A Robust and Balanced Interdisciplinary Program
West Point's academic program requires cadets to complete both a robust interdisciplinary core curriculum as well as an academic major of their choice. The core curriculum - the broad liberal arts aspect of the cadet's education - covers academic fields ranging from Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to the Social Sciences and Humanities. The academic major allows a cadet to focus on a field of their choice and to gain intellectual depth. Through the Academy's unique blend of faculty and unyielding focus on its mission, an emphasis on character is woven into every course.
Graduates integrate knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines to anticipate and respond appropriately to opportunities and challenges in a changing world.
Academic Program Goals
West Point’s Academic Program is guided by seven overarching goals. Each of the seven goals is accompanied by supporting objectives called “What Graduates Can Do” (WGCD) statements. WGCD statements define specific indicators of skills expected of cadets at the time of graduation and are the objectives that we use to assess the components of our academic program.
Graduates communicate effectively with all audiences.
The ability to listen, read, speak, and write with thoughtfulness, clarity, and purpose is critical for Army officers to accomplish missions across a spectrum of twenty-first century operations. Graduates must also possess skills in cross-cultural communication and evidence-based argumentation. Learning how to speak and write in foreign languages enables effective communication with diverse audiences in operational environments around the world. Given the evolving landscape, graduates must also be proficient in various media.
What graduates can do:
- Listen actively, read critically, and develop an informed understanding of the communications of others.
- Speak and write using Standard American English.
- Effectively convey meaningful information to diverse audiences using appropriate forms and media.
- Communicate in a foreign language.
- Use sound logic and relevant evidence to make convincing arguments.
Graduates think critically and creatively.
As critical thinkers, graduates determine the credibility and utility of ideas and information. Their discernment sets the stage for appropriate, effective, and innovative responses to complex issues. As creative thinkers, graduates draw on extant knowledge and social norms without being constrained by these conventions.
What graduates can do:
- Identify the essential aspects of a situation and ask relevant questions.
- Integrate knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines.
- Make meaningful connections and distinctions among diverse experiences and concepts.
- Reason both quantitatively and qualitatively.
- Think innovatively and accept risk to pursue solutions in the face of ambiguity.
- Value reflection and creativity; envision possibilities.
Graduates demonstrate the capability and desire to pursue progressive and continued intellectual development.
Graduates understand that success as an officer is dependent upon taking personal responsibility for acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills needed to excel in an ever-changing and dynamic operational environment. The USMA experience is not an end in itself, but rather a foundation upon which graduates must build.
What graduates can do:
- Demonstrate the willingness and ability to learn independently.
- Engage successfully in deliberate self-directed and collaborative learning experiences.
- Pursue self-awareness and embrace the responsibility for personal intellectual development.
- Pursue knowledge in areas of personal or professional interest.
Graduates recognize ethical issues and apply ethical perspectives and concepts in decision making.
Graduates must recognize the moral and ethical implications of their decisions and successfully engage the ethical components of problems and situations. When confronted with an ethical dilemma, graduates leverage broad historical, cultural, and legal perspectives to make the right decision.
What graduates can do:
- Understand the intellectual foundations of ethical principles.
- Recognize ethical components of problems and situations.
- Examine and evaluate different ethical perspectives, principles, and concepts in context.
- Apply ethical perspectives and concepts in solving complex problems, including those found in military settings.
Graduates apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics concepts and processes to solve complex problems.
Applications of the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) disciplines are pervasive in the modern Army. Properly employed, technology is an effective force multiplier that creates opportunities to improve situational awareness, shorten decision cycles, secure communications, enhance the effectiveness of weapon systems, and improve survivability. Technology also creates challenges as adversaries seek to exploit potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Graduates use scientific and mathematical literacy to anticipate opportunities and challenges associated with changing technologies and employ the systematic engineering design process to develop appropriate responses in the context of technological, economic, cultural, political, social, and ethical constraints.
What graduates can do:
- Apply mathematics, science, and computing to model devices, systems, processes, or behaviors.
- Apply the scientific method.
- Collect and analyze data in support of decision making.
- Apply an engineering design process to create effective and adaptable solutions.
- Explain and apply computing and information technology concepts and practices in the context of the Cyber Domain.
Graduates apply concepts from the humanities and social sciences to understand and analyze the human condition.
USMA graduates effectively interact with and lead people in a variety of contexts. Graduates comprehend the human condition of diverse peoples and organizations, at home and abroad, and create relevant tools to define, shape, and solve complex problems of the modern world. USMA prepares future Army officers to reflect upon and learn from experiences, and to develop deeper cross-cultural competence.
What graduates can do:
- Understand, analyze, and know how to influence human behavior.
- Analyze the history, diversity, complexity, and interaction of cultures.
- Analyze political, legal, military, and economic influences on social systems.
- Engage in and reflect on cross cultural experiences.
- Integrate the methodologies of the humanities and social sciences in decision-making.
Graduates integrate and apply knowledge and methodological approaches gained through in-depth study of an academic discipline.
Academic majors complement USMA’s broad core curriculum, synthesizing and building on the core courses in the context of a chosen discipline that is aligned with the interests and life-long educational goals of each cadet. Drawing on a wide range of specialties, graduates contribute intellectual diversity to the Army and make substantive contributions to multi-disciplinary teams.
What graduates can do:
- Apply disciplinary tools, methods of inquiry, and theoretical approaches.
- Identify and explain representative questions and arguments of their chosen disciplines.
- Recognize limits of a discipline as well as areas in which it contributes to intellectual inquiry and problem solving.
- Synthesize knowledge and concepts from across their chosen disciplines.
- Contribute disciplinary knowledge and skills as a part of a collaborative effort engaging challenges that span multiple disciplines.
The West Point curriculum guide and course catalog is referred to as the ‘Redbook.” The Redbook provides specific descriptions of the Academic Program's components that are designed to develop cadets into capable and forward-thinking leaders. It identifies majors and minors available to each class as well as a listing of all courses offered during each academic year and term and provides information on West Point’s academic requirements and opportunities
"For the United States Army to win our future wars we need our officers to out-think our enemies."
Academic Core Curriculum
The foundation of the academic program at USMA is 24 core courses and three courses in an engineering sequence for those cadets who do not choose a major in engineering. For most cadets the first year is a common academic experience - where the majority take the same core courses. In their second semester, cadets select a major and in the fall of their sophomore year, they choose a three-course engineering sequence.
Within the core academic curriculum, there is a strong emphasis on mathematics, science, and engineering. The MSE sequence provides each cadet with a fundamental knowledge of the experimental and analytic techniques of the basic sciences. This sequence begins in the Fourth Class year with two semesters of mathematics, one semester of chemistry, one semester of physical geography, and one semester of calculus-based physics. Physical geography or physics may be delayed until the Third Class year depending on faculty resources and cadet preferences. The coursework continues in the Third Class year with one semester of statistics and an additional science depth course that cadets select based on their major and their interests.
The core curriculum includes a strong pre-professional sequence of courses from the humanities and social sciences to develop an awareness of the people, government, and society that the commissioned officer will serve. This sequence begins in the Fourth Class year with two semesters of history, one semester of literature, and one semester of psychology. It continues in the Third Class year with one semester each of political science, philosophy, and economics. The Second Class year includes one semester of international relations, one semester of military history, and one semester of military leadership. The First Class year’s contribution to this sequence of professional development is found in a one-semester course in constitutional and military law and one semester of a capstone course titled “Officership.”
The core curriculum includes an information technology/cyber sequence (IT/CYBER) designed to ensure that every academy graduate is comfortable with and capable of securely using computers and information technology in an Army that must fight and win in an overarching cyber domain. IT/CYBER skills are first developed through an introductory information technology/cyber course in the Fourth Class year and the integration of computer and cyber applications throughout the core curriculum and particularly in the IT/CYBER requirement in the Second or First Class year. The IT/CYBER requirement may be fulfilled with the core course, CY305, Cyber Foundations or through existing course coverage of cyber topics in particular majors (in this case, the cadet will be required to fulfill a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM] depth requirement with another STEM course – see listing of core courses below).
Most cadets will begin their study of a foreign language in Third Class year. If a cadet expresses an interest, however, the sequence may be started in Fourth Class year (contingent on seat availability and discretion of the Registrar). All cadets will take at least two semesters of one of the eight foreign languages offered. Course work will present perspectives from another culture, develop the ability to learn another language, provide an introductory level of proficiency in the language selected, and provide a firm foundation for further language study.
These features mean that the first two academic semesters are a common core experience for the majority of cadets, and most of the second two semesters are common as well. Individual alterations to the typical sequence can be made based on specific needs and capabilities. Cadets are encouraged to work closely with academic counselors when designing their academic programs.
Cadets will seek counsel from their DACs in the beginning of their Third Class year to request a CES that complements their academic major and interests. The Registrar will fill CES enrollments based on cadet preferences and faculty availability. CES assignments typically cannot be changed after the initial assignment unless the cadet finds a cadet 'trade partner' in the same year group who is willing to make a swap.
Infrastructure Engineering focuses on the design, analysis, and construction of the built environment (i.e., man-made structures and facilities used to accommodate societies’ activities). Cadets learn about the importance of the infrastructure sectors, such as water, power, and transportation, and their inter-relationships. Learn more about this CES at the Redbook website.
Cyber Engineering focuses on fundamental cyber-enabling skills as well as current cyber-related issues, threats, vulnerabilities, and non-technical considerations. As the newest warfighting domain and branch of the Army, cyberspace presents new opportunities and demands for leaders to protect and exploit networks and information resources. Cyber leaders must understand computer systems, networks, and information assurance and be able to analyze, design, and evaluate such systems. The Cyber Engineering Sequence is designed to provide sufficient breadth and depth of knowledge for non-technical majors to establish a nucleus for subsequent learning and adaptation to rapid change.
Robotics Engineering focuses on developing a basic understanding of the electrical and electronic technologies used in the military. The fundamentals of electrical power generation and distribution, information processing, computing, communications, and robotics are some of the examples that are developed across the engineering sequence.
Environmental Engineering focuses on current environmental issues and designing viable, sustainable solutions to them. The sequence emphasizes the science and engineering commonly used to protect public health and the environment. The experience gained allows graduates to address multiple perspectives across relevant Army topics such as installation drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, energy, and environmental stewardship.
Nuclear Engineering studies the practical use of the energy that is released by the nucleus. Applications extend into the fields of power generation, medicine, nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons effects. The sequence is designed to provide introductory knowledge in the applications of nuclear energy and what Army officers should know about nuclear reactors, radiation health physics, radiation detection, and nuclear weapons and weapons effects.
Systems Engineering exposes Cadets to the fundamentals of the discipline, equips them with some of the more essential tools to facilitate modeling and analysis, and develops an inherent ability to use the Systems Decision Process (SDP) to solve complex problems. The Systems Engineering discipline develops and manages interdisciplinary engineering teams that develop, design, and implement systems.
Majors & Minors
Our curriculum provides a grounding in the liberal arts and engineering, a study of a discipline in depth, and experiential learning opportunities that prepare cadets to think critically, internalize their professional identity, and employ their education to help build the Army and the nation’s future.
Cadets choose their areas of depth from 36 academic majors that span a broad spectrum of academic disciplines.
Research Centers & Institutes
Most academic departments house specialized research centers that provide significant enrichment opportunities for cadets and faculty. Cadets can learn and practice their discipline in real-world research environments that provide opportunities for them to solve contemporary and highly relevant problems. Faculty can work in these centers to further their own development through innovative research and scholarship. These centers connect outside organizations across the Army, Department of Defense, academia, and the corporate world.
“The academic program is integrated with the other elements of the West Point Leader Development System, contributing to our Cadets’ character development.”
Annual Research Symposium
Cadets present, defend, and showcase the results of their academic work and research during the Annual Research Symposium. Faculty from USMA and outside institutions, as well as thousands of stakeholders from government and private industry, descend on West Point for the annual event.
Enriching the Curriculum
Cadets have numerous academic enrichment opportunities through our 62 academic clubs and forums, and hundreds of conferences, internships, and study abroad opportunities.
Cadets also have the opportunity to compete for and win a number of graduate school scholarships and fellowships. Interested Cadets gain official sponsorship through the West Point Scholars Program.
The United States Military Academy Library embraces and advances scholarship, research, and excellence through information service in an increasingly digital world.
The West Point Writing Program works across the curriculum to support cadets and faculty in their study of all aspects of critical thinking, writing, and professional communication.
All academic programs and majors are led by the Dean of the Academic Board, including promoting Academic Program goals and maintaing faculty excellence.