“How many credits to graduate” is a common concern most students have when they make a university list. This is an essential step in the college exploration phase. It not only helps you explore academic options but allows you to make a list of the best undergrad business schools or institutions of other academic disciplines. To complete your undergraduate degree, you need a total of 120 credits. In this article, we’ll look at what college credits are, their types, how much you should earn each year, and more. So, let’s get started. 

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10 min read

How Many College Credits Do You Need For An Undergraduate Degree? Why Are College Credit Hours Important? What Are The Different Types Of College Credits? How Many College Credits Should You Have Each Year? Can You Transfer College Credits? What Are Key Tips For Earning College Credits? Conclusion FAQs

How Many College Credits Do You Need For An Undergraduate Degree?

When you decide to go for an undergraduate degree, you’ll probably have a few questions. If you plan on becoming a nurse, you’ll be thinking, How long is nursing school?If you want to see yourself working as a C-level executive, you’ll probably ponder upon things like “How long will business school take?”

Regardless of your ambition and choice of profession, you need to understand you’ll always need to be aware of the credits you need to graduate. For most undergraduate degrees, you’ll need a total of 120 credits to graduate.

College credits are basically an institute’s way of quantifying the amount of hours you contribute to your study. These credits are an important part of the accreditation colleges in the United States receive when they provide quality education. As someone interested in an undergraduate degree, you must know that each course you take has a predefined number of credits.

They help classify the type of education you receive, making it easier for you to secure financial aid or transfer credits if needed. However, it’s important for you to know that the number of credits varies from one course to the other and can be anywhere between one to five. The number of credits assigned to a course is determined by how many hours you’re required to spend on the course each week.

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During your undergraduate program, you’ll take a wide range of classes, each with its own set of protocols and requirements. You need to know that courses that require extensive involvement and participation will be worth more credit hours since you’ll have more classes. However, courses that don’t require more classes will generally be worth fewer credit hours.

Credits in an undergraduate degree are divided among three types of courses. Courses included in the general category would be worth around 60 credit hours.

However, courses in the majors and elective categories will be worth 30 credit hours. To complete your undergraduate degree, you’ll need to have a total of 120 credits. Most students look at this requirement, and they think that earning 120 credits will be easy. However, it’s important for you to understand that without planning, earning the required amount of credits may come with a few challenges.

Another thing you need to understand is that college credits are often used to measure your eligibility for financial aid. These requirements vary from one institute to another and are based on whether you’re a part-time or full-time student. If you’re taking a minimum of at least 12 credit hours in a semester, you are classified as a full-time student. 

Why Are College Credit Hours Important?

If you’re someone who’s interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree, you’ll need to know how credit hours work. Understanding this can help you streamline the process of going about your degree, as it’ll help you know which course you need to take and how many of them you need to take each semester.

The answer to “How many credits to graduate” might be pretty simple, but using that answer to create a plan that will help see you through your undergraduate degree is something different. College credits are essential for a number of different reasons, like transfer and financial aid eligibility.

Therefore, you need to understand the different types of college credits available before you apply to the best engineering schools in the US or institutes for any other academic disciplines.

What Are The Different Types Of College Credits?

You probably have an idea that you’ll need to have a set number of credits to earn your undergraduate degree. However, earning credits isn’t as simple as it might seem at first. What you need to know is that colleges often have different course requirements you must follow when earning credits.

College credits that are available to undergraduates are categorized into three types. As a current or future undergraduate student, what you need to know is that understanding what these types are is highly important as it can help you prepare for your academic journey. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at them in detail. 

General Credits

These credits basically come from courses that fall in the general education category. When you pursue your undergraduate degree, you’ll likely take these courses during your freshman and sophomore years. The classes you’ll take for GE credits will be introductory courses for the most part but can be a prerequisite for an advanced course.

If you are or are planning to pursue an undergraduate degree, you need to know that the total amount of GE courses you take can amount to 60 college credits. However, the amount credits you can earn per course may vary among institutions. It is essential for you to complete your credits for this category during your first two years of college. GE requirements vary among institutes, but courses within the category often include

  • Arts and humanities
  • Mathematics
  • Social sciences
  • Foreign languages
  • English
  • And more

Major Credits

Now that you have a basic understanding of general education and the requirements for an undergraduate degree let’s look at the majors. Courses within this category pertain to your chosen specialty. The time for you to make this decision will likely come by the end of your sophomore year. 

However, when it is time for you to choose, you do need to work with your college advisor. Doing so can help you determine which courses you need to take for your medical majors or your chosen field. Working with an advisor can also help you figure out the order in which you need to take these courses.

Major courses generally amount to 30 credits, however, this is not a concrete requirement. It’s important for you to understand that requirements for these courses not only vary among institutes but can also differ from one academic program to another. If you take 6 major courses, each worth five credits, you can earn 30 college credits in a year. 


Before you pursue your undergraduate degree, you need to know that majors and general credits alone won’t be enough for you to graduate. That’s where elective courses come in. Courses within this category amount to 30 college credits, and it’s possible that the amount of credits for per course varies among institutions and the courses themselves. When you’re choosing an elective, you have quite a lot of options. However, there are a few limitations.

  1. An elective you want to choose might require you to be in a certain major, meaning that you won’t be able to take that course.
  2. Some elective courses might only be available as a successor to a prerequisite, and therefore, you may not be able to choose that course.

Your electives can be a course that the institution has to offer, but there is a clever way to do it. You see, you can use electives as a minor. What this means is that the elective course you choose complements your major field of study and supports your career goals.

How Many College Credits Should You Have Each Year?

Planning college semesters is something that can make the best of us break sweat. You’ll need to think about how many classes you need to and whether or not you can manage the timing with your job. But, above all these concerns will be the amount of credit hours you need to earn each year.

The first thing you need to understand is whether you want to be a full-time or part-time college student. The minimum requirement to qualify as a full-time student is 12 credit hours. However, meeting the minimum requirement would not be enough for you to get an undergraduate degree in four years. So now that you know how many credits to graduate are needed let’s look at how many you need each year. 

Freshman Year

Your freshman year in college is exactly when you need to develop a plan about how you’re going to complete your undergraduate degree. Most people often get overwhelmed by this type of planning, however, it’s important to understand that it’s no different than the SAT schedule you created when you were in high school.

The first thing you need to know is that your undergraduate degree will have eight semesters, two per year. If you work based on the minimum requirement, you only need 24 credit hours, 12 per semester. But you need to remember that in your freshman year, you’re offered courses that fall in the general education category.

So, in your freshman year, it’s better to take more courses and aim for at least 15 credit hours per semester. 

Sophomore Year

To be considered a college sophomore, you need to have anywhere between 30 to 59 credit hours, but not more. If you stick with the minimum requirements, you’ll take your three semesters to be a sophomore. There is nothing wrong with that except for the fact that your undergraduate degree will keep getting delayed.

So, if you earn 30 credit hours in your freshman year, you will be a sophomore in your second year of college. During this phase of your college education, you should still look to earn a minimum of 30 credits. You see, the courses that you’re offered in your sophomore year are manageable since they’re in the general education category. 

Junior Year

To be considered a junior in college, you need to have anywhere between 60 to 89 credits. When you become a junior in college, you have a firm grip on your academics, be it a degree in business administration or any other field. 

Your junior year is the time most of your courses will be for your majors. Although going for 30 credits in your junior year will help keep you on track, it’s better to aim for more. So, when you’re in your junior year, you can go for about 40 credit hours if possible. This can help you complete your degree quicker and give you some much-needed flexibility in your senior year. 

Senior Year

To qualify as a college senior, you need to have at least 90 credit hours or more. If you keep earning 15 credit hours per semester, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s important for you to carry this momentum forward so you can earn the remaining 30 credits to earn your undergraduate degree.

Can You Transfer College Credits?

Most people, during their undergraduate degree, think about a lot of different things. Some think about career options, others about a graduate degree or online graduate program. However, some of us might also think about transferring schools and whether credits can be transferred or not.

If this is something that’s crossed your mind, you need to know that college credits can be transferred. However, there are a few things that you need to consider when you’re thinking about transferring credits. You need to look at the transfer policies of your current and future schools to determine how your credits will be transferred.

In addition, you also need to see if the school you plan on transferring to has a semester or a quarterly system. Once you have all the details, you can initiate the transfer process. To do this, you must ask your college for your transcript. Then, you can reach out to an admission officer and appeal for a transfer of credits. 

What Are Key Tips For Earning College Credits?

An undergraduate degree is four years long, and earning 120 credits takes time. However, it’s important for you to understand that there are ways you can speed up the process. Let’s briefly go over what you can do to earn a college degree faster. 

  1. If you are in high school, opt for an advancement placement course or two. If you pass the exams, you’ll get college credits while still in high school.
  2. The first thing you need to do is plan ahead. You need to earn 30 credits per year to complete your undergraduate degree on time. However, it’s important to map your four-year college degree if you don’t want to end up with a bunch of random electives.
  3. If you’re on top of your academics, you can take summer semesters. These semesters are optional but are a great way of earning college credits faster.
  4. You can also utilize credit for prior learning (CPL). If you have work experience or training similar to what’s being taught in the classroom, you can get credits for it.
  5. You can also take standardized tests like the ACT to earn college credits, but you must know how to study for the ACT to do this.

Lastly, you can also talk to your college advisors to get valuable advice on how to complete your undergraduate degree faster. 


College credits are how institutions measure the amount of hours dedicated to your academics. To complete an undergraduate degree, you need to have 120 credits. These credits are divided into three categories that include general education, majors, and electives.

If you want to complete your undergraduate degree on time, you must earn 15 credit hours each semester. Once you have your four-year college journey planned out, take a look at some Columbia interview questions to prepare for a college interview and apply for the undergraduate degree you want to pursue! 


1. How many credits do you need to graduate?

You’ll need a total of 120 credits to graduate to complete an undergraduate degree. 

2. How long do college credits last?

Most college credits do not expire, but you need to know that the acceptance of the credits may vary from one institute to the other. 

3. Can you complete an undergraduate degree in three years?

Yes, but to complete an undergraduate degree in three years, you will need to take some extra classes each semester. 

4. How can you earn college credits?

The simplest way to earn college credits is by taking classes, but you might be able to earn extra credits from volunteer work or other events/activities. 

5. Can you get a bachelor’s degree in two years?

It is possible to get a bachelor’s degree in two years if you already have some college credits or an associate’s degree. 

6. Do SAT scores influence credit transfer?

Yes, SAT scores may influence your credit transfer, so you need to prepare well and know how many questions are on the SAT. But that’s not all. When you go to take the exam, make sure you know what to bring to the SAT as well. 

7. How long does it take to earn 90 credits?

If you plan on earning 15 credits per semester, it will take three years to earn 90 credits. 

8. Do ACT scores impact college credits?

Yes, if you score well on the ACT, some colleges may allow you to translate that score into college credits. To do this, you must be aware of ACT test dates. But that’s not all. You should also have a comprehensive study plan and know how long does the ACT take

To your success,

Your friends at

BeMo Academic Consulting

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