Ask a Professor: How Many Credits Do You Need to Graduate College?

  • Colleges have distinct credit requirements for main classes, general education courses, and electives.
  • Full-time college students in the U.S. generally take 12–18 credits every semester.
  • The kind of degree you’re seeking will also influence how many credits you need to complete your program.


How Many Credits Do You Need for a Bachelor’s Degree?


A regionally recognized university needs a minimum of 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree. Certain colleges need more. A study of credit requirements indicated that 10% of programs required 124 credits, and 15% required 128 credits, for instance.


Credit requirements are broken down by major, minor, optional, & general education courses at colleges. Undergraduates normally allocate around half of their credits to general education courses, a quarter to their major, or a quarter to electives or a minor. However, each institution has minimum credit requirements for each category.


General Education Requirements


General education requirements, often referred to as distribution or core requirements, generally account for around 60 credits, or about half, of the courses needed to get a bachelor’s degree.


These mandatory courses often improve students’ analytical, writing, research, and critical thinking abilities. A wide range of courses, including those in the humanities, social sciences, & scientific sciences, are often available to students to fulfill these criteria.


The general education requirements may vary somewhat for majors, not in the liberal arts. A business student may enroll in fundamental business and communication courses, while a nursing major might enroll in math and natural science classes. Engineering schools sometimes impose their general education requirements.


Major Requirements


Undergraduates choose a major to direct their academic efforts. Students often enroll in 30-36 credits within their major, including lower- and upper-division courses. Students may also include general education courses that expose them to a field toward their major. Before declaring a major, several departments require undergrads to pass courses with a minimum GPA.


Depending on the institution, a senior project, internship, and thesis may also be included in the major curriculum.




Typically, a major and general education requirements total less than 100 credits. The remaining credits needed to graduate from college are made up of electives. Electives are chosen by students depending on their interests and career objectives. Students may study new fields with the aid of electives.


Transfer students may receive elective credits for courses completed at other institutions. Colleges search for the closest comparable course at their school when determining transfer credits. The number of transfer credits that students may use to get their degree is capped by the schools.


Minor vs. Double Major


Students can pursue a minor or double major rather than packing their schedule with electives. Minors usually call for 15 credits, and a second major requires an additional 30-36 credits. Undergraduates on a double major should plan to stay under the minimum requirement of 120 credits.


How Many Credits Do You Need for an Associate Degree?


Associate degrees are generally less expensive than bachelor’s degrees, allowing transfer students to save money while fulfilling their general education requirements.


A minimum of 60 credits are normally needed to get an associate’s degree. While most colleges that give bachelor’s degrees adhere to the 120-credit standard, associate programs may differ greatly. Most associate degrees need at least 65 credits, with just 15% requiring precisely 60.


Many two-year schools and four-year universities have articulation agreements, which allow graduates with an associate degree to transfer to a four-year university and obtain credit for the general education requirements for a bachelor’s degree.


How Many Credits Do You Need for a Master’s Degree?


A regionally recognized institution needs a minimum of 30 credits for a master’s degree. However, different credits are needed to receive a degree, depending on the program.


While an MBA or MSN may need more than 50 hours, many M.A. and M.S. programs only call for 36 credits. Graduate students often gain credits to their degrees by attending multidisciplinary seminars, doing independent studies, and working on a master’s thesis.


Credits and College Graduation


Although regionally accredited institutions have the same minimum requirements, each college sets its credit requirements. Additionally, bear in mind that while the majority of colleges in the United States operate on a semester system, some do so as well. A bachelor’s degree requires 180 credits for undergraduates using the quarter system.


College students must complete their graduation requirements and accumulate 120 credits to graduate. To ensure they fulfill all requirements on time, students should meet with an academic advisor before planning their course schedule.


Ultimately, a single visit might prevent you from making the same mistake I did and sign up for 30 credits at once.

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