United States Air Force Academy

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At the Center of Inquiry

Core Curriculum

image of Cadets studying in the library.

At the U.S. Air Force Academy, we are committed to meeting the highest ideals of a broad, liberal education while also providing our cadets with the best possible preparation for a lifetime of service to the nation. In fact, achieving this balance is one of the most unique and critical contributions of the Academy to the officer corps. No other commissioning source can create the collaborative blending of rigorous academics, military training, character and leadership development, and competitive athletics than what defines the four-year experience cadets have at the Air Force Academy.

Nowhere is the Academy’s commitment more evident than in the Core Curriculum, which all cadets are required to complete. As part of the Core, all cadets, regardless of academic major, complete 29 Dean of the Faculty courses across a variety of academic disciplines, while also engaging in military training programs, participating in conferences and forums offered by our Center for Character and Leadership Development, and completing required Physical Education courses offered by our Director of Athletics. Importantly, these diverse programs are purposefully integrated to create a one-of-a-kind four-year experience that prepares our cadets to serve as commissioned officers in the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Space Force.

The Core is purposefully and developmentally designed to build proficiencies in each of the nine U.S. Air Force Academy Institutional Outcomes. Below is a snapshot of the Core requirements organized by outcome.

Outcome First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
Critical Thinking Econ 201 Law 220 Statistics Option Majors Courses
Engineering Comp Sci 110 Engr Mech 220 Aero Engr 315 Astro Engr 310
ECE 315
Principles of Science Math 141 & 142
Chem 100
Physics 110
Chem 200, Physics 215, or Bio 215 (must take 2 of 3)
Advanced STEM courses
Human Condition For Lang 1 & 2 History 300 NCL Symposium
BehSci 360
Engl 411
Geo 412
Leadership Officership 100 Officership 200 Officership 300 Officership 400
Clear Communication English 111 English 211 Majors Courses
Ethics & Respect Beh Sci 110 Philos 310 NCL Symposium Philos 401
National Security Econ 201 Pol Sci 211 History 345
PoliSci 302
MSS 444
Warrior Ethos Basic Cadet Tng
History 100
Phys Ed
MSS 251 (4.5)
Phys Ed
Phys Ed Phys Ed
  • Economics 201 – Introduction to Economics (also aligned with National Security)
  • Law 220 – Law for Air Force Officers
  • A Statistics option (offered by either the Math or Behavioral Sciences department)
  • One or more certified courses within cadets’ chosen academic major
  • Computer Science 110 – Introduction to Computing and Cyber Operations
  • Engineering Mechanics 220 – Fundamentals of Mechanics
  • Aeronautical Engineering 315 – Fundamentals of Aeronautics
  • Astronautical Engineering 310 – Introduction to Astronautics
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering 315 – Principles of Air Force Electronic and Cyber Systems
  • Math 141 – Calculus I
  • Chemistry 100 – General Chemistry I Lecture and Lab
  • Physics 110 – General Physics I with Laboratory
  • Math 142 / 152 – Calculus II
  • Cadets can choose two courses from:
    • Chemistry 200 – General Chemistry II Lecture and Lab
    • Physics 215 – General Physics II with Laboratory
    • Biology 215 – Introductory Biology with Lab
  • Foreign Language 131 & 132 – Basic Sequence in one of 8 languages
  • History 300 – World History
  • Officership 100 – An integrated year-long experience for fourth-class cadets, combining an academic course, a character and leadership development seminar, and fourth-class Commissioning Education.
  • Officership 200 — An integrated year-long experience for third-class cadets, combining an academic course, a character and leadership development seminar, and third-class Commissioning Education.
  • Officership 300 — An integrated year-long experience for second-class cadets, combining an academic course, a character and leadership development seminar, and second-class Commissioning Education.
  • Officership 400 — An integrated year-long experience for first-class cadets, combining an academic course, a character and leadership development seminar, and first-class Commissioning Education.
  • English 111 – Introductory Composition and Research
  • English 211 – Literature and Intermediate Composition
  • Commissioning Education
  • One or more certified courses within cadets’ chosen academic major
  • Military Training 100 – Basic Cadet Training
  • Behavioral Sciences 110 – Introduction to Behavioral Sciences
  • Commissioning Education
  • Philosophy 310 – Ethics
  • Economics 201 – Introduction to Economics (also aligned with Critical Thinking)
  • Political Science 211 – Politics, American Government, and National Security
  • Military Strategic Studies 251 – Airpower and Joint Operations Strategy (also aligned with Warrior Ethos)
  • Social Sciences 311 / Political Science 302 – International Security Studies / American Foreign and National Security Policy (students take one or the other)
  • History 100 – Introduction to Military History
  • Physical Education 100 – Basic Physical Training
  • Physical Education 110 – Boxing
  • Physical Education 111 – Swimming
  • Physical Education 112 – Physical Development
  • Physical Education 215 – Combatives I
  • Physical Education 222 – Water Survival
  • Physical Education 315 – Combatives II
  • Physical Education Individual Sport Elective
  • Physical Education Open Elective I
  • Physical Education Open Elective II
  • Military Strategic Studies 251 (also aligned with National Security)

In addition to the courses/ programs listed, all cadets are also required to choose:

  • One advanced course from the STEM basket (aligned with either Application of Engineering Fundamentals or Scientific Reasoning and the Principle of Science)
  • One advanced course from the Sociocultural basket (aligned with either Ethics and Respect for Human Dignity; The Human Condition, Cultures, and Societies; National Security of the American Republic; Warrior Ethos as Airmen and Citizens; or Leadership, Teamwork, and Organizational Management
  • One additional advanced course from either the STEM basket or the Sociocultural basket