Des Moines Public Schools provides high school students with a rich selection of courses from which to choose. Click here for a copy of our 2023-24 course catalog. Click here to find a copy of our 2024-25 course catalog.

Some of these courses meet specific graduation requirements in areas such as social sciences, mathematics and English.

But many options are also available for electives, including a wide selection of Advanced Placement courses, foreign languages, career and technical programs, and the International Baccalaureate diploma program.

Twenty-three credits are required to graduate. The chart below highlights the graduation requirements for the Class of 2020 as well as revised requirements for the Classes of 2021 to 2024:

Social Studies

REQUIRED: US History, US Government, Economics or Microeconomics (Class of 2020 only)/Personal Financial Literacy (Classes of 2021 to 2024), and 1.0 additional credit in history (Class of 2020 only)/any social studies course (Classes of 2021 to 2024)


REQUIRED: English I, II, and English III or AP Lang and Comp, and 1.0 additional credit in English


REQUIRED:   Semester 1 and 2 of Algebra I (or higher level math course)


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:   Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science

Applied/Fine Arts 1.5
Physical Education

REQUIRED: In compliance with Iowa law, students must be enrolled in physical education at least 1 semester each year while in high school, and must complete CPR certification.

Electives 7.5


Iowa changed some of the requirements to graduate high school. The table below explains the graduation requirements that go into effect starting with the Class of 2021.

Class of 2020  Classes of 2021 to 2024  Rationale 
Economics was a required course.  Personal Financial Literacy replaces the Economics course requirement.  In compliance with new code signed into law in April 2018, all students must complete one semester of Personal Finance. Content from Economics will be included in a US Government course redesign. 
Students were required to take one additional history course to complete their social studies units.  Students can choose from any kind of social studies course to complete their required units.  State standards have shifted so that students learn early US History in eighth grade and contemporary US History in ninth grade, guaranteeing two years of history study. Opening up the final unit to other kinds of social studies promotes student choice and interest in their academic planning. 


In order to be considered on track to graduate in four years, students must meet the following credit requirements each year:

  • 6.0 credits going into Sophomore/10th grade year
  • 12.0 credits going into Junior/11th grade year
  • 18.0 credits going into Senior/12th grade year