How Many Credits Do You Need To Graduate College?

To graduate college, you need to earn credits where the number varies with each degree. In this article, you'll learn how many credits do you need to graduate.

Updated by Ipsita Meher on 13th October 2020

For all the high schoolers who have joined college for the very first time, the college credit system can be very confusing. Students often have the question of how many classes one needs to study and how many study hours one needs to complete. 

You need to earn 60 credits to graduate in an associate's degree, 120 credits for a bachelor's degree, 36 to 54 semester credits for a master's degree. However, the number of credits can largely depend on the type of program you choose.

Well, in this article we shall discuss all that you need to know about the college credit system.

What are college credits?

College credits are the measurement standards of a student’s proficiency. It measures how much effort one puts to complete a course in one semester. It is calculated by the number of hours one has devoted, which is usually a period of 15 weeks.  

1 college credit represents approximately 1 hour spent in a classroom and 2 hours spent on homework each week.

So, simply

1 hour of Class + 2 hours of Homework *15 Weeks = 1 Credit 

In general, the single-semester courses are of 3 credits. If you consider 3 hours will give you 1 credit then 9 hours will be needed to get 3 credits. You need to get 15 credits to get a graduation degree. 15 credits will mostly consist of 5 courses. So you need to study 45 hours per week. 

How many credits do I need for a bachelor’s degree?

In a nutshell, you need to complete 40 classes during your bachelor’s degree to get a credit score of 120. But it is not as simple as it looks here. 

There are a lot of terms and conditions attached to it. 

This does not mean that you can attend any 40 classes or lectures and can register in any 40 subjects and will get a bachelor’s degree. What kind of courses you should choose: how many hours of study hours and lectures are devoted to those particular courses are very important. 


Courses you need to finish to get a bachelor degree

You cannot choose any course that you feel you should choose. Colleges make sure that you get knowledge of liberal art which includes basic math, history, science, and writing courses. It is a structured course and you need to choose your course carefully and devote the required amount of academic hours accordingly. 

Bachelor’s degrees are divided into 3 basic sections and these are:

1. General Education Requirements

Colleges want their students to have a basic knowledge of all subjects. So they want students to take up to 60 credits of low-level courses. Here you are given a choice of choosing a few courses according to your interest, but you have to pick subjects from whatever the college is offering you. Here in the table below is the list of few subjects that you will find in general.

Core Requirements

Credits allocated 

English Composition


Literature and Rhetoric 








Science and technology


Virtual and performing arts


Global culture


Cultural diversity 


Ethics and Leadership


General Education Electives


Total hours 


As per the table given above,  you will need 6 credits in history. The college has allocated 6 credits to history and similarly for other subjects. But college does not impose on you which particular history subject you should study. You can study Western Civilization, American History, or History of the Vietnam War. It is up to you. If you have completed 6 credits then you are on the eligible list. 

2. Free Electives

This is the best part of having a graduation degree. Any graduate college gives you the freedom to choose elective subjects worth 30 credits. It has nothing to do with your majors or specialization. Irrespective of your major or specialization you can choose a subject of your own choice and explore your area of interest. 

3. Area of Study

The area of study means the area where you specialize. In this section, you will have a whole number of subjects with respect 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 then this is how your area of study looks like.

Area of Study: Psychology


Introduction to psychology


Research in experimental psychology


Social Psychology


History and Systems of Psychology


History and systems of psychology


Psychological psychology


Abnormal Psychology




Ethics in social sciences


Psychology Electives 


Liberal arts capstone 


Total Hours 


In the table given above, you can find something called “Psychology electives” 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. 

How Important is it to complete these many credits and hours?

Well, it is very important for a student to complete the expected number of credits and the number of study hours as well, failing in this will lead to starting your graduation all over again. In the US, education system credits are given a lot of weightage and if you want to finish college early with good grades and distinction then you need to pay attention to credits and have to work on credits really carefully. 


The bottom line or the conclusion is, approximately you need to complete 120 credit hours or 130 credit hours in order to get your bachelor’s degree. 120 credit is the minimum requirement for most of the degrees, though these credits are different for different degrees. In college education, you cannot afford to lose credit because your grades are based on your credits. So, yes keep in mind the number of credits you need to graduate college and come out of college with flying colors and a very good GPA.