Complete List of High School Electives

January 29, 2024

high school electives

Figuring out your high school schedule? For many students, it can be tricky to finalize which high school electives to take. You might find that the academic classes are easier to line up – because with high school electives, it gets a bit more personal. You’ll want to not only satisfy graduation requirements but also demonstrate your unique interests and strengths to prospective colleges.
Thankfully, we’re here to help you with just that. You’ll find below a complete list of high school electives and know exactly what to expect in this important chapter of your high school career.

What are electives in high school?

In a nutshell, high school electives are the classes that allow you to explore further interests outside of the standard academic core curriculum. They are there to create a healthy balance in your education and to prepare you for your future. These electives are a way for you to develop specific skills, passions and curiosities that will hopefully contribute to your college education and professional career. It’s essentially a time for you to also focus on what really speaks to you and piques your interest.

Oftentimes, when students eventually look back on their high school years, they’ll find that their chosen electives have left a significant impression on their career choices. Whether it was from their symphony orchestra, studio art, computer science or journalism class, there can very well be something that propelled them to major in that particular subject in college or influenced them to pursue a relevant profession. High school electives are also a fantastic opportunity to encounter new fields that you might have never considered. They’re a chance for you to develop new skill sets that will help you in college and beyond.

If you’re already preparing for specific college requirements, it’s important to refer to the prospective college’s admissions requirements and plan ahead to decide which high school electives will help boost your overall application. However, it’s just as crucial to ensure that these high school electives reflect your own personal interests and aspirations, as they will be a reflection of you as an individual.

One great way to start your high school elective journey is to think of which fields you’ve always wanted to learn more about, why that is the case, and take it from there.

What are the electives in high school?

Drumroll…the answer to this question depends on which school you are attending! High school electives could be grouped under a general category like business or foreign languages, but they can be incredibly specific. As every school across the country varies, you’ll find below an extensive list of what types of high school electives you might be able to choose from (these electives are from a wide selection of private and public schools). Think of the list as a guiding introduction to see how your interests align with the electives offered at your school.

And if you do find an elective that gauges your interest here, be sure to refer to your own high school’s elective offerings and check that they have the same, if not similar, class. This would also be a great opportunity for you to connect with your high school counselor and work together to see how these potential high school electives will help shape your overall educational goals.

Although it is exciting to find a wide variety of high school electives to choose from, it’s still incredibly important for you to have a plan about why you are choosing a particular elective. If your answer right now is simply “Because I just wanted to try it,” why not see if there’s something more unique about the elective that really speaks to you? And why is that the case?

Intentionality is key. For example, if you choose to take journalism because you just like reading the news every now and then, take a moment to think through why you enjoy reading the news. Can you imagine yourself writing articles in a newspaper someday? Or have you ever thought of what it would be like to be an editor? A graphic designer or a photographer for a newspaper?

List of high school electives (continued)

You’ll find that you can take electives in certain academic fields like business, computer science or IT, math, and specific sciences. Take a look at these high school electives below:


Accounting, Business law, Business management, Consumer education, Entrepreneurial skills, Introduction to business, Marketing, Finance

Computer Science or IT (Information Technology)

Animation, App development, Audio production, Computer programming, Computer repair, Film production, Graphic design, Media technology, Music production, Typing, Video game development, Web design, Web programming, Word processing


Computer math, Math applications, Probability and statistics, Quantitative literacy, Trigonometry


Agriculture, Astronomy, Biotechnology, Botany, Earth science, Environmental science, Forensic science, Geology, Human physiology, Marine biology, Meteorology, Oceanography, Physics, Acoustics and sound, Zoology

In this vein, you might also find high school electives focused on family or consumer sciences like: Chemistry of foods, CPR training, Culinary arts, Early childhood development, Early childhood education, Family studies, Fashion and retail merchandising, Fashion construction, Home economics, Interior design, Nutrition

List of high school electives (continued)

Let’s also take a look at high school electives that are more geared towards the humanities:

Social Studies

African studies, Asian studies, Civics, Cultural anthropology, Current events, Economics, European history, Human geography, International relations, Latin American studies, Middle East studies, Mythology, Philosophy, Physical anthropology, Political studies, Psychology, Religious studies, Sociology, US government, Women’s studies, World politics, World religions

Language and Writing (both American and international)

Advanced composition, African literature, Asian literature, British literature, Cinema studies, Contemporary literature, Creative writing, Debate, Film study, Gothic literature, Journalism, Poetry, Popular literature, Practical writing, Public speaking, Rhetoric, School yearbook, Shakespearean literature, World literature

Foreign Language

American Sign Language, Ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish

Perhaps you’re looking for more creative classes focused on the arts:

Performing Arts

Choir, Concert band, Dance, Drama, Guitar, Jazz band, Marching band, Music theory, Orchestra, Percussion, Piano, Theater technology, World music

Visual Arts

3-D art, Art history, Ceramics, Digital media, Drawing, Film production, Jewelry design, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture

List of high school electives (continued)

And if sports and physical activity is more of your forte:

Physical Education

Aerobics, Dance, Gymnastics, Health, Lifeguard training, Pilates, Racket sports, Specialized sports, Swimming, Weight training, Wellness, Yoga

If you’re really looking for classes that are more hands-on and vocational, you might be able to find some of the following high school electives:

Vocational Education

Auto body repair, Auto mechanics, Building construction, Computer-aided drafting, Cosmetology, Criminal justice, Driver Education, Electronics, FFA (Future Farmers of America), Fire science, Heating and cooling systems, Hospitality and tourism, JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), Metalworking, Networking, Plumbing, Production technology, Refrigeration fundamentals, Robotics, Woodworking

How many electives can you take in high school?

This could be the very first question you ask yourself when considering which electives to take in high school. As previously mentioned, the answer depends on some factors: which school you attend, in which city, or state. Suppose you have a friend who lives outside of your school district. You won’t be surprised to learn that they’re taking more or fewer classes than you. Why? Because some states require students to earn as little as 4 elective credits, while other states expect students to graduate with having completed 6 to 8 credits.

You should typically expect to complete anywhere from 5 to 8 elective credits throughout your high school years. This may sound like a lot because that amounts to roughly 2 to 3 elective classes a year, but it’s meant for you to have the chance to explore your interests more thoroughly, and with ample time.

How many electives can you take in high school (continued)

Given the list of high school electives above, it is absolutely possible for you to choose a diverse set of electives for your upcoming semester and year. Just because you know that you want to major in, let’s say, biology in college, doesn’t mean that you should only take strictly science-related electives. If there is a high school elective that can still make your diverse skills shine, and some classes like coding, or even jazz band, speak out to you, those electives could help strengthen your college applications as a whole.

The key is to be well-rounded, finding the right personal and academic balance that helps you achieve your goals. There have been countless students who have taken this opportunity to personalize their high school schedule in a way that reflected their strengths and committed interests. So don’t be afraid to take sculpture and swimming alongside your AP classes, if those are two electives you are passionate about and invested in.

Where do I even begin? How many high school electives should I take each year?

First off, since you’ve come this far, you’re already ahead of most. You understand why being deliberate when choosing your high school electives will serve you best in the long run.

Freshman Year: Taking 1 to 2 electives during your first year of high school is a great way to start. It’s always smart to keep your options open for any possible changes, especially as everything will be new to you as an incoming freshman.

Sophomore Year: For your second year of high school, you should definitely bring the numbers up. Enrolling in 2 to 3 electives your sophomore year is a solid plan, since you’ll have a better understanding of what you enjoy studying so far. Do always make sure to check in with your counselor and track if you’re not overloading your schedule with too many core classes or, on the flip side, too many electives.

Junior Year and Senior Year: Definitely take 2 to 4 electives during your final two high school years. At this point, you’ll have a firmer grasp on your educational goals and you might have already signed up for those challenging AP classes. Remember, striking that well-rounded balance with core curriculum classes will only help you in the end. This all works as a cumulative package. You’ll be thinking not only about graduation requirements at this stage, but also how your current schedule will help you pursue a certain major in college.

Take this time to explore your interests and gradually narrow down which high school electives match your aspirations. Some of the most memorable moments of your high school years can come from the electives you choose. So on that note, choose wisely, be intentional, and have some fun while you’re at it!

Additional Resources

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