How Many Credits are Needed to Graduate College?

Are you preparing to enroll in college, and wondering how many credits you will need to earn in order to graduate? The answer to this question can vary depending on a few factors, such as the degree program you are pursuing and the requirements of the college or university you attend. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about credit requirements for graduating college.


College can be an exciting time, full of new experiences and opportunities to learn and grow. But before you can walk across that stage to receive your diploma, you need to meet certain credit requirements. These requirements can vary depending on the type of degree program you are pursuing, as well as the school you attend.

What are College Credits?

College credits are a way of measuring the amount of academic work you have completed. Generally speaking, one credit is equivalent to one hour of instruction per week over the course of a semester. So if you attend a class that meets for three hours a week over the course of a 15-week semester, that class would be worth three credits.

Credit Requirements for Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Most bachelor’s degree programs require students to earn between 120 and 130 credits in order to graduate. This includes a combination of general education requirements, major-specific courses, and electives. General education requirements typically make up around 40 to 60 credits, while major-specific courses can vary widely depending on the field of study. Electives are usually used to fill in any remaining credits needed to reach the required total.

How Many Credits are Needed to Graduate College?

The simple answer is 120 credits. In reality, it’s not quite that simple (we’ll get to that in a moment). The reasons for this are a little more complicated. However, depending on the degree, there may be a requirement of 124 credits or even a bit more. Whenever you want to make sure that you are on the right track to graduate with your desired degree, you should always call your college and speak to your advisor. Having a shortfall of four credits on graduation day isn’t something you want to experience on your graduation day!

What Else Do You Need to Graduate College?

It is important to note that you will not necessarily need 120 credits as we mentioned above. It is impossible to take any number of classes in any subject, accrue 120 credits in total, and graduate in one semester. There will be specific courses you need to take – and the details will vary depending on which school you attend.

As a general rule, most colleges will require you to take a broad range of general education courses, as well as a specific major course and an elective course. In spite of this, this is not a hard and fast rule that needs to be followed. There are some schools out there that do not fit this mold at all!

General Education Classes

It is important to recognize that general education requirements, also known as Ges at some schools, are courses that are designed to help you broaden your horizons and educate yourself. Even if you decide to major in English, you will still have to take classes on everything from math to foreign languages – no matter what your major is.

It is usually possible to have a little bit of leeway here in terms of the classes you are able to take. It is likely that you will have the option of selecting from a number of different courses in History, such as Ancient Rome, American History, and Ancient Philosophy, if you are required to take a history course as part of your course requirements. There is no reason why you cannot take general education courses that interest you as well!

In order to meet your 120 credit requirement, you will need to take up to 60 credits in general education classes.

Major Requirements

You will also need to take the courses required for your major, of course. It’s likely that some of these courses will require pre-requisites that don’t necessarily relate to your major, but you can still count them towards your overall 120 credits (some might even count as General Education classes).

The exact credits that you will need along with the classes that you will need will be determined by your school. You will find that most higher education institutes have a website where you can find information about their major programs and their requirements. Although, it is important to keep in mind that these may no longer be accurate and that your department head or advisor should be able to provide you with the most up-to-date requirements for your intended major.


It is very likely that you will not be able to reach the 120 credits you need even with your major and general education coursework. Electives, as well as minors, can play a big part in this process. There is no reason why you cannot take classes that interest you, even if they don’t directly relate to your major. There is a possibility that you may even be able to earn a minor if you take enough courses in one field of study – an advantage that can also help you in your career search.

There are usually 30 electives that you can choose from when you attend college. It really depends on your area of study and what you need to do in order to fulfill that program’s requirements.

How Many Credit Hours are needed to Graduate in 4 Years?

Year in CollegeCredit Hour Requirements
Freshman0 – 30
Sophomore31 – 60
Junior61 – 90
Senior91 – 120

There is no doubt that the answer to a question such as, “How many credits do you need to graduate?” is usually 120, but the truth is that there are many other factors to consider. Please make sure that you contact your advisor as soon as possible if you have any questions about what classes you will need to take to graduate or what courses you will need to complete in order to avoid any problems with your graduation or degree.

Credit Requirements for Associate’s Degree Programs

Associate’s degree programs typically require students to earn between 60 and 70 credits. This includes general education requirements, major-specific courses (if applicable), and electives.

Credit Requirements for Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are typically shorter and more focused than degree programs, and therefore require fewer credits. Certificate programs can range anywhere from a few credits to around 60 credits, depending on the field of study.

Other Factors That Affect Credit Requirements

In addition to the type of program you are pursuing, there are other factors that can affect credit requirements. For example, some schools may require more or fewer credits for graduation, or may have specific requirements for certain majors. It is important to consult with your academic advisor to ensure you are meeting all necessary requirements for your degree program.

How to Earn College Credits

There are many ways to earn college credits, including:

  • Attending classes and completing coursework
  • Participating in internships or co-op programs
  • Completing independent study projects
  • Taking online courses
  • Participating in study abroad programs
  • Testing out of certain courses through AP exams or CLEP exams

Factors That Can Affect Time to Degree Completion

There are many factors that can affect the amount of time it takes to complete a degree program, including:

  • Working while attending school
  • Taking time off from school
  • Changing majors
  • Transferring to a different school or program
  • Failing or withdrawing from courses


Earning a college degree is a significant achievement, but it requires a lot of hard work and dedication. By understanding the credit requirements for your degree program, planning your course schedule carefully, and staying on track with your coursework, you can set yourself up for success and graduate on time.


Can you graduate college without completing all of the required credits?

No, you must complete all of the required credits in order to graduate.

Can you earn college credits outside of a traditional classroom setting?

Yes, there are many ways to earn college credits, including through internships, online courses, and testing out of certain courses.

How many credits do you need to transfer to a different school?

This can vary depending on the school and program you are transferring to. It is important to check with both your current school and the school you are transferring to in order to ensure a smooth transfer process.

How can I ensure that I am meeting all necessary credit requirements for my degree program?

Working closely with your academic advisor and staying on top of your coursework can help ensure that you are meeting all necessary credit requirements.

Can I graduate college early if I earn more credits than required?

This can vary depending on the school and program you are enrolled in. Some schools may allow early graduation for students who have completed all necessary requirements ahead of schedule.

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