General Education Requirements

General Education (Gen Ed) at UH Mānoa involves a flexible and diverse multi-disciplinary curriculum. Through Gen Ed coursework, students are exposed to different domains of knowledge and modes of scholarly inquiry. Students develop skills in written and oral communication, ethical and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and information literacy that are transferable across the curriculum. Gen Ed coursework also fosters a deeper understanding of, an appreciation for, Hawaiian culture and history.

Core Requirements – Foundations• Written Communication (FW)
• Quantitative Reasoning (FQ)
• Global and Multicultural Perspectives (FGA/B/C)
Core Requirements – Diversification• Arts, Humanities, and Literatures (DA/H/L)
• Social Sciences (DS)
• Natural Sciences (DB/P/Y)
Special Graduation Requirements – Focus• Contemporary Ethical Issues (E)
• Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Issues (HAP)
• Oral Communication (O)
• Writing Intensive (W)
Hawaiian or Second LanguageGES students are exempt from HSL requirement

For a list of the courses that fulfill the requirements above, visit the UH Mānoa Undergraduate General Education Requirements.


Major Requirements

Aside from core university requirements, the Bachelor of Science in GES program has core requirements of two basic types: basic sciences and derivative sciences. The former provides the foundation to understand and appreciate the latter in the context of basic skills in mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics. Both GES core requirements provide the necessary cognitive skills to deal with the higher academic level courses within the GES curriculum. These include required foundation courses in GES and Coupled Systems courses. It is within this latter category of coursework that the formal course program will be tailored to the individual student’s needs. For example, we anticipate that most students will follow closely a natural science track of study. However, because of the human dimensions issues involved in the subject matter of environmental change, some students may wish to expand their academic program into the social sciences that bear on the issues of global change.

A minimum grade of C must be obtained in all GES required courses.

Click here for sample Program Sheets and Four-year Plan Templates. (Scroll down to School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.)


Core Basic Sciences Requirements• BIOL 171 , 172, 171L (W), 172L
• CHEM 161, 162, 161L, 162L
• MATH 241, 242, 243, 244 OR MATH 241, 242, OCN 312, ECON 321
• PHYS 170, 272, 170L, 272L
Core Derivative Sciences Requirements• ERTH 101, 101L OR ERTH 170
• ATMO 200
• OCN 201, 201L
Core Foundation Requirements • GES 100, 102, 310 (E, W), 320 (W), 401 (W), 463
Research Requirements• GES 490 (O), 499 (min. 3 credits)
Coupled Systems (minimum four courses of three credits each)Approved Coupled Systems courses effective Fall 2021 (PDF) Updated August 12, 2021

Note on Coupled Systems courses:

  1. Always check well in advance (at least two semesters prior) with the department offering the course to see if it will be offered in the semester you plan to take it.
  2. Labs cannot count as Coupled Systems courses.

Course Work and Sequencing

Precalculus is required for admission to the GES program and appropriate high school preparation in mathematics and science, including biology, chemistry, and physics, is highly recommended. GES core requirement courses and the foundation courses are taught a minimum of once per year. Students should take the core requirements in sciences before progressing to the foundation courses. The foundation courses then act as the cornerstone for the Coupled Systems courses which are electives and can be tailored to the individual student.


Computing Requirement and Data Collection

All GES students will become facile with computers and software packages designed for scientific work. There are various avenues for satisfying this requirement, including formal coursework, tutorial, and individual student effort. GES 463 (Earth System Science Databases) is a required that will deal with the utilization of large databases in global and environmental sciences, including those available from NOAA, NASA, etc. The course will use the databases in the context of problem solving; good computing skills will be necessary to work with these databases in this context.


Undergraduate Research Thesis and Oral Presentation

GES 499 (Undergraduate Thesis) and GES 490 (Communication of Research Results) and are required of all students in order to graduate from the GES program. The undergraduate thesis will be the result of research done under the auspices of one or more of the GES faculty members in SOEST, although other faculty within the University are also available to mentor a student. In either case, the faculty research mentor would coordinate with the advisor assigned to the student upon entrance into the program. The Department of Oceanography and SOEST have many ongoing research programs, including those of a theoretical, field (observational), and experimental nature. Students are expected to act as apprentices in one of these programs or another of their choosing in consultation with their advisor. Research for the thesis is generally conducted during the junior year while the communication course will be taken during the student’s final semester, to prepare them for a presentation. This presentation allows students to share their results with the public at the GES Symposium and to develop oral communication skills important in today’s job place.


Major Advising

Beyond the core requirements, the specific curriculum for a student will be tailored to their needs. GES students will be assigned a GES faculty advisor who will closely track the student’s progress through the program and be available for student consultations. Students should consult with their GES advisor to discuss options to meet their individual needs.

Note about graduating in eight semesters*: students must average 15 credits per semester (15 credits per semester x 8 semesters = 120 credits). Also note that 45 credits (i.e. four full semesters) of classes with college-level prerequisites (upper division) are needed. * Assumes student places in MATH 241 (Calculus I) and CHEM 161.

Updated August 12, 2021