Understanding College Credit Requirements: How Many Credits Do You Need to Graduate?

Understanding college credit requirements is essential for any student working towards a degree. Most colleges require the same amount of credits to graduate as other colleges, but this can depend on the school, program, and type of degree you are pursuing.

Most undergraduate programs require around 120-128 credits to earn a Bachelor’s degree, while graduate programs may range from 30-90 additional credits. While this number is an estimate, it’s important to research and confirm the number of credits needed for graduation with your academic advisor or institution before enrolling in classes.

This article will elaborate on all things college credits, starting from the definition to the requirements to the types of degrees you can earn!

So, let’s proceed to answer the question: How many credits to graduate college are required in the United States?

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What Are College Credits?

College credits are units of measurement used by colleges and universities to evaluate the student’s progress through the school program. Undergraduates always ask how many credits do you need to graduate college before enrolling in the university of their dreams.

Credits indicate how much coursework has been completed, with each credit generally representing a single course or semester-long class. Credits may sometimes represent multiple classes, internships, or various extracurricular learning opportunities.

Most schools assign a certain number of credits to each course, and the answer to how many credits to graduate college will depend on which school you are attending. If you are wondering how many college credits do you need to graduate, know that these credits are gathered through doing different courses in the school.

Courses taken for college credit are typically at the undergraduate level and involve a combination of lectures, readings, research, and exams. The number of credits earned may vary from one school to another, so it is important to know the credit requirements of any institution you consider attending.

Types of College Credits

College credits are earned when a student finishes a course. Each degree program has different college credit hour requirements. There are different types of college credits depending on the courses the student takes. To graduate, students need a particular number of all three credits, including elective, general education, and major!

General Education Requirements

The general education requirements demand half or 60 credits to earn a Bachelor’s degree. The courses studied through general education are usually connected to humanities and sciences, like natural science, social science, etc.

General education requirements try to strengthen critical thinking, analytics, research, etc. Many specialized schools have different core requirements, for example, nurses will study natural science while business students will take communication courses.

Major Requirements

Undergraduates choose major requirements to focus their studies. The major’s program grants 30-34 credits, and they come from lower-division and upper-division courses. Some courses that just introduce students to a new field may also count as part of their major.

Elective Requirements

Electives are essential because they are the remaining credits required to graduate college. They are chosen based on students’ professional aspirations, connected interests, goals, etc. Through electives, students usually explore new fields, and they are most popular with transfer students.

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Credit Requirements for Graduation

Many students don’t know that the answer to how many college credits do you need to graduate, and how many credits is a Bachelor’s degree is different. The US graduation credit requirements vary depending on the program, the institution and degree you are pursuing.

Students must complete around 120-128 credits for most undergraduate programs to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Graduate programs may require anywhere from 30-90 additional credits. Double-checking is important since 10% of colleges can require either 124 credits, while 15% may require 128 credits.

As mentioned, credit requirements are categorized into general education, major, minor, and elective classes. Each school sets the minimum credit requirement for each division, but undergraduates usually cross paths with all of them.

Students typically dedicate half of their credits to general education classes, a quarter to major and/or minor, and a quarter to electives. Often, departments allow undergraduates to complete several courses so they can accomplish the minimum GPA before declaring a major. It’s worth noting that general education and major requirements together make up about 100 credits.

Factors That Affect Credit Requirements

Certain factors that affect college credit requirements, including:

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  • The type of degree program – Some fields require taking more credits to complete. For example, a Bachelor’s in Education may require fewer credits than a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering since it typically has more technical and advanced courses.
  • The course difficulty level – An upper-level course like calculus may be worth more credits than a lower-level course like basic algebra.
  • The policies of an institution – Schools usually require a minimum number of credits from each category for students to graduate. Each school has its standards for accepting transfer or Advanced Placement credits. Students must understand each school’s credit requirements before enrolling to ensure their graduation goals are met.

Types of College Degrees

The credit requirements will greatly depend on the college degree you seek. To better understand each type of degree and what requirements are needed, let’s take a closer look at each.

Associate Degree

You can earn an Associate degree with fewer credits than a Bachelor’s degree, and the process typically takes about two years. These are good options for students who want to get a basic understanding of their field without investing four years in higher education. Professional certificates or diplomas are also available and are usually taken by students to develop more specific professional skills.

The number of college credits for an Associate degree varies depending on the offered program and the institution. Generally, students should expect to take 60-65 credits, with some programs having more or fewer credits. These credits are usually divided into general education courses, major-specific classes, and elective courses related to the student’s interests or career goals.

Bachelor’s Degree

The most common type of college degree is the Bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years to complete. Bachelor’s are offered in various fields and are usually the first step toward higher education. It usually involves general education courses, major-specific classes, and elective courses related to students’ interests or career goals. So, how many credits do you need to graduate college with a Bachelor’s degree?

For Bachelor’s degrees, most schools require students to earn between 120-128 credits to graduate. This will include general education, major-specific classes and electives that students can choose based on their particular interests and goals. Some schools accept transfer or Advanced Placement credits, which could reduce the number of credits needed to complete a degree.

Master’s Degree

It typically requires two additional years of graduate-level education upon completing a Bachelor’s degree. This degree is usually required for high-level functions and positions in business, medicine, law, politics, etc. It allows students to take more specialized courses and get a deeper understanding of the chosen field.

How many credits for Master’s do you need? Earning a master’s degree usually requires between 30-36 additional credit hours after completing an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree. You’ll need to take more specialized courses to deepen your understanding of the field of study. It’s a degree designed to prepare students for higher-level positions.

Doctoral Degree

A Doctoral degree is the most advanced educational degree offered by universities. These typically take five to seven years to complete, require significant research, and culminate in a dissertation or final project. Doctoral programs are highly specialized and focus on a specific field of study.

Earning a Doctoral degree requires acquiring the most credits of any degree type. To graduate, doctoral students must complete between 90-120 additional credit hours on top of the credits of an undergraduate degree. Doctoral courses are highly specialized and focus on one particular field, such as computer science or foreign language studies.

Credit Requirements Differ for Different Majors

Now that we learned how many credits do you need to graduate, we should also note that credit requirements may differ between majors because of the specialized nature of certain fields. For instance, a business student will typically need to take courses focused on economics and finance, whereas a nurse or teacher may require classes in psychology or education.

Unlike engineering majors that focus on technicalities, business students need to focus more on developing skills like marketing, accounting, operation management, etc. As such, they may need to take more credits in the business field than other students in order to complete their degree.

Strategies for Meeting Credit Requirements

Meeting credit requirements may demand some strategizing on your part. We prepared a few tips to help you plan and manage the college credits.

  • Do thorough research on the courses required for a particular major
  • Determine the courses to take first and the order in which to complete them
  • How many credits to graduate are needed in total
  • Take advantage of electives that may fit your interests and goals and can be added to your credit effortlessly
  • It’s crucial to keep track of their credits, those that remain and those they intend to take
  • Utilize a course planner or tracking system to help you stay organized and meet credit requirements for graduation

Finally, it is helpful to create a timeline for completing college credits to make sure that everything is done in time. This timeline should include expected deadlines for course assignments, projects and any exams.

Strategies to Earn College Credits Faster

Think about the strategy needed to meet those college credit requirements faster. Here are some options you may find helpful:

  • Take classes over the summer and use the summer to fit more credits in a shorter time.
  • Look for classes that offer accelerated learning or where you can work on a project in one semester instead of taking a longer class.
  • Take the Advanced Placement (AP) exam to get college credits in a single semester and you can count it within your college credit.
  • Check if your college provides online programs and classes with flexible scheduling and allows you to earn credits at your pace.

Tracking College Credits

There are a variety of resources available to help students track their progress toward meeting credit requirements for graduation. One is a course planner or tracking system. It allows students to view the courses taken and see any remaining credits that need to be completed. This will help them plan accordingly for when they must complete certain exams.

Many universities offer online systems that allow tracking coursework and college credits. These systems usually allow students to view their academic history, track their progress, and estimate when they may graduate.

Finally, there are a variety of apps available on mobile devices which allow students to easily keep track of their college credits. These apps usually include features such as reminders for upcoming assignments, course planners for organizing coursework, and credit trackers that allow students to quickly see their progress.

Examples of Credit Requirements at Different Colleges

At the University of Washington, students must complete a minimum of 180 quarter credits to earn an undergraduate degree. This includes coursework, research projects, fieldwork, internships, or other activities approved by the school. Additionally, students must meet certain major and general university requirements.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), students must complete a minimum of 128 semester credits to earn an undergraduate degree. This includes coursework, internships, research projects, and other activities by the school. MIT has specific requirements for each major that students must meet to graduate since it’s a technical college.


By understanding how many credits do you need to graduate college, you can make a well-informed decision about when and how to pursue your college degree. To get the credits for graduation faster, you must take advantage of flexible scheduling options, such as night and weekend classes and online courses. Use the advantage of these options and customize your course load to better fit your lifestyle or work schedule.

Create a progress tracking plan. If you incorporate all of these, you can get all the credits and enroll in any college you want hassle-free!

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