Understanding how many credits you will need to graduate college is essential for planning your next several years in school. It seems like a simple query. But then you start scouring the internet for costs and credit requirements. And you begin to notice that these figures are not consistent across all colleges. In fact, different universities may have different requirements. And the number of credits you need to graduate might differ even across various programs at the same school. Are you confused yet? Don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place.
This article will investigate how many credits you need to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree. And we’ll also discuss the required credits for earning a master’s degree.
We’ll also have a look at five of the top colleges in the United States. This should give you a general idea of what to expect when searching for how many college credits you need to graduate. Additionally, we’ll share tuition costs and some information about each school.
Remember that colleges and universities regularly update their tuition prices and policies. So be sure to bookmark the links we have included throughout the article to remain up-to-date.
How Many Credits Does It Take to Get a College Degree?
Credits Needed to Graduate From College
So how many credits do you need to graduate college? First, you need to have an idea of what major you want to pursue. That’s because your degree program will determine how many credits you will need to graduate college.
This chart lists how many credit hours are needed for each degree level.
How Many Credit Hours Do You Need to Graduate College?
|Associate Degree Programs||60 credit hours|
|Bachelor’s Degree Programs||120 credit hours|
|Master’s Degree Programs||36-54 credit hours|
|Doctoral Degree Programs||90-120 credit hours|
Associate Degree: As we’ve listed above, you’ll need 60 credits to graduate college in two years with an associate degree. An associate degree can help you jumpstart your education or pursue entry level professional positions. An associate degree comes before a bachelor’s degree. Associate degree programs can be found at community colleges and some four-year universities.
Bachelor’s Degree: On average, a bachelor’s degree requires you to complete 120 credits. However, this can differ slightly, with some schools requiring more or fewer credits, depending on the bachelor’s degree program. So to be safe, most degree programs require 120 credits to graduate with your bachelor’s degree.
Many students want to know how many credits to graduate college in 2 years. It is sometimes possible (especially with online programs) to earn your degree in two to three years through an accelerated degree program. However, you’ll still need to earn the same 120 credits.
It gets a little tricky when it comes to the credits needed for a graduate degree.
Master’s Degree: Earning your master’s degree can require you to earn anywhere between 36 to 54 credits. This is a wide range. So if you want to know how many credits you need for an online graduate degree program, you’ll need to do some digging. Usually, the credits required for an individual degree program is listed on the program’s page of the college website. If you cannot find this data there, you’ll need to contact the school.
Doctoral Degrees: The credits needed for an online (or on-campus) doctoral degree also can vary quite a bit. Like a master’s degree, you’ll need to check the individual program to learn the requirements. However, the average credits required range from 90 to 120. And in most cases, college students will also need to complete a thesis.
The number of Courses
Most credit hours are assigned to courses according to the number of credits they include. This, too, can get confusing. Traditionally, classes meet for approximately one hour per credit hour over a 16-week semester. And you will usually attend class three times each week, so this would be three credits. You can imagine this gets even more complex if you have a double major.
However, with today’s online learning options, these numbers can vary considerably. You might not be going to a one-hour class in person. Instead, you could be earning college credit doing coursework online and on your own schedule. Therefore, the best thing to do is research each individual program to determine the number of credits you will need to graduate and earn your college degree. With most schools, you’ll need a combination of general education courses and those related to your major.
When pursuing a bachelor’s degree, your university will require you to choose a major. Your chosen major is where you will earn most of your credits. The remaining credits will usually go toward other required courses or general electives.
As you can see, asking “how many credits do you need to graduate college?” can elicit many answers. And some of them are not very straightforward. Moreover, the answers can differ depending on the source.
Plus, the requirements needed to graduate can vary widely, depending on your program of study and the school you choose to attend.
College Credit Requirements from Five Top Universities
This next section looks at some popular colleges to explore details like tuition and credits needed for a bachelor’s degree. We will also briefly touch upon each school’s master’s programs.
The prices listed are found through NCES College Navigator. For each school, we’ve listed in-state tuition costs for one academic year. This does not include fees and expenses like books, housing, and other charges.
|College||Average In-State Tuition|
|University of Chicago||$62,241|
|University of Pennsylvania||$61,710|
|University of California, Berkeley||$14,226|
|Texas State University||$11,860|
University of Chicago
The American Baptist Education Society founded the University of Chicago in 1890. Also known as UChicago or U of C, it serves as a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. You will find this institution of higher learning’s main campus in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
University of Chicago Tuition Cost
The tuition cost for full-time college students seeking a bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago is $62,241. The tuition to enroll in their master’s degree programs vary by which research division you choose.
University of Chicago Bachelor’s Credit Requirements
Instead of credits, the University of Chicago uses “units” to measure course degree requirements. For reference, one unit (100) equals 3 1/3 semester hours (five quarter hours). Courses with greater or lesser unit values (150 or 050) carry more or fewer quarter or semester credit hours.
The University of Chicago requires a total of 42 100-unit courses for graduation. Fifteen courses are for general education and 27 for your chosen major and electives.
Bachelor’s degree candidates are required to take a range of courses. First, there is general education (Core), which requires 1,500 units.
Here are the areas of study for general education:
- Humanities: requires 600 units/six quarter courses
- Natural and Mathematical science: requires 600 units/six quarter courses
- Social Sciences: requires 300 units/three quarter courses
- General electives require 800–1,700 units
Units for language courses are usually counted toward electives. This is the case whether you earn it by course registration or petition.
Lastly, there is the major that you choose, which calls for 1,000–1,900 units. The University of Chicago offers over 50 majors to pursue.
Altogether, you need a minimum of 4,200 units of credit for an undergraduate degree. In addition, you have to earn at least 3,800 of these college credits by course enrollment instead of test-taking.
University of Chicago Master’s Credit Requirements
UChicago offers a myriad of options for graduate school. They do not specify the credits you need for each program upfront. However, they do set the time it would take to finish the programs. For example, a full-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) takes about 21 months.
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is a private Ivy League research university. It is also one of the first nine colonial colleges to be chartered before the American Declaration of Independence. It’s one of the country’s oldest schools, established in 1740.
There are 12 professional and graduate schools at the University. And the school offers many bachelor’s degree programs: Some of these include:
- Comparative Literature
- French Studies
- Political Science
- Romance Languages
- Theatre Arts
- Urban Studies
- Visual Studies
- Liberal Arts
- Business Administration
University of Pennsylvania Tuition Cost
For students seeking an undergraduate degree, the University of Pennsylvania charges $61,710 a year. These fees apply to students in and out of state. For a master’s degree at UPenn, you’ll pay around $38,734.
University of Pennsylvania Bachelor’s Credit Requirements
You will need 32 to 36 college credits for a bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania. The required credits depend on the number of units required to achieve the major. You must take a minimum number of courses, but it is never less than 12.
In addition to the major, students must generally complete 20 credits outside the major.
University of Pennsylvania Master’s Credit Requirements
Credits needed to get a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania include:
- Master of Philosophy in Education (M.Phil.Ed.): requires a minimum of six credits.
- Master of Science in Education degree: between 10–13 credits
- Counseling and Mental Health Services M.S.Ed.: requires a minimum of 10 credits
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley was established in 1868. It is California’s first land-grant research university. It’s also one of the most well-known schools in the University of California System. Moreover, this university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). UC Berkeley’s 14 schools and colleges offer students over 350 degree programs to pursue.
University of California, Berkeley Tuition
The tuition to study at the University of California, Berkeley, is $14,226. Out-of-state students must pay $29,754 as Nonresident Supplemental Tuition.
For graduate programs, UC Berkeley charges $11,442 for students in California. Out-of-state residents pay $26,544.
University of California, Berkeley Bachelor’s Credit Requirements
You will need 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley. The total credits include transfer and advanced high school credits submitted to your Berkeley record.
University of California, Berkeley Master’s Credit Requirements
The number of credits needed to earn your master’s degree at Berkeley will depend on the program. For example, To earn a Master of Social Welfare (MSW) degree, you need a minimum of 54 credits from graduate-level coursework. You must earn 25 of these credits from integrative seminars and practicum placements.
Texas State University
Texas State University is a public research university established in 1899. It is located in San Marcos, Texas. In addition to having ten colleges, the university has over 50 schools and departments. As a result, students can choose from more than 100 unique degrees and majors.
Texas State University Tuition Cost
If you are a Texas resident, you will need to pay $11,860 in tuition. If you are from out of the state, you will need to pay $22,558. The fees vary based on the certificate program or degree you pursue.
Texas State University Bachelor’s Credit Requirements
The Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry requires 120 credit hours. Thirty-six of those credits must come from advanced courses in biology and chemistry.
To obtain a bachelor’s, Texas State University requires you to complete three hours of English Literature. Moreover, you have to complete 43 hours of Computer Science courses.
The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Computer Science requires 120 credit hours. Texas State University breaks the requirements into these areas:
- Three hours of mathematics
- Three hours of English
- 36 advanced or nine hours of writing-intensive requirements
Earning a Bachelor’s in Art or Bachelor’s in Science in Psychology demands 36 credit hours of Psychology coursework. In addition, students must minor in a scientific field with nine advanced science-based hours.
Texas State University Master’s Credit Requirements
The minimum number of credits for a master’s degree program at TSU is 30, and the maximum number is 69.
Examples of other academic requirements for a couple of programs offered by Texas State include:
- Master’s in Accounting degree: required to complete 30 credit hours
- Master’s in Anthropology degree: required to complete 36 credit hours.
Britain’s King George II established Columbia University in 1754. This private, not-for-profit university is the oldest in the state of New York. The founders organized the state’s fifth-oldest higher learning institution into twenty schools—four undergraduate and 16 graduate schools.
Columbia University Tuition Cost
Undergraduate students at Columbia will pay $63,530 per academic year, regardless of residency.
Columbia University Bachelor’s Credit Requirements
Columbia has a bit of a different college credit system than most schools. Each student must earn 124 points of academic credits for a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University. On top of this credit hour requirement, you must take the Columbia College Core Curriculum to fulfill the university’s needs, which is similar to general education classes. It can be difficult to know how many credits to graduate college at Columbia. You’ll need to read the information carefully.
Columbia University Master’s Credit Requirements
Students must register for and earn 30 semester credit hours to earn each degree, plus a formal essay. Also, you could opt for completing a departmental integrative project or comprehensive examination and 32 credits.
However, if you want to pursue multiple degrees, this is where matters get more complex.
Here are some examples of minimum credit hour requirements for pursuing multiple degrees:
- Masters of Art (MA) and Masters of Science (M.S.): 60 credits
- Masters of Education (Ed.M.): and Ed.M.: 90 credits
- Master of Art and Science and Masters of Education: 60 credits
Different schools and programs have different credit hour requirements. And these can often depend on what major you choose. You can find the exact number of academic credits required to earn your desired degree on the school’s website. You can also request to speak with an admissions advisor or enrollment counselor. Any national or regionally accredited university will be happy to help you find this information.
Whether you start out with an associate degree, or you’re going back to school for your master’s degree, congratulations! You will put in a lot of effort, money, and sweat to achieve your goals. However, the payoff is worth the hardships you will face during your journey. Save this guide to help you make an informed decision when choosing which college to attend.