Reading Course Descriptions

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:


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. FST students need to take BB 350 and MB students need to take BB 450 for their respective majors. CROSSLISTED as FST 479/FST 579. PREREQS: (BI 212 [C-] or BI 212H [C-] ) and CH 331 [C-] and CH 332 [C-] and (BB 350 [D-] or BB 450 [D-] ) and MB 302* [D-]                  

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.

MINIMUM PASSING GRADE: The grade appearing in brackets is the minimum grade required to pass the prerequisite successfully, e.g., [C-].

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

COREQS: 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 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

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:

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 INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTER NETWORKS and ECE 372 INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTER NETWORKS).
  • Transfer courses treated as equivalent to OSU courses.
  • Courses that have been replaced by a new subject code (e.g., NFM courses were replaced by NUTR courses).

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