BA degree requirements overview

The information on this page breaks down the many components of your Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and is here to help you find your degree requirements. If you have any questions or concerns, your academic advisor is here to help you navigate your path in meeting your degree requirements. Regular check-ins are encouraged!

Where do I find my degree requirements?

In the Undergraduate Studies Academic Calendar! All Arts students must meet the requirements outlined in the Calendar the year they entered the Faculty of Arts. If you are unsure which Calendar year you should follow, ask your academic advisor.

Below are some important sections of the Calendar to familiarize yourself with:

Honours programs

This summarises your BA degree with an Honours major from the Faculty of Arts. The charts below provide a simplified breakdown of the 40 courses needed to meet your minimum degree requirements. At the end of your degree, your breakdown may look a little different depending on which courses you took or if you added another credential. Think of this as the building blocks of your degree.

Interested in a Three-Year or Four-Year General program or Liberal Studies? Information specific to those programs is provided in the drop-down content below.

Please note, requirements listed on this web page are for students who began their studies September 2018 or later.

Honours Arts major

Required number of courses broken down by each component of the BA degree when pursuing an Honours Arts major: 10 BA Breadth courses, 16 major courses, 2 Arts First courses, 12 electives.

Honours Arts & Business + major

Pie graph displaying the components of a BA degree with arts and business: 5 BA Breadth courses, 2 Arts First courses, 16 major courses, 14 arts and business courses, 3 electives.

Required number of courses broken down by each component of the BA degree when pursuing Arts & Business and an Honours major: : 5 BA Breadth courses, 2 Arts First courses, 16 major courses, 14 arts and business courses, 3 electives.

  • Electives are courses that do not fulfil a distinct component of your BA degree. Everyone has a different number because your choice of major or additional credential will determine the number of electives you need. Note that some electives may need to be at the 200-level of above in order to meet all your degree requirements.
  • The BA Breadth Requirements are the same for all BA students. They appear reduced for Arts & Business students because the required business-related courses fulfil five of the 10 requirements. The remaining five requirements (as shown in the chart above) must still be fulfilled.

Common requirements

Students pursuing any University of Waterloo degree must meet certain common degree requirements

Students pursuing an Honours BA must meet the minimum program-level (BA degree) and plan-level (major) requirements outlined below as well as maintain minimum cumulative averages (see definitions) to be in satisfactory standingThese requirements are for students who began their studies September 2018 or later.

Minimum number of courses needed to meet requirements
Arts First 2 courses
(1.0 unit)
BA Breadth Requirements 10 courses
(5.0 units)
Minimum courses at the 200-level or above 16 courses
(8.0 units)
Minimum courses in major 16 courses
(8.0 units)
Minimum courses in major with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

8 courses
(4.0 units)

Minimum courses in degree with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

20 courses
(10.0 units)

Minimum University of Waterloo courses
(Residency Requirement)

20 courses
(10.0 units)

In total, minimum number of completed courses 40 courses
(20.0 units)
Minimum cumulative averages to be in satisfactory standing
Minimum cumulative average (CAV) 60%
Minimum faculty average (FAV) 65%
Minimum major average (MAV) 70%

Additional requirements for Arts & Business students include:

  • 14 business-related courses (7.0 units), and 
  • a 70% minimum MAV in the required business-related courses.

The BA Co-op Requirements page in the Calendar provides co-op specific information, including:

  • the minimum number of work terms,
  • the minimum number of professional development (PD) courses,
  • study/work sequence by plan, and 
  • eligibility requirements.

Course Load

A normal full-time course load is five courses (2.5 units) per term. Given this structure, the normal timeframe to complete an honours academic program is four years (regular) or five years (co-op). Depending on your personal situation you may require a lower course load per term or wish to study on a part-time basis. Your degree may take longer to complete, or you may need to take courses during an off term, but that is ok! Everyone has their own timeline. Additional information on course load specific to Arts students is available in the Calendar.

Unit weight: Courses are assigned unit weights, which vary from 0.00 to 3.00 credits. Most courses have a weight of 0.5 unit and are of one-term duration.

For help with enrolment, refer to our information pages on course selection and the phases of course registration.

Arts First

BA Breadth Requirements

The BA Breadth Requirements are designed to provide you with a broad range of study as part of your degree. Students must complete a total of 10 courses across five different categories to fulfil this requirement. The specific requirements are outlined in the Calendar.

  • Some of your BA Breadth Requirements will be fulfilled with required courses from your major, minor, or specialization, which increases the number of electives you can take instead.
  • For Arts & Business students, your BA Breadth Requirements appear reduced because the required business-related courses fulfil five of the 10 requirements.
  • For Liberal Studies students, your BA Breadth Requirements are a component of your Liberal Studies requirements.

Minimum courses at the 200-level or above

BA students must complete a minimum number of courses at the 200-level or above. Normally, over 50% of this requirement is automatically fulfilled with the required courses from you major. The exact number of electives at the 200-level or above you need will depend on your chosen major. If you have any additional questions about this requirement, ask your academic advisor!

The required number of courses at the 200-level or above depends on your program. Review the appropriate table for the exact number: Honours, Three-Year General, Four-Year General, Liberal Studies.

Major

A major is the subject that is the main focus of your degree. Forty percent of your courses will be in your major and you will graduate with a BA degree in that major. All Honours majors require a minimum of 8.0 units (normally 16 courses). The precise requirements are listed on the individual plan page in the Calendar.

  • Prospective majors: BA students are expected to identify two prospective majors before beginning their studies. This will guide you as you select your first-year courses as well as provide you with a back-up in case your first choice does not work out for any number of reasons. We provide guides for Honours Arts students and Honours Arts & Business students based on their prospective majors to help with course selection!
  • Declare your major(s): Before the end of your first year (1B term), normally in winter term, you will declare one or both of your prospective majors. You can also declare a minor at that time (e.g., some students change their second prospective major to a minor). Information about the declare your major process is sent out via email (check your @uwaterloo.ca email!) and is published on our website a few weeks into winter term.
  • Change your major(s): Changed your mind? That happens! You can change your major at any time, but you still need to meet the minimum requirements. To formalize the change, you simply need to submit a completed Plan Modification Form. Discussing changes with your academic advisor is always encouraged to ensure you stay on track and there are no unexpected surprises!

Another useful resource are department websites as they provide discipline specific information for their students. Some departments also provide checklists to help you track your progress

Additional credentials

By planning your elective courses carefully, you can work towards additional credentials (also known as academic plans) such as a double major, a specialization, a minor, or a diploma. To declare a new academic plan or to make changes to your current plan(s) or program, submit a Plan Modification Form to your academic advisor

Some plans cannot be combined so check-out our restrictions on multiple-plan combinations. You should be also aware of the rule on counting courses, which specifies each individual course can be used to satisfy a maximum of two credentials (also known as double counting).

  • What is a double major? You can choose to major in more than one area which allows you to focus on two main areas of interest. To pursue a double major, you must meet all the requirements of both majors. Regulations about double majors can be found in the Calendar.
  • What is a specialization? Specializations are intended to provide you with a path to expand and tailor your degree. Specializations are offered by certain Arts disciplines and are only available within your major. Intensive specializations require a minimum cumulative major average of 75% and "topic" specializations have no additional average requirement. Most specializations require an additional 3-6 courses on top of your major requirements.
  • What is a minor? A minor is a secondary subject that complements your major. Minors require 8-10 courses (all minors in the Faculty of Arts require 8 courses) and provide breadth to your degree. They can be within your faculty or from a different faculty. These are the minors available at Waterloo, allowing you to easily combine two or more subjects of interest.
  • What is a diploma? A diploma consists of a set of courses (normally 5-8) focusing on a particular area of interest outside of your major. Some are restricted to non- or post-degree students, but many are available to all students. Its own distinct parchment is received upon completion.

You are encouraged to review your academic goals with your advisor to ensure you stay on track!

Liberal Studies

Students pursuing a BA in Liberal Studies must meet the common degree requirementsminimum program-level (BA degree) requirements, and plan-level (Liberal Studies) requirements outlined below, as well as maintain minimum cumulative averages to be in satisfactory standing.

  Honours Four-Year General Three-Year General
Arts First 2 courses (1.0 unit) 2 courses (1.0 unit) 2 courses (1.0 unit)
BA Breadth Requirements 10 courses (5.0 units) 10 courses (5.0 units) 10 courses (5.0 units)
Minimum courses at the 200-level or above 25 courses (12.5 units) 25 courses (12.5 units) 16 courses (8 units)
Minimum courses at the 300-level or above

6 courses (3.0 units)

  • 4 courses in Arts
  • 2 courses in any discipline
4 Arts courses (2.0 units) 2 Arts courses (1.0 unit)
Minimum Arts courses 25 courses (12.5 units) 25 courses (12.5 units) 15 courses (7.5 units)

Minimum Arts courses with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

13 courses
(6.5 units)

13 courses
(6.5 units)

8 courses
(4.0 units)

Minimum courses in degree with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

20 courses
(10.0 units)

20 courses
(10.0 units)

15 courses
(7.5 units)

Minimum University of Waterloo courses
(Residency Requirement)

20 courses
(10.0 units)
20 courses
(10.0 units)
15 courses
(7.5 units)
In total, minimum number of completed courses 40 courses (20.0 units) 40 courses (20.0 units) 30 courses (15.0 units)
Minimum cumulative average (CAV) 60% 60% 60%
Minimum faculty average (FAV) 70% 65% 65%
Minimum major average (MAV) 70% 65% 65%

Honours Liberal Studies students may also elect to participate in co-op. The BA Co-op Requirements page in the Calendar provides co-op specific information, including:

  • the minimum number of work terms,
  • the minimum number of professional development (PD) courses,
  • study/work sequence by plan, and 
  • eligibility requirements.

Honours and Four-Year General

The components of the Honours and Four-Year General plans are nearly identical! As outlined in the table above, the Honours plan requires two additional 300-level courses and a higher minimum cumulative FAV.

Pie graph displaying the components of an honours or four-year general BA degree in liberal studies: 15 electives and 25 liberal studies courses made up of 2 Arts First courses, 10 BA Breadth courses, and 13 unrestricted Arts courses.

Required number of courses broken down by each component of the BA degree when pursuing an Honours or Four-Year General Liberal Studies plan: 15 electives and 25 liberal studies courses made up of 2 Arts First courses, 10 BA Breadth courses, and 13 unrestricted Arts courses.

Three-Year General

Pie graph displaying the components of a three-year general BA degree in liberal studies: 15 electives and 15 liberal studies courses made up of 2 Arts First courses, 10 BA Breadth courses, and 3 unrestricted Arts courses.

Required number of courses broken down by each component of the BA degree when pursuing a Three-Year General Liberal Studies plan: 15 electives and 15 liberal studies courses made up of 2 Arts First courses, 10 BA Breadth courses, and 3 unrestricted Arts courses.

Honours Arts & Business + Liberal Studies

Pie graph displaying the components of an honours BA degree in liberal studies and arts and business: 15 electives, 14 arts and business courses, and 11 liberal studies courses made up of 2 Arts First courses, 5 BA Breadth courses, and 4 unrestricted Arts courses.

Required number of courses broken down by each component of the BA degree when pursuing an Honours Liberal Studies plan with Arts & Business: 15 electives, 14 arts and business courses, and 11 liberal studies courses made up of 2 Arts First courses, 5 BA Breadth courses, and 4 unrestricted Arts courses.

Honours Liberal Studies can be combined with Arts & Business! Additional requirements for Arts & Business students include:

  • 14 business-related courses (7.0 units), and 
  • a 70% minimum MAV in the required business-related courses.

Your Liberal Studies and BA Breadth requirements appear reduced because the required Arts & Business courses fulfil those requirements.

Three-Year General

Students pursuing an Three-Year General BA must meet the common degree requirementsminimum program-level (BA degree) requirements, and plan-level (major) requirements outlined below, as well as maintain minimum cumulative averages to be in satisfactory standing.

Minimum number of courses needed to meet requirements
Arts First 2 courses
(1.0 unit)
BA Breadth Requirements 10 courses
(5.0 units)
Minimum courses at the 200-level or above 16 courses
(8.0 units)
Minimum courses in major 12 courses
(6.0 units)

Minimum courses in major with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

6 courses
(3.0 units)

Minimum courses in degree with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

15 courses
(7.5 units)

Minimum University of Waterloo courses
(Residency Requirement)

15 courses
(7.5 units)

In total, minimum number of completed courses 30 courses
(15.0 units)
Minimum cumulative averages to be in satisfactory standing
Minimum cumulative average (CAV) 60%
Minimum faculty average (FAV) 65%
Minimum major average (MAV) 65%

A simplified breakdown of the 30 courses needed to meet the minimum Three-Year General degree requirements. The required number of courses are broken down by each component of your degree: 10 BA Breadth courses, 12 major courses, 2 Arts First courses, 6 electives. 

Four-Year General

Students pursuing an Four-Year General BA must meet the common degree requirementsminimum program-level (BA degree) requirements, and plan-level (major) requirements outlined below, as well as maintain minimum cumulative averages to be in satisfactory standing. The Four-Year General major requirements are identical to the Honours apart from the minimum cumulative major average, which is lower.

Minimum number of courses needed to meet requirements
Arts First 2 courses
(1.0 unit)
BA Breadth Requirements 10 courses
(5.0 units)
Minimum courses at the 200-level or above 16 courses
(8.0 units)
Minimum courses in major 16 courses
(8.0 units)

Minimum courses in major with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

8.0
(4.0 units)

Minimum courses in degree with a numerical grade
(50% Rule)

20.0
(10.0 units)

Minimum University of Waterloo courses
(Residency Requirement)

20.0
(10.0 units)
In total, minimum number of completed courses 40 courses
(20.0 units)
Minimum cumulative averages to be in satisfactory standing
Minimum cumulative average (CAV) 60%
Minimum faculty average (FAV) 65%
Minimum major average (MAV) 65%

A simplified breakdown of the 40 courses needed to meet the minimum Four-Year General degree requirements. The required number of courses are broken down by each component of your degree: 10 BA Breadth courses, 16 major courses, 2 Arts First courses, 12 electives.