How Many Credits Do You Need To Graduate College?

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To graduate college, students have to meet the minimum credit requirement. This leaves students wondering how many credits they need to graduate college.

As a general rule, you need 60 credit hours to graduate with an associate degree, 120 credit hours to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, between 30-60 additional credit hours for a master’s degree, and between 30-60 more credit hours for a doctorate. 

The number of credit hours required to graduate college can vary depending on the degree and major that you are pursuing.

It is important that you check with your academic advisor for the specifics of your college, degree type, and major. They can help you create a plan and sign up for classes that meet your graduation requirements.

Let’s look closer at each type of degree.

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How many credits do you need to graduate college with an associate degree?

In general, an associate degree requires 60 credit hours that focus on general education courses. This usually takes about two years. Depending on what kind of associate degree you are getting (such as a more specialized associate degree), then your courses may be more focused.

Associate degrees provide students with a general education that they can use in a professional setting or build on it and get a bachelor’s degree.

A big benefit of getting an associate degree if you intend to then get your bachelor’s degree is that the credits are much easier and more likely to transfer if you have your associate degree versus if you have individual general education credits.

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Bachelor’s degree

Let’s look at how many credits you need for a bachelor’s degree and the implications if you have fewer or more credits.

How many credits do you need to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree?

Most bachelor’s degrees in the United States require students to earn 120 credit hours in order to graduate. The minimum can vary depending on the college or major, but most require between 120-130 credits.

Some colleges may require more if they include more hands-on training or clinical work.

Colleges also have specific requirements for how many credits are from general education courses, electives, and courses for your major.

Other specific credit requirements are how many of those credits must be earned at the college to graduate there (also referred to as in-residence credits)—most colleges require at least 36-60 of those credit hours from them.

Colleges also have a requirement on the minimum number of credits that must be from upper-division courses (300 or 400 level). There is a big variance in the requirements depending on the college or major, but often students are required to have between 20-60 upper-division credits.

Can you graduate without 120 credits?

People often ask if they can still graduate if they don’t have enough credits—unfortunately, the answer is almost always no.

It is not possible to graduate with your bachelor’s degree without 120 credits because 120 credit hours is the minimum requirement for the number of credit hours needed to graduate. These requirements are not flexible because credit requirements are mandated by the college’s accrediting body.

However, it is worth checking with your academic advisor since some colleges may offer alternative programs. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

I talked to my Professor and academic advisor, and I was able to graduate after the summer session even though my internship (that counted as college credit) was not over by the grade deadline.

My Professor used my evaluations until that point to give me my grade and turned it in so I could still graduate on time. I was still expected to do my final evaluation and message her confirmation that the internship was completed.

Additionally, getting more credits transferred or taking learning assessments to earn credit for a course you have previous knowledge about can help reduce the number of classes you must take.

Ideally, you will have been working closely with your academic advisor when registering for classes so you will know that you are on course to meet the requirements to graduate.

However, if it turns out that you do not have enough credits to graduate, some of your best options are to:

  • Take extra courses that semester (or take online courses for a more flexible schedule)
  • Take summer classes
  • Extend for however many additional semesters are required and graduate late (If this is what you have to do, it is well worth it to get your degree. This may seem like a terrible thing, but in the long term, it will not make a difference.)

Graduating with extra credits

On the other hand, some students earn extra credits and aren’t sure what the implications of that are.

Is it normal to graduate with more than 120 credits?

It is not “normal” or typical to graduate with significantly more than 120 credits since this is the minimum requirement. Each class costs time and money, so most students ensure they do not have to take more classes than necessary to fulfill their major graduation requirements.

It is more typical to graduate with a few extra credits because classes are worth different credits or extra labs.

For example, I graduated with 122 credit hours.

Some students graduate with significantly more than 120 credits. Some common reasons for this are:

  • changing majors
  • transferring
  • double majors or minors
  • taking extra courses for personal interest
  • not planning with their academic advisor, and some courses not meeting a requirement

What happens if I graduate with more than 120 credits?

In general, nothing happens if you graduate with more than 120 credits. The only thing that happens is that you spent more money and time to graduate than was required.

However, some colleges or financial aid have a policy that limits how many extra credits you can have while seeking your degree.

Additionally, some colleges do not apply extra courses to your GPA, while others do.

Check with your academic advisor about your college’s policies regarding extra credits, financial aid, and calculating GPA.

How many credits do you need to graduate college with an advanced degree?

Credits needed for advanced degrees (master’s or doctoral degrees) vary depending on the program. Master’s degrees require between 30-60 more credit hours (on top of the 120 for a bachelor’s), and doctorates require another 30-60 credit hours (or 60-90 credit hours on top of the 120 for a bachelor’s).

How many credits do you need to graduate college with a master’s degree?

Students need 30-60 more credits (after 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree) to graduate college with a master’s degree. A master’s degree is 150-180 credits in total. However, how many credits students need to graduate with a master’s degree varies depending on college and major.

Some programs allow more transferred credits which can lower the requirement. Others require more credits if the program involves a thesis, internship, capstone project, or other kinds of fieldwork.

How many credits do you need to graduate college with a doctoral degree?

Students need 60-90 more credits after a bachelor’s degree to graduate college with a doctoral degree or 30-60 more credits after their master’s degree. In total, a doctoral degree is between 180-210 credit hours. The exact number will vary depending on the college and program.

Does how long you take to graduate change the credit requirements?

In general, how long a student takes to graduate will not change the credit requirements. However, if you need to repeat courses due to low grades or the credits not transferring, you will have to earn more credits, which will take longer.

Additionally, if your credits expire or you are past your college’s time limit for completing your degree, then you will need to earn more than 120 credits to get your degree.

Going part-time, credits not transferring, taking time off, changing majors, or double majors or minors can extend college beyond 4 years.

How many credits to graduate college in 2 years?

To graduate with your associate degree requires 60 credits total, so to graduate in 2 years requires 30 credits a year. This is 15 credits a semester (or less if you take summer classes).

How many credits do you need to graduate college in 4 years?

To graduate with your bachelor’s degree requires 120 credits, so to graduate in 4 years requires 30 credits per academic year. This means 15 credits a semester (or less if you take summer classes).

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