Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree

The information below describes the requirements for students entering JHU in Fall 2014 or later.  Students who entered JHU prior to Fall 2014 should view the appropriate archived catalog.

There are five categories of degree requirements that comprise an undergraduate degree at Hopkins:

1. Total degree credit requirement (ranges from 120-129)

2. Residency requirement (minimum 100 JHU credits for freshmen)

3. Distribution requirements

4. Writing requirement

5. Departmental major requirements (and minor requirements, if applicable)

All approved credit earned through exams or at other colleges and universities may be used to meet requirement areas 3-5 listed above: distribution requirements, the writing requirement (according to the procedures defined by the Writing Center, departmental major and minor requirements, and to satisfy course prerequisites.

The total degree credit requirement (requirement 1) is considered a distinct degree requirement and ranges from 120-129 credits, depending on the degree. It is not merely a cumulative tally of courses used to satisfy requirement areas 3-5 listed above. Because students who entered the university directly from high school must complete 100 JHU credits (requirement 2), there is an effective limit on how many exam and transfer credits can be counted towards the total degree credit requirement (requirement 1).

For a degree requiring 120 total credits, a maximum of 20 approved credits from other sources may be counted towards the total degree credit requirement (requirement 1), even if more than 20 credits from external sources have been used to satisfy requirement areas 3-5 listed above.

For example, a student is pursuing a degree whose total degree credit requirement is 120. This student could have a total of 32 external credits posted to the transcript: 8 transfer credits from another university and 24 AP exam credits. All 32 of these credits may be applied to requirement areas 3-5. However, in order to allow room for the residency requirement (requirement 2), only 20 of those 32 credits will be tallied towards the 120 total degree credit requirement (120-100=20). If this student changes to a degree program whose total degree credit requirement is 126, 26 of those 32 credits would be tallied towards the total degree credit requirement (126-100=26).

All approved exam credits earned will be posted to the transcript. Up to 12 approved transfer credits will be posted to the transcript. See External Credits section for details.  

"D" Grade Restriction 

University policy allows no more than 18 credits from courses with grades of D or D+ to be counted toward the credits required for graduation. Departments may set a lower limit on the number of permissible D or D+ grades for a specific major. Many departments do not accept any D or D+ credits for major requirements.

Ten-Year Degree Completion Limit

A student must fulfill all degree requirements for graduation within 10 academic calendar years from the date of matriculation at the university.

Disability Support Services

JHU welcomes students with disabilities and values their diverse experiences and perspectives. The Office of Student Disability Services (SDS) coordinates appropriate and reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. SDS also works with various offices on campus to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to university programs, facilities, technology, and websites.

Students who wish to request reasonable accommodations must submit documentation that establishes a disability, details the current functional impact of that disability, and confirms the need for each accommodation requested. Documentation guidelines are available on the SDS website at http://web.jhu.edu/disabilities/students/admitted/documentation/index.html.

Students seeking accommodations are encouraged to submit their specific requests at least two weeks prior to the start of the semester to ensure that accommodations are provided in a timely manner.

Full-time undergraduate and graduate students in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering with questions and concerns regarding the registration process, implementation of accommodations and/or identification of other support services, should contact:

Dr. Brent Mosser, Director
Academic Support and Student Disability Services
bmosser1@jhu.edu
410-516-4720
web.jhu.edu/disabilities

Questions regarding JHU’s documentation guidelines or physical and programmatic access at JHU should be directed to:

Emily Lucio
Director, ADA Compliance & Disability Services
Office of Institutional Equity
elucio2@jhu.edu
410-516-8075
web.jhu.edu/administration/jhuoie/disability.html

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The Bachelor of Arts degree requires 120 credits. The Bachelor of Science degree, whether in Arts and Sciences or Engineering, requires from 120 to 130 credits, depending on the major. No program may require more than 130 credits. 

Residency Requirement for Freshmen

Students who enter the university from high school must complete at least 100 credits at JHU. This includes courses that are taken after matriculation as a degree-seeking student:

  • in fall, intersession, spring, or summer at JHU
  • in other divisions of the university (including Advanced Academic Programs and Engineering for Professionals)
  • through the Baltimore Student Exchange Program institutions during the fall and spring semesters only
  • through an approved study abroad program (up to 30 credits

In addition, credits earned through JHU courses prior to matriculation as a degree-seeking student are applied to the 100-credit residency requirement.

Students who entered JHU prior to Fall 2014 should view the appropriate archived catalog.

All students must complete a minimum of four semesters in residence as a full-time student. Students must be in residence for at least two of the final four semesters, including the final semester prior to graduation.

Residency Requirement for Transfer Students

Students who enter the university as transfer students must complete at least 60 credits at JHU. This includes courses that are taken after matriculation as a degree-seeking student:

  • in fall, intersession, spring, or summer at JHU
  • in other divisions of the university (including Advanced Academic Programs and Engineering for Professionals)
  • through the Baltimore Student Exchange Program institutions during the fall and spring semesters only
  • through summer and intersession study abroad programs sponsored by Hopkins departments

In addition, all transfer students must complete at least four full-time semesters in residence at JHU. Study abroad programs offered during fall and spring semesters do not count towards this four-semester requirement.  Transfer students must be in residence for at least two of their final four semesters, including the final semester prior to graduation.

Residency Requirement for Peabody Double Degree Students

Students earning a double-degree at Peabody must complete at least 48 credits on the Homewood campus in either the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering.

To encourage excellence in writing, across disciplines, the university requires all undergraduates to take a number of writing-intensive courses. A writing-intensive (W) course is one in which students write at least 20 pages of finished writing, distributed over multiple assignments, usually 3 or 4 papers, throughout the semester. Instructors respond to students’ work in written comments or in conference, or both; and students have at least one opportunity to receive their instructor’s feedback on a draft and then revise. A writing-intensive course guides students’ practice in writing and makes writing an integral part of the course. The writing-intensive requirement is administered by Patricia Kain, Director of the Expository Writing Program.

Writing-intensive courses are indicated by a “W” in the JHU course schedule and an asterisk (*) on a student’s unofficial transcript. Courses taken to satisfy the writing requirement must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a grade of C- or better. Writing-intensive courses taken to satisfy major, minor, or distribution requirements may also count toward the writing requirement.

All students earning a degree from the School of Arts and Sciences must complete at least 12 credits in writing-intensive courses.  Candidates for a B.A. degree in the School of Engineering must complete 12 credits (four courses at least 3 credits each) in writing-intensive courses, while candidates for a B.S. degree in Engineering must complete 6 credits (two courses at least 3 credits each) in writing-intensive courses.  Please note, this requirement is based upon a student's degree; students are not required to complete a separate writing requirement for any additional majors.

Students who wish to receive writing-intensive credit for a course taken at another college or university must obtain written approval from Professor Kain. No more than 6 credits may be transferred to meet the writing requirement. Students must have a grade of B or higher in the course and must provide Professor Kain with the course syllabus. Please see the procedure for transferring writing credits.

Students who enter the university with scores below 600 on the SAT writing or verbal test are advised to take AS.060.100 Introduction to Expository Writing during the fall term of their first year .

The distribution requirement stipulates that students must earn a minimum number of credits in academic areas outside of their primary major.  Area designators represent an association between the course and an academic area.  Courses with area designators are expected to do more than employ basic techniques, they are to advance knowledge and increase a student’s understanding of the theory. Courses that are teaching a basic skill, and therefore do not expose the student to modes of analysis and scholarship that represent the essence of a given discipline, will not be assigned an area designator. If taught within a Homewood academic department, the department is responsible for assigning area designators to their courses. Courses not offered through Homewood academic departments will be reviewed by the appropriate dean's office to review proposed designators.

The academic areas in the Hopkins curriculum are humanities (H), natural sciences (N), social and behavioral sciences (S), quantitative and mathematical sciences (Q), and engineering (E).

The area designations of courses (H, S, N, Q, and E) are included in the course information in the departmental pages of the catalog and in the online schedule of classes. The area designation also appears beside the course title on a student’s academic record. When a course has more than one area designation (HS, EN, EQ, etc.), students may use only one of the designations to satisfy the distribution requirement.

Only courses or other credit-bearing opportunities with area designations may be used to satisfy the distribution requirement. Area designators are not assigned to the following:

Independent study
Research
Internships
Music performance (unless taken as part of a music minor, in which case the course will be designated H)
Dance performance
Foreign language elements courses (see additional foreign language rules)
Medical tutorials

Area designations can be assigned to courses taken elsewhere, to courses taken in other divisions of the university, or to graduate courses taken by undergraduates. These assignments are made by the appropriate dean's office based on the course content and the recommendations of the faculty. The most useful criteria for determining an appropriate area designator will be the course description and a similar JHU departmental offering.

The following courses at the Peabody Conservatory have H designations:

Area Designators for Peabody Courses

H530.411Keyboard Literature I
H530.412Keyboard Literature II
H530.413Keyboard Literature III
H530.414Keyboard Literature IV
H530.569Jazz Analysis/History
H530.570Constructive Listening & Analysis /Jazz History
H610.311History of Music
H610.312History of Music II
H610.313History of Music III
H610.314History of Music IV
H610.555Music and Culture
H260.215Humanities Seminar I
H260.216Humanities Seminar II
H260.249Film History: Sounds and Scores
H260.327Literary Trials

Distribution Requirement for Arts & Sciences Students

Students must earn:

  • At least 9 credits in humanities
  • At least 9 credits in social sciences
  • At least 9 credits in natural sciences, quantitative, or engineering

These credits fulfilling the distribution requirement may overlap with major or minor requirements and the writing requirement.

In Arts and Sciences, courses taken for the distribution requirement may be taken for a letter grade or for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory credit. Courses passed with a letter grade of D or better, or passed with a Satisfactory grade, will fulfill the distribution requirement. For any student whose first-semester grades are covered under the current first-semester grading policy, an earned D will satisfy the distribution requirement even though the grade will appear as Unsatisfactory (UCR) on the official record. Satisfactory grades (representing a C- or higher letter grade) earned in a student’s first semester at JHU will satisfy the distribution requirement if they have the correct area designations.

Students who entered JHU prior to Fall 2014 should view the appropriate archived catalog.

Distribution Requirement for Engineering Students

Students earning a degree in the School of Engineering must complete the following distribution requirement:

  • 18 credits (6 courses at least 3 credits each) designated H and/or S. Although language elements courses do not carry an area designator, engineering students may use these courses as substitutes for humanities courses in meeting the distribution requirement.
  • At least 75 credits earned in courses coded E, Q, or N, with at least 30 credits in courses coded N or Q, with no course counted twice. At least 30 of the 75 credits must be earned outside the student’s major department.

In Engineering, each department determines whether or not the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading option will be permitted for courses used to satisfy the distribution requirement. Satisfactory grades (representing a C- or higher letter grade) earned in a student’s first college semester at JHU may satisfy the distribution requirement if they have the correct area designations.

Completing a Major and Minimum Grade Point Average

Every student who earns a bachelor’s degree must satisfy the requirements of a major. A major is a structured curriculum, usually within the confines of a particular academic field.  Generally the requirements for a major provide a student with a broad overview of the field through introductory courses, followed by more specialized courses tailored to meet the student’s interests in the field. The requirements for the major may also include courses in other disciplines that provide skills and information of importance to professionals in the major field. Courses required for the major must be taken for a letter grade and students must have a grade point average of at least 2.00 in the courses required for the major, i.e., not including elective courses or courses used only for the distribution requirement. Many majors require a grade of C- or better in required courses.

Departmental Directors of Undergraduate Studies

For every major and minor that is offered at Johns Hopkins, there is a faculty member or their designee who serves as the program’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). They are available to answer questions about their major(s) and/or minor(s). The directors also assign faculty advisors to students who declare a major or minor.

Click for a list of Directors of Undergraduate Studies in Arts and Sciences or in Engineering.

Declaring a Major in Arts and Sciences

Students who enter the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences from high school are classified as pre-majors during their freshman year. In April, freshmen in Arts and Sciences will meet with an academic advisor to declare their primary major in Arts and Sciences. To declare a major at a later time, see Changing Majors or Advisors section below. Students must declare a major by April 15th of their sophomore year in order to assure that they will complete requirements for graduation in four years.

Declaring a Major in Engineering

Students who enter the Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) declare a specific engineering major on their application for admission. A student must take direct action to change the major. To change a major, see Changing Majors or Advisors section below.

Students who select the Biomedical Engineering major must be accepted into the program at the time of application for admission. The student’s offer of admission to the university will indicate either:

  • acceptance into the BME program
  • acceptance into any Engineering or Arts & Sciences major except BME

On a space available basis, BME may accept a limited number of students into the program at the end of the freshman year based on the overall academic credentials of each applicant. However, this option is exercised very infrequently by the BME department.

Students may also select the more general “undecided engineering” category on the admissions application to enter the WSE. It is recommended that undecided engineering students select a specific major no later than the end of freshman year. 

Special Note for Freshmen

KSAS freshmen may declare second majors and minors offered through the School of Engineering beginning their freshman year until April 15th of their junior year. Engineering students may declare a second major or minor offered through either the School of Engineering or the School of Arts and Sciences beginning their freshmen year until April 15th of their junior year. 

Changing Majors or Advisors

Once students have declared a major, they may change their major or their faculty advisor at a later date by obtaining a Change of Major form from the Office of the Registrar or the advising offices, meeting with the appropriate person in the major to be assigned a new faculty advisor, and submitting the form to the Office of the Registrar. 

Note that students may declare the BME major only at the time of application for admission to the University or as one of a limited number of students accepted into the program at the end of the freshman year based on the overall academic credentials of each applicant and on space available.

Double Majors

Students who wish to complete the requirements of more than one major are expected to declare the additional major(s) by April 15th of their junior year. Students may add or drop an additional major by completing the appropriate form, available from the Office of the Registrar or from the student's academic advising office. The form must be signed by the director of undergraduate studies for the major before it is submitted to the Office of the Registrar. The DUS will also assign a faculty advisor to the student.

A student with a double major receives the degree (B.A./B.S.) associated with the student's primary major. Completing a second major does not entitle the student to a second degree. The completion of additional majors is recorded on the transcript and diploma.  When completing a double major, students need only satisfy the distribution requirement affiliated with the school of their primary major.  

Declaring a Minor (optional)

Students who wish to complete the requirements for a minor(s) are expected to declare the minor(s) by April 15th of their junior year. Students may add or drop a minor by completing the appropriate form, available from the Office of the Registrar or from the student's academic advising office. The form must be signed by the director of undergraduate studies for the minor before it is submitted to the Office of the Registrar. The DUS will also assign a faculty advisor to the student. The completion of a minor is recorded on the transcript, but the minor does not appear on the diploma.

Official recognition with notation on the academic record is not given for completion of majors or minors at other divisions of the university or at other colleges. 

Restrictions Applying to Double Majors and Minors

Within the Hopkins curriculum, requirements for the completion of undergraduate majors and minors are established by academic departments and approved by the Homewood Academic Council, acting on recommendations from the Curriculum Committees of the Krieger and Whiting Schools. Students who fulfill the necessary prerequisites and satisfy the specified course requirements for a major/minor will be certified as having completed that major/minor. While departments are free to designate the range of courses that may satisfy major/minor requirements for their own academic programs, they may not prohibit the use of course work presented for their department's major/minor from being used to satisfy the requirements of other majors or minors. In other words, students may "double count" coursework that independently meets the requirements of more than one major/minor. 

Students are encouraged to choose additional areas of study to complement their major. However, students may not choose a minor with an identical name to their major. For example, a student majoring in Africana Studies may not declare a minor in Africana Studies. 

Other prohibited combinations include:

  1. Students majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology may not major in Biology. 
  2. Students majoring in the Natural Sciences Area may only double major or minor in a program outside of the natural sciences
  3. Students majoring in Medicine, Science and the Humanities may not double major in Natural Sciences Area. 
  4. Students majoring in Romance Languages may not major or minor in one of the individual Romance Languages (except for the Spanish for the Professions minor).
  5. Students majoring in French may not complete either French minor option. 

Closely-related majors and minors that are allowed include:

  1. Economics majors may complete a Financial Economics minor.
  2. Spanish majors and Romance Languages Majors may complete the Spanish for the Professions minor.
  3. Computer Science majors may complete a Computer Integrated Surgery minor.
  4. Cognitive Science majors may complete the Linguistics minor.

The examples provided above may not be an exhaustive list and students who have questions about combinations of related programs should consult an advisor in their respective advising office.