Culture Question:

How many subjects do American students study in high school? What are they?

(posted: Dec. 6, 2010)

The curriculum for students in the United States varies a great deal. But many American high schools require that every year students take courses in the "core" areas of:

  1. English or "Language Arts"
  2. Science
  3. Mathematics
  4. History or "Social Studies,"

In Junior High School in some schools students may also take a foreign language (Spanish, French, German, and even some Asian languages, depending on the school). Along with the core academic classes they will have 2 to 4 other classes, either electives or supplementary or remedial academic classes. Some students also start taking advanced math and science classes in middle school. Physical education (P.E) classes are usually mandatory.

In Senior High School (which is often just referred to as High School) many schools just set the required number of credits. They allow the student a great deal of choice as to when the courses will be taken after 10th grade.

The majority of high schools require four English credits to graduate. Many schools count journalism, public speaking/debate, foreign language, literature, drama and writing (both technical and creative) classes as English/Language classes.

Generally, three science courses are required. Biology, chemistry, and physics are usually offered. Courses such as physical and life science serve as introductory alternatives to those classes. Other science studies include geology, anatomy, astronomy, health science, environmental science, and forensic science.

High school mathematics courses typically include remedial prealgebra, algebra I, algebra II, geometry and trigonometry. Advanced study options can include precalculus, calculus, statistics and discrete math.

Required social science classes often include world history, US History, government, economics and accounting.

Many states require a Health or Wellness course in order to graduate. The class typically covers basic anatomy, nutrition, first aid, sexual education, and how to make responsible decisions regarding illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.

Two years of physical education is also commonly required.


  1. Wikipedia. “Secondary Education in the U.S.”, (, 05-Dec-2010.

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High school science teacher with some students

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