Intent & purpose
All Caltech students, regardless of their option, complete the same core curriculum. Our faculty designed the core with one thing in mind – making you a better scientist.
At Caltech, we don't believe in taking classes to check off degree requirements. Just the opposite. Every core class is a critical and intentional part of your education. Want to study nothing but fluid dynamics? We feel you. But know that you'll also take a course in every field of basic science.
The core curriculum will be hard - extraordinarily so. It's designed that way: to take the best and the brightest STEM minds in the world and challenge them beyond what they believe is possible. But you can do it. You will do it. And this critical foundation will help you change the world.
What you will learn
As you work through the core curriculum, you'll take advanced courses in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences.
Our math classes will test your resolve. You'll face problem sets (aka homework assignments) harder than anything you've ever seen before. In the process, you'll develop both academic and personal resilience.
Our humanities and social science classes will demand that you think critically and communicate clearly. They will give you a broader understanding of society and the world. They will also open incredible opportunities at the intersection of fields. From brain science to climate change, many of today's research frontiers cross disciplines.
Through these courses, you'll learn to solve thorny, complex problems. You'll also learn how to collaborate with fellow scientists and communicate your ideas effectively. And more than anything, you'll see how everything you learn at Caltech is interconnected.
The courses you'll take
At Caltech, we measure courses in units, roughly the number of hours we expect you'll devote to that subject each week. A typical nine-unit class means three hours of class time plus six hours of homework each week.
The core curriculum at Caltech consists of:
- Freshman Mathematics: 27 units (covering Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra)
- Freshman Physics: 27 units (yearlong course)
- Freshman Chemistry: 15 units (classes) and 6 units (lab)
- Freshman Biology: 9 units
- Menu Class: 9 units (subjects include Astronomy, Environmental Science and Engineering, Energy Science, Geosciences, Information, and Logic)
- Additional Introductory Lab: 6 units (multiple options)
- Scientific Writing: 3 units
- Humanities and Social Sciences: 36 units in Humanities, 36 units in Social Sciences, and 36 additional units in either
- Physical Education: 9 units
To see what this means over each 10-week term, here's a sample first-year schedule.