The Bachelor of Individualized Study (BIS) Program in the School of Integrative Studies is an undergraduate degree completion program serving adult students since 1975. It offers students a distinctive educational opportunity that allows them to integrate previous experiences into university coursework. Recognizing that college-level learning may be acquired through varied professional, military, and personal experience, the BIS program provides mechanisms for translating experiential learning into academic credit. The program combines an interdisciplinary academic framework and a writing-intensive, research-based curriculum to provide students with individualized degree plans.

In this degree program, most students design their own individualized interdisciplinary program of study. Other students who are interested in early childhood education and who meet specific eligibility requirements can pursue a more prescribed curriculum that leads to a concentration in education studies.


Students who are interested in the bachelor of individualized study degree must attend an information session. The schedule of BIS information sessions and the BIS application are available on the BIS Program website.


Adult transfer applicants, age 22 or older may be considered for the BIS only with the following minimum criteria:

  1. 12 credits of transferable college coursework as determined by the Office of Admissions
  2. Cumulative collegiate grade point average of 2.00+ across coursework on all transcripts.

Admission is directly to BIS with no change to another major without reapplying. The concentration in education studies is an exception to the age requirement.


Students pursuing a bachelor of individualized study must meet the baccalaureate degree requirements for all undergraduates: they need to complete 120 credits with 45 credits at or above the 300 level and at least 30 credits at Mason.

BIS students may elect to take a minor in addition to their BIS concentration. 8 credits of the minor must be applied uniquely to the minor and not to the concentration.

For policies governing all undergraduate degrees, see AP.5 Undergraduate Policies.

Credit for Nontraditional Modes of Learning

The BIS program allows students to receive college credit for learning acquired through a variety of nontraditional methods indicated below. The maximum allowable credits are indicated for each category.

  • Nationally recognized exam programs such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) when the particular exam has been approved for Mason credit: See CLEP Examination for an approved list. A maximum of 45 maximum credits can be earned through exams. After matriculation, students are limited to taking and applying credits for the CLEP exam in "Information Systems and Computer Applications". Students with a qualifying score on this exam will be awarded credit for IT 104T. Students receiving credit for IT 104T must still meet the university information technology ethics requirement (see Mason Core section of this catalog). Credit for other CLEP exams awarded after matriculation may not be applied.
  • Certain university approved industry, government, or military training credits if such credits are indexed and recommended as college-level credit by the American Council on Education (ACE). To be eligible for Mason credit, training and course specifics must exactly match what is in the ACE guide and be approved for Mason credit. The specific credits must also be approved by the program director and the dean. A maximum of 45 credits can be earned through ACE-approved training. A maximum of 60 total combined credits can be accepted for exams and ACE-approved training. For example, if 45 credits are accepted by ACE-approved training, a maximum of 15 credits can be accepted for exams. Students may not take these courses for credit once they have matriculated at Mason.
  • Experiential learning demonstrated by portfolios through NVCC and TESC (30 maximum credits). Study Elsewhere requests for portfolio credit are subject to approval by the program director and the dean.
  • College-level credit earned at institutions accredited by Mason-recognized U.S. institutional accrediting agencies subject to approval by the program director and the dean. These credits can only be considered if the institution is listed in Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education published by ACE (30 maximum credits) and only if they are taken before the student matriculates at Mason.

Students may not pursue credit for options 1, 2, and 4 once they have matriculated at Mason. Although the types of credit noted above may be applied to a bachelor of individualized study degree, if a BIS student changes majors, credit awarded in these ways cannot be used toward other majors. These nontraditional credits are not transferable to other degree programs at Mason.

Banner Code: LA-BIS-INDV

Degree Requirements 

Total credits: minimum 120

Students should be aware of the specific policies associated with this program, located on the Admissions & Policies tab.

Students pursuing a bachelor of individualized study degree must complete four required courses and one concentration.

Core Courses in the Major

Students must complete each of the four core courses with a minimum grade of 2.00.

BIS 300Understanding Interdisciplinary Studies3
BIS 301Adult Learner Transition3
BIS 390The Research Process3
or BIS 391 The Research Process for Honors
BIS 490RS: Senior Project (Mason Core)4
Total Credits13

In BIS 390 The Research Process (or BIS 391 The Research Process for Honors for students pursuing honors in the major), students develop a project proposal. An approved proposal from BIS 390 or BIS 391 is a prerequisite to enroll in BIS 490.

In BIS 490, students complete a senior capstone project that varies according to the individual program of study. It may be an investigative or creative project, and must be appropriate to the student's interdisciplinary concentration. This course requires significant writing and fulfills the Mason Core synthesis requirement. It is a research intensive course designated RS by OSCAR. The project is evaluated by the BIS 490 instructor in consultation with the student's research mentor and others as determined by the BIS staff.

BIS 490 is taken when no more than 6 credits remain in the concentration.

Concentrations in the Major

Students must complete one concentration of a minimum of 30 credits. Of the credits applied to the concentration, at least 15 credits must be at the 300 level or above. The total credits applied to the concentration must represent a minimum GPA of 2.00.

Individualized Concentration (IND)

Students may do an individualized concentration to meet their own academic needs and interests. The concentration is developed in close consultation with BIS staff. Students may incorporate into their individualized concentrations up to 15 credits of previously earned college course work or previously earned nontraditional credit from other institutions. In addition to the 4 core courses, students complete a minimum of 21 credits.

Select a minimum of 21 credits from a minimum of two disciplines21
Four core courses13
Total Credits34

Concentration in Education Studies (ESTU)

This concentration offers students holding a Northern Virginia Community College associate's degree in applied science in early childhood development the opportunity to obtain a BIS in education studies. This concentration does not earn a teaching license in early childhood education, but can lead to a graduate-level licensure program at Mason.

Admission Requirements

Students are eligible for this concentration if they have an associate's degree in applied science in early childhood development. Unlike the individualized concentration, there is no age restriction regarding admission into this BIS concentration.

Optional Self-Selected Minor

Select 15-23 credits of self-selected minor15-23
Total Credits15-23

Mason Core

BIS students complete a modified Mason Core program of 37 credits. The Mason Core requirements may include courses not listed here; consult the BIS program for more information. Courses used to meet the Mason Core requirements can be used to meet a requirement for a concentration.

English Composition
ENGH 101Composition (Mason Core)3
ENGH 302Advanced Composition (Mason Core)3
Total Credits6
Select three courses from the following:9
Any course from a foreign language department
Total Credits9

Except for ENGH 100 Composition for Multilingual Writers (Mason Core), ENGH 101 Composition (Mason Core), ENGH 302 Advanced Composition (Mason Core) 


Except for PHIL 173 Logic and Critical Thinking, PHIL 376 Symbolic Logic

Social and Behavioral Science
Select three courses from the following:9
Introduction to African American Studies (Mason Core)
Business and Society (Mason Core)
Conflict and Our World (Mason Core)
Human Dimensions in Conservation (Mason Core)
Perspectives on Achievement Motivation (Mason Core)
Disability in American Culture (Mason Core)
Introduction to Education: Teaching, Learning and Schools (Mason Core)
Disability in American Culture (Mason Core)
Stress and Well-Being (Mason Core)
Individual and Family Development (Mason Core)
Introduction to Health Behavior (Mason Core)
Inquiry for Action: Facilitating Change (Mason Core)
Law and Justice (Mason Core)
Social Movements and Community Activism (Mason Core)
Introduction to Childhood Studies (Mason Core)
Issues in Family Relationships (Mason Core)
Contemporary Youth Studies (Mason Core)
Parent-Child Relations (Mason Core)
The Nonprofit Sector (Mason Core)
Environmental Justice (Mason Core)
Poverty, Wealth and Inequality in the US (Mason Core)
Gender Representation in Popular Culture (Mason Core)
Social Justice and Human Rights (Mason Core)
Food Systems and Policy (Mason Core)
Social Justice Education (Mason Core)
Critical Race Studies (Mason Core)
Representations of Race (Mason Core)
Introduction to Social Work (Mason Core)
Spanish in the United States (Mason Core)
Women and Tourism (Mason Core)
Foundations for Building a Just Society (Mason Core)
Introduction to Women and Gender Studies (Mason Core)
Introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies (Mason Core)
Total Credits9

Except for GGS 102 Physical Geography (Mason Core) and GGS 309 Introduction to Weather and Climate

Mathematics or Statistics
Select one course from the following:3
Quantitative Reasoning (Mason Core) (or any MATH course above 106)
Introductory Statistics I (Mason Core)
Total Credits3
Information Technology
Select one from the following:3
Work, Technology, and Society: An IT Perspective (Mason Core)
Digital Design Studio (Mason Core)
New Media in the Creative Arts (Mason Core)
Computing for Scientists (Mason Core)
Principles of Computing (Mason Core)
Introduction to Computer Programming (Mason Core)
Introduction to Computing for Digital Systems Engineering (Mason Core)
Integrating Technology in PreK-6 (Mason Core)
Research Methods and Analysis (Mason Core)
The Digital Past (Mason Core)
Inquiry for Action: Facilitating Change (Mason Core)
Digital Literacy (Mason Core)
Introduction to Computing (Mason Core)
Introduction to Business Information Systems (Mason Core)
Music in Computer Technology (Mason Core)
Introduction to Computer Methods in Physics (Mason Core)
Social Surveys and Attitude and Opinion Measurements (Mason Core)
Introduction to Computing for Digital Systems Engineering (Mason Core)
The following must be taken in sequence:
Statistics in Psychology
Research Methods in Psychology
Total Credits3
Natural Science
Select any 3-4 credit non lab or lab course from the following:3-4
Introduction to Biological Anthropology (Mason Core)
Introduction to Computational and Data Sciences (Mason Core)
Introduction to Computational and Data Sciences Lab (Mason Core)
Conservation Theory
Great Ideas in Science (Mason Core)
Principles of Forensic Science (Mason Core)
Physical Geography (Mason Core)
Dynamic Atmosphere and Hydrosphere (Mason Core)
Introduction to Weather and Climate
Human Creativity: Science and Art (Mason Core)
Sustainable World (Mason Core)
Introduction to Conservation Studies (Mason Core)
Science in the News (Mason Core)
The Mysteries of Migration: Consequences for Conservation (Mason Core)
Field-Based Work
Conservation Biology (Mason Core)
Conservation Behavior (Mason Core)
Contemporary Health: Intersections in Science and Society (Mason Core)
Introduction to Neuroscience (Mason Core)
Introduction to Nutrition (Mason Core)
How Science Works (Mason Core)
Total Credits3-4
Synthesis Course
BIS 490RS: Senior Project (Mason Core)4
Total Credits4

Additional Electives

Any remaining credits may be completed with electives to bring the degree total to 120.

Honors in the Major

Highly-qualified students may apply to graduate with honors in the major. Students should apply the semester before they intend to enroll in BIS 390 The Research Process. If accepted, students must complete BIS 391 The Research Process for Honors in place of BIS 390 The Research Process, in addition to an individualized section of BIS 490 RS: Senior Project (Mason Core). To graduate with honors in the major, students must complete these two courses with a minimum GPA of 3.50, maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.75, and successfully present their research during the Senior Project presentations (by earning a grade of 2.0 or better in BIS 490 RS: Senior Project (Mason Core))

The accelerated master's programs below specify the individualized study BIS as a feeder degree for their programs. Many other accelerated master's programs are also available for any bachelor's degree at Mason. See the full list of degrees with accelerated programs at Mason.

Individualized Study, BIS/Applied Information Technology, Accelerated MS


Highly-qualified students in the Individualized Study, BIS have the option of obtaining an accelerated Applied Information Technology, MS.

For more detailed information, see AP.6.7 Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Degrees. For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Application Requirements

Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions. Mason undergraduate students in the BIS Program can apply in the semester in which they will have completed 90 or more credits (including 15 Mason resident credits) applicable toward the BIS. Students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.30 to apply to the program.

Reserve Graduate Credit

Students may take up to 6 additional graduate credits as reserve graduate credit. These credits do not apply to the undergraduate degree. The ability to take courses for reserve graduate credit is available to all high achieving undergraduates with the permission of the department. Permission to take a graduate course for reserve graduate credit is normally granted only to Mason seniors within 15 hours of graduation.

To apply these credits to the master's degree, students must request that the credits be moved from the undergraduate degree to the graduate degree using the Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Transition Form.

Accelerated Option Requirements

Students in the accelerated master's option must maintain a minimum 3.30 GPA in the undergraduate segment until they have satisfied all requirements for the BIS degree. On completion and conferral of the undergraduate degree they submit the Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Transition Form and are admitted to graduate status.

As graduate students, accelerated master's students have an advanced standing. Students must complete all credits that satisfy requirements of the BIS program and those of the MSAIT program, with two courses overlapping from the courses necessary to earn the BIS with a concentration IND (individualized), applied information technology emphasis as listed below.

AIT 524Database Management Systems3
AIT 542Fundamentals of Computing Platforms3
Total Credits6

Individualized Study, BIS/Telecommunications, Accelerated MS


Highly-qualified students in the Individualized Study, BIS have the option of obtaining an accelerated Telecommunications, MS.

For more detailed information, see AP.6.7 Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Degrees. For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Admission Requirements

Students in the Individualized Study, BIS program may apply for this option if they have earned 75 undergraduate credits (including 15 Mason resident credits) with an overall GPA of at least 3.00. Criteria for admission are identical to criteria for admission to the Telecommunications, MS program.

Accelerated Option Requirements

Students must complete all requirements for the BIS and MS programs, with 6 credits overlap.

Students select TCOM courses from the list below to meet the requirements of the accelerated program. Six credits of TCOM courses will be applied to meet the requirements of both the BIS and MS TCOM programs. An additional three credits of TCOM courses is required for the BIS Individualized Concentration (IND) with emphasis on telecommunication. Note that accelerated students can only take the courses in the list below if they passed the listed prerequisite course with a B or higher.

BIS Concentration

Total credits: 34-46

Students who are pursuing the Individualized Study, BIS, Individualized concentration (IND) with an emphasis on telecommunications must take:

Select an additional 500-level TCOM course(s) from the list below3
BIS 300Understanding Interdisciplinary Studies3
BIS 390The Research Process3
BIS 490RS: Senior Project (Mason Core)4
ECE 301Digital Electronics3
IT 341Data Communications and Network Principles3
TCOM 500Modern Telecommunications3
Select additional courses related to telecommunication 19-21
Total Credits31-43

Telecommunications Courses

TCOM 500Modern Telecommunications3
TCOM 535The TCP/IP Suite of Internet Protocols3
TCOM 608Optical Communications Systems3
TCOM 631Voice Over IP3


Accelerated students who have passed IT 341 Data Communications and Network Principles with a grade of B or higher will not be required to take TCOM 535 in the Telecommunications, MS core. Other TCOM courses may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

See each course for individual prerequisite requirements.

Degree Conferral

Students must apply the semester before they expect to complete the BIS requirements to have the BIS degree conferred. In addition, at the beginning of the student's final undergraduate semester, students must complete a Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Transition form that is submitted to the Office of the University Registrar and the VSE Graduate Admissions Office. At the completion of MS requirements, a master's degree is conferred.

Program Outcomes

  1. Students create an interdisciplinary concentration of study focused on their professional, personal needs and synthesize knowledge gained from their coursework.
  2. Students develop a foundation of knowledge from research-based academic study within their chosen concentration.
  3. Students develop their research, critical analysis and academic writing skills to create a senior capstone interdisciplinary research project.  Student advance their academic skills for learning in preparation of furthering their professional growth or continuation into graduate-level degree and certificate programs.