for specific courses that may be taken for more than one term. The credits being granted vary according to the amount of work done.

100–110 and 200–210: Survey or foundation courses in the liberal arts and sciences
401/501/601: Research and Scholarship
402/502/602: Independent Study
403/503/603: Thesis/Dissertation
404/504/604: Writing and Conference
405/505/605: Reading and Conference
406/506/606: Special Problems/Special Projects
407/507/607: Seminar
408/508/608: Workshop
409/509/609: Practicum/Clinical Experience
410/510/610: Internship/Work Experience

Sequence: Two, three, or four closely related courses that are usually taken in numerical order and through more than one term.

Skills courses: Baccalaureate core courses designed to give the student fundamental mathematical, communication, and fitness competence.

Special topics courses (X99): Like reserved numbered courses, special topics courses may be repeated as specified by the academic unit responsible for the course offering. It is implied that the course content is different each time the student takes the course.

Student Enrollment Levels: The levels below establish enrollment levels for federal financial aid eligibility and the deferment of student loans. Summer enrollment levels are the same as other terms.

  • Full Time: 12 or more credits in a term
  • Three Quarter Time: 9 to 11 credits in a term
  • Half Time: 6 to 8 credits in a term

Syllabus: A list of course objectives, lecture topics, assigned reading, exams, etc., prepared and distributed by a professor at the beginning of the term.

Synthesis courses: Baccalaureate core upper-division courses that emphasize interdisciplinary, critical thinking approaches to global, technological, and societal issues.

Term: Usually one-third of the school year. Terms at OSU are divided into fall, winter, and spring terms (also referred to as "quarters"). Summer term is generally an 8- or 11-week session during the summer. See "Credits" above.

Upper-division courses: Course offerings at a level of preparation usually associated with junior or senior students (e.g., 300- and 400-level courses).

Waive: This term refers to decisions of advisors to "waive" a course or courses in a student's program. Typical reasons include transfer credit for equivalent courses, equivalent experience in the profession or discipline, and petitioning for and successfully completing an examination. Waiving courses usually does not decrease the total credits required for completion of the degree or program; students should discuss this with their advisor.

Workshop: A brief intensive course for a small group which emphasizes problem solving.

Writing Intensive Courses (WIC): Designated upper-division courses in the major discipline that use student writing as a significant approach to learning. WIC courses must meet a variety of requirements, as do other courses in the baccalaureate core. WIC courses have a carat, ^, in front of the title.

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Reading a Course Description

The elements of a typical course description found under department/school headings in the colleges are illustrated by the microbiology course example below:

Science Course Example:

MB 479. FERMENTATION MICROBIOLOGY (3). An introduction to industrial microbiology with a focus on the physiology of fermentation and use of microorganisms for the production of food ingredients, fermented foods, and beverages. CROSSLISTED as FST 479/FST 579. REQ: Field trips. PREREQS: BB 450 and MB 302*, (BB 350 or BI 314). This course is repeatable for a maximum of 6 credits.

Course Designator (Subject Code): (MB) an abbreviation representing the department, college, or program offering the course. MB indicates that the course is offered through the Department of Microbiology.

Number: (479) indicates the level of the course. This is an upper-division, undergraduate course. 400-level courses are offered for undergraduate credit. Courses numbered at the 500- or 600-level may be taken for graduate credit. Courses numbered 500–599 are generally taken by master’s candidates and courses numbered 600–699 are taken by doctoral candidates. (See Course Numbering System below.)


Credit: (3) the number of credits awarded for successful completion of the course.

Course description: A brief description of what will be taught in the course. "An introduction to industrial microbiology..."

CROSSLISTED: CROSSLISTED as FST 479/FST 579 means the same course is also offered through another department; course numbers, titles, credits, descriptions, and prerequisites are the same for both courses. Only the course designator (subject code) is different.

REQ: A requirement for that course, such as field trips.

PREREQS: Prerequisites a student must have completed or be currently enrolled in before registering for the course. The registration system and/or instructor may not allow students to enroll for the course unless they have the prerequisite on their transcripts or are currently enrolled in the prerequisite. Students may be administratively dropped after registering for their courses if they have not met the prerequisites of a course. These courses are the background necessary for successful performance in the course.

* (Asterisk): The asterisk after a prerequisite (MB 302*) indicates that it may be taken concurrently with the course described.

COREQ: A course that must be taken simultaneously with the course described.

REC: Means the course is recommended but not required by the instructor.

This course is repeatable...: Some courses may be taken again for additional credit that applies toward the student's academic program.

Liberal Arts Course Example:

HST 202H. HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES (4). Provides an overview of the development of the U.S. from the pre-Columbian era to the present. Attention is given to economic, political, and social trends, as well as to international relations. Covers 1820 to 1920. HST 201H, HST 202H, and HST 203H need not be taken in sequence. (H) (SS) (Bacc Core Course PREREQS: Honors College approval required.

Letter suffix: (HST 202H) "H" signifies an Honors College course. An "X" signifies an experimental course.

Liberal Arts Core: Students pursuing College of Liberal Arts majors are required to complete courses in certain study areas. Four abbreviations are used in the college to indicate courses that may be used to fulfill requirements in each of these areas:

  • (FA) Fine Arts Core
  • (H) Humanities Core
  • (NC) Non-Western Core
  • (SS) Social Studies Core

Additional Curricular Terms:

See the Academic Programs website at

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Course Numbering System

State universities in Oregon follow this basic course numbering system:

0–99. Noncredit or credit courses of a remedial, terminal, or semiprofessional nature that are not applicable toward degree requirements.

100–299. Undergraduate, lower-division courses.

300–499. Undergraduate, upper-division courses.

500–599. Graduate courses offered primarily in support of a master's degree but which are also available for doctoral-level credit. Undergraduates of superior scholastic achievement may be admitted on approval of the instructor and department head. An undergraduate student may apply to reserve these courses for later use on a graduate degree program.

600–699. Graduate courses offered principally in support of doctoral-level instructional programs but also available for master's program credit.

700–799. Professional or technical courses that may be applied toward a professional degree (such as DVM or PharmD) but not toward other graduate degrees (such as PhD).

800–899. In-service courses aimed at practicing professionals in the discipline. These courses may not be applied to graduate or professional degree programs.

001NC–099NC. Non-credit courses offered through the INTO Oregon State University Intensive English program.

Commonly Numbered Courses. House Bill 2913 directed the Oregon University System (defunct since June 30, 2015) and Oregon community colleges to jointly develop, to the extent possible, a common course numbering system for lower-division transfer courses. The "Commonly Numbered Course List" represents a good faith effort to meet the requirements of the legislation. The list of courses is recommended for use by campuses' faculty and administration as they develop or revise academic programs to better facilitate students transferring from community colleges to public four-year institutions. OSU agreed to this list after review by all affected departments. The "Commonly Numbered Course List" includes course descriptions in addition to the course numbers and titles. Course numbers and title should follow the usage in the list. Descriptions may vary. The list is at:

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Equivalent Courses List

Some courses at OSU have equivalent versions with different subject prefixes or course numbers. Such courses are equivalent for degree clearance purposes, in other words, taking either version will meet the requirements for an academic program. Students may only take one of the versions for credit, not both.

Students will not earn credit for a course if they have previously taken its equivalent. Doing so is the same as repeating a course, see Academic Regulation 20, Repeated Courses.

Examples of equivalent courses include:

  • Regular and Honors College versions of the same course.
  • Crosslisted courses with the same title, course description, and course number (e.g., CS 372 and ECE 372).
  • Transfer courses treated as equivalent to OSU courses.
  • Courses that have been replaced by a new subject code (e.g., BA 434 replaced by FIN 434).

Equivalent Courses List is in the Registrar’s Office website at

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