If you are fresh out of high school and all set to get your first degree, then you’ve probably heard the term “College Credit Hours” being thrown around in college.

Trying to figure it out yourself can seem overwhelming, so we’re here to help! Here’s what we aim to cover to make the concept of credit hours seem less daunting:

  • What are credit hours?
  • How are credit hours really calculated?
  • How are they different from credits?
  • How many credit hours do I need to graduate?

Let’s help you figure this out!

Credit hours are the total hours you spend weekly in your college classroom (on-campus or virtual). Think of credit hours as a unit of measurement to measure the amount of time you must collectively spend in class and on additional coursework or study (the latter may often be referred to as “preparation hours”).

You may also come across the term “contact hours” – this refers to the number of hours you spend in contact with staff associated with your course/degree at your university.

While this may differ based on the university and course you opt for, usually, the rule of thumb is:
1 credit hour = 1 contact hour + 2 preparation hours (per week for a 14-week course). Credit hours are calculated for each semester, usually 14 – 16 weeks. In the general sense (for a 14-week course), 1 class/subject = approximately 3 credit hours. You’d need to devote 3 contacts and 6 prep hours per week each semester to earn the 3 credits.

However, this only concerns general classroom credit hours. Credit hours for lab work, volunteering, internships, fieldwork, and some specific programs are calculated differently based on the college and course.

You’ve probably had this question since you heard about credit hours. The truth is, there is no standard answer to this question.
There are a lot of programs that award 1 credit per completed credit hour, but not all colleges follow this pattern. While you may use it synonymously, it is best to learn how your college defines and calculates credits for the program you’ve enrolled in.

The total number of credit hours you’ll need to graduate will ultimately depend on the university and course you opt for. Typically, an associate degree needs approximately 60 credits, a bachelor’s degree will require around 120 credits, and a master’s degree could require between 30 to 60 credits.

This means that for a Bachelor’s, which usually requires 120 credits across 4 years, you must complete 30 credits each year, i.e., 15 credits per semester, which generally boils down to around 5 classes/subjects every semester.
That university’s accreditation entity generally determines the credit requirements for degree programs of a particular university/school. Schools sometimes may decide to alter credit requirements for specific programs.

Before you enroll in any course, it is good practice to check the credit hour requirements of that particular course so that you know what to expect. Determining how your college calculates credit hours from your first year is best.

For instance, if you opted for an Associate degree and wish to transfer to a 3-4 year Bachelor’s Program, you could potentially share the credits earned from your associate’s degree with your degree course.

This can save you significant resources, time, and money. To find out how many credit hours your Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s Degree requires and to figure out how to transfer your credits, you can talk to the academic counselor of your institution/course.

And well, that’s about all you need to understand about credit hours.