How Many Credits Do You Need To Graduate College?

All about how many credits you need to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.

TCM Staff

23rd October 2021

For all the high schoolers who are enrolling in college for the very first time, the college credit system can be quite confusing. Students often wonder exactly what’s required of them to complete their degree. Specifically, how many credits they need for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or how many credit hours they need to graduate. 

You need to earn 60 credits to graduate with an associate's degree, 120 credits for a bachelor's degree, and between 36 and 60 credits for a master's degree. However, the number of credits required to graduate largely depends on the type of program you choose.

What are College Credits?

College credits are the measurement standards of a student’s proficiency. It measures how much effort, time and dedication a student puts in to complete a semester, year or degree. Colleges calculate credits by the number of hours put into a course, usually over the course of 15 weeks. Usually, college credits don’t expire

One college credit represents about 1 hour spent in a classroom and 2 hours spent on homework each week throughout the course of the class. 

So, simply put: 

1 hour of class + 2 hours of homework *15 Weeks = 1 Credit 

 

How Many Credits Do I Need to Graduate College With an Associate’s Degree?

 

Entry-level professional positions often require associate degrees. While some associate’s degrees are specific to a career field, others are more broad. You usually need to dedicate 2 years of full-time study to obtain an associate’s degree, which requires 60 credits. The college credits required for an associate’s degree equal 20 courses. 

 

How Many Credits Do I Need to Graduate College With a Bachelor’s Degree?

Bachelor’s degrees take up a longer period of time than associate’s degrees or master’s degrees. So, while an associate’s degree only needs 60 credits, you might be thinking, “how many credits for a bachelor’s degree?”

You need 120 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. This is the equivalent of 40 courses. But you can’t just take any 40 classes to obtain your degree. 

There are a lot of terms and conditions attached to obtaining a credit that goes towards your bachelor’s degree. 

The credits have specific requirements depending on your program. Colleges want to ensure students obtain a well-rounded education. That’s why they require students to complete credits in various fields, such as liberal arts, basic science, writing, history, and math. Even if a student is studying a liberal arts degree, the college credit system will still require them to take at least one foundational science course, for example. 

Bachelor’s degrees are divided into 3 basic sections:

1. General Education Requirements

As mentioned, colleges want their students to have a well-rounded education, which translates to a basic knowledge of all subjects. Here in the table below is the list of general subjects:

Core Requirements

Credits allocated 

English Composition

6

Literature and Rhetoric 

6

Humanities 

6

History 

6

Mathematics 

6

Science and technology

6

Virtual and performing arts

3

Global culture

3

Cultural diversity 

3

Ethics and Leadership

3

General Education Electives

12

Total hours 

60

As per the table given above, you will need credits in various subjects. For example, you need 6 credits in history. Although you must obtain 6 credits total, colleges don’t impose a specific history course requirement on their students. There could be many different history courses that you can choose from — American history, Canadian history, History of the Vietnam War, or Russian history, for example. 

2. Free Electives

Perhaps the exciting part of your degree, your electives are courses that can be completely unrelated to a college’s general education requirements, or your major or specialization. Even if you’re studying molecular biology, you could take an ostensibly random course on the sewing industry, on the Beatles, renaissance art, business, and more. 

3. Area of Study

The area of study refers to the area in which you specialize for your degree. In this section, you will have a large number of courses and credits that are related to your major. This part of the study is more time consuming than any other part. You will be studying various subjects related to your major and you will have a lengthy and detailed syllabus. For example, if your major is psychology, your area of study might look like this: 

Area of Study: Psychology

Credits 

Introduction to psychology

3

Research in experimental psychology

3

Social psychology

6

History and systems of psychology

3

History and systems of psychology

3

Psychological psychology

3

Abnormal Psychology

3

Statistics 

3

Ethics in social sciences

3

Psychology electives 

6

Liberal arts capstone 

3

Total Hours 

39

In the table above, you’ll note “Psychology electives” is worth 6 credits. These electives are very similar to your free electives. Here you can choose any course or area of psychology which interests you, without worrying if they match another area of study requirement. 

 

 

How Many Credits Do I Need to Graduate College With a Master’s Degree?

Most master’s degrees require 1-2 years of full-time study for completion. However, the number of credits required for graduation varies depending on your area of study, and your experience in the field. 

 

Some short term, one-year master’s degrees require fewer credits. For example, a one-year psychology master’s degree requires 36 credits. Longer master’s degrees require more credits for graduation. For example, a master’s in clinic mental health counselling requires 60 credits for graduation. 

 

How Important Is It to Complete Credits and Hours?

The simple answer is that it’s very important for a student to complete a college’s expected number of credits and study hours. Failing to do so will result in an unfinished degree, which would require you to take another year or more in your college program.  

Conclusion

Fulfilling degree requirements can be stressful, especially when you think about how many credits you need to graduate college. The bottom line is that you need 120 credit hours or 130 credit hours in order to get your bachelor’s degree. 

The minimum requirement for most degrees is 120 credit hours, though these credit requirements might be different for different degrees. 

Your grades are often based on your credits, so you can’t afford to lose them! 

Keep your credit requirements in mind as you select courses each year to ensure a timely graduation. 

If you have any questions about your program’s credit requirements, you might benefit from booking some time with a college advisor.

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