What is an elective course? (explained with example)

If you ask what an elective course this article is for you.

In this article, we’re going to talk about:

  1. The definition of an elective course
  2. What is the elective course in high school?
  3. What is the elective course in college?
  4. How to choose the elective course in high school?
  5. How to select the elective college course?

So keep reading to avoid some mistakes that students make according to this subject.

What is an elective course?

An elective course is a course in that you have the freedom to choose to study along with your main courses. An elective course is a subject you decide to study, like being a major in math and taking an elective course in humanities, based on your choice.

To clarify, if you study maths or any stem major(scientific or mathematical major), having or joining an elective course means that you will study 80% of topics related to your major like math, phsyics, biology, or chemistry. 

In addition, the remaining 20% of the program are elective courses where you can choose between like arts, humanities, dance, or anything you love or have an interest in, that your school offers. 

So you have to be aware that the arts or humanities you have chosen to study, as we mentioned in the example, won’t represent more than 20% of your curriculum. So, to sum up, the elective course is studying:

  • 80% of subjects related to your subjects
  • 20% of topics unrelated to your major that you have the freedom to choose

for these reasons, you can find students studying some additional subjects that aren’t related to their major, like:

  • mathematician learning a foreign language
  • journalists study sociology
  • physicists study arts, etc

But you have to be aware of elective courses if you think like that!!!

But you always have to remember that an elective course is not choosing to study what you want. 

For example, if you study STEM, you must complete math and physics subjects because they are required to finish the program.

So for students who study stem and want to run from math or physics, an elective course will not be helpful to run from. In other words, you have:

  • 80% of subjects that are required to complete, including maths and physics (no freedom to run from or deny )
  • 20% of unrelated topics to study like arts, humanities, design, etc. (you have entirely the freedom to choose between)

Elective courses are in schools and colleges. They are a great way to help a student learn some additional skills preparing them to build a good portfolio and promising career like:

  • marketing
  • foreign languages
  • coding, etc

We’re going to dig into what high school and college students study in elective courses.

What is an elective in high school?

Elective courses in high school are the secondary subjects that students have the right to study to complete their credits or degree. In high school, the degree is split into two parts:

  • 80% of subjects that relate to specialty math and physic for stem students, or art and language for humanities
  • 20% non-related topics that a high school student could choose to study, called electives courses.

the 20% of non-related topics that high school students can choose to study among are:

  • audio video editing
  • architecture and construction
  • teaching
  • business accounting
  • nutrition and food science
  • foreign language
  • theatre
  • music
  • dance education
  • physical education
  • photography
  • graphic design

So high school students have a variety of topics to choose between, which helps them discover themselves early. As a result, make the right decision by choosing the right programs in college, and then have a suitable career in the future.

If you are a high school student having an elective curse is very useful. It helps students to discover themselves and their passions. To learn more about this topic, you can watch this video.

What is an elective course in college?

An elective college course is studying courses unrelated to your major or specialty. For example, if a student studies computer science or physic in college but is still interested in art or languages, he could choose and include them in its programs. 

But college students have to understand that elective courses represent only 20% of college subjects.

So it is like practicing your hobby or exciting topic in college. So elective courses are beneficial for students to improve their GPA by doing something they care about. Also, at the same time, learn additional skills.

you could read this article Stem degree with a high GPA( 3 inspiring stories)

we’re going to give 7 critical elective courses that college students take for their programs.

1- languages

Most college students who take elective courses learn new foreign languages like Spanish and french. As a result, it is helpful to speak more than one language for a student’s career.

2 – coding

The second thing that non-stem majors can study is coding, which is the highly demanded paid job in the world. So it will be a good idea to learn or include coding in the elective course.

You don’t know, and maybe you might change your opinion and decide to work in this industry. Because it has enormous potential, you can read this article to learn more about this subject.

10 reasons why software engineers are overpaid

3 – business

The third subject that most students include in their elective courses in business. In other words, learning accounting, finance, and management is essential in our daily lives.

Students take business courses to learn how to manage money and projects, especially people interested in entrepreneurship.

4 – economics

Understanding what happened in the market today is essential. Students who add economics to their elective courses are interested in stock and trading occupations.

5 – photography

People interested in photography while studying stem majors could add this field and practice their hobby in a college. In addition, they are taking advantage to improve their GPAs.

6 – video filming and editing

Video filming and editing are other fields college students can find in elective courses. Studying video filming and editing is excellent for people who love creating content like Facebook and youtube videos.

7 – Sociology

Students can also study sociology in elective college courses. Students who take the sociology course are interested in learning how society thinks. Also, understanding how human beings think is for people who like philosophy.

How to choose elective courses in high school?

We will give high school students a methodology that they should base on to choose or complete their elective course. You should follow these 3 tips:

1- choose what you like or enjoy

The first thing you should base on is choosing a topic you like. Because learning a topic, you love will encourage you to study hard and gain more scores in the subjects. As a result, it will affect your global grade.

2 – prepare for college

The second thing is that you always have to choose the subjects you want to study in college. For example, if you want to study STEM is better to focus on math and coding elective courses.

Therefore, students interested in humanities need to study writing and English courses. So you have to take it as a preparation phase for the future.

3 learn marketing and sells

Regardless of loving or hating, the third thing you should learn is marketing and sales.

 To clarify, you should learn marketing. Without marketing, you won’t go further in your life. This domain teaches you not only to sell commodities but sell yourself and your opinions to the people.

This is so interesting for classes or job interviews.

How to choose elective courses in college?

If you don’t know the right methodology to base on choosing your college electives courses, you can see this video below.


Having an elective system course is an excellent way for a high school and college student to acquire additional skills that most people regret studying when they get old.

So don’t make the same mistake. Every skill you will learn will affect your life somehow. For more information or tips, you can watch this video.


Yassin ajanif is a physics graduate and electromechanical engineer width more than 5 years in the field. My goal and my team are to share our experience to help you succeed in your career as a stem major. we talk about all tips, problems, and struggle STEM students face in their career and how to overcome them.