Completing a calculus course can be a requirement for a wide variety of college majors, from chemistry to computer science to business. Knowing the prerequisite classes, from algebra to pre-calculus, for enrollment in a calculus course can help you ensure your course scheduling stays on target for an efficient degree completion.


Calculus requires a strong working knowledge of the principles of algebra, sometimes offered as a single course but often subdivided into algebra I and algebra II, or intermediate algebra and college algebra. In addition to solving equations, and simplifying fractions and polynomials, your algebra coursework should reinforce the principles of functions, their evaluation and their different forms, such as linear, quadratic or radical. In addition, you should gain knowledge of graphs, including how to read data points when assembled on a plane, the significance of domain and range, and how functions can be applied graphically. Some universities offer a combined algebra and pre-calculus accelerated course, which can help you complete your calculus prerequisites more quickly.


A course in trigonometry may also be required, particularly if the calculus course you wish to take is combined with a study of analytic geometry. Such courses introduce the principles of trigonometry, including trigonometric functions, identities and parametric equations.


Also required is a course in pre-calculus, which develops the basic skills needed for a future calculus course. In addition to reviewing functions and algebraic operations, pre-calculus courses advance your knowledge of logarithms and trigonometry, while familiarizing you with graphing calculators. Mastery of pre-calculus concepts is essential prior to advancing to calculus studies.

Additional Considerations

You can bypass some of these prerequisite courses if you’ve received an adequate score, typically a three or above, on an Advanced Placement Calculus exam in high school. Some universities offer a calculus survey course designed for students not majoring in math that requires only four years of preparatory math from high school or pre-calculus. Other schools offer a business calculus track, which allows you to enroll in business calculus after you complete college algebra or a business math course. Math majors will have to continue their calculus education past calculus I to include levels II, III and IV, which serve as prerequisites for upper-level major courses.