When you went to college the first time, you may not have paid much attention to the whole “college credit” system. But now that you’re going back to school to complete your degree, you need to understand exactly what a college credit is and how many you need to graduate — before you can even think about transferring them. Learn here exactly what it means to have college credits, how to earn more and what they mean for graduation.
Click here to see a list of online colleges and universities that accept lots of credits in transfer
What is a College Credit?
Unfortunately, there is still no national definition of a “credit hour” for colleges and universities. However, one college credit hour generally means that a student has had one hour of class instruction per week over the course of 15 weeks (a semester), as well as about 2 hours of out-of-classroom work, which could be homework, labs, practicum, etc. Therefore, most core classes for your major are worth 3 credits, because they usually meet 3 times a week for an hour, or twice a week for 90 minutes and have corresponding out-of-class assignments. 2- and 1-hour classes are smaller classes that meet for less time and require less work, like electives, but still count towards your bottom line.
For online colleges, credits are counted a bit differently. Since you’re not sitting in a traditional classroom, credits are counted by how many times you log in to participate, and how much time you spend contributing comments, questions and overall discussions to your class. Again, since there are no federal regulations yet, this is more subjective, and requirements vary between professors, classes and schools. But it’s important to understand that even though you’re taking classes online, you still have to participate to earn a good grade and the credit hours that correspond with that class.
How Many Credits Do I Need To Graduate?
There is no set number of college credits you need to graduate. This number varies depending on the major and the school from which you are graduating. However, the average number of college credits you need to complete a program averages about 64 credits for a 2-year associate’s degree and 120 credits for a 4-year degree. Some degrees require more; for instance, I had to earn over 150 credit hours for my undergraduate degree in English Education, mainly because that type of program is like combining two majors—English and education into one degree. Your advisor, as well as the school’s course catalog will show you exactly how many college credit hours you need to graduate from your chosen major.
How Do College Credits Work, and How Should I Earn Them?
If you’re starting to panic about how you’ll earn all of your credits, don’t. Most programs for each major break down exactly what courses you need to graduate, and show you how to earn all of your credit hours to complete your degree. Each major will have what’s called “core classes,” which you must pass and earn credit for to graduate within that major. Beyond that, you’ll have some choices in the “electives” category. For instance, an English major may get to choose between a poetry class, creative writing class or French literature class to fulfill an elective spot. This is where you can tailor your program to meet your needs and interests. As long as you meet with your advisor and plan out your classes according to your school’s course catalog, you should have all the credits you need (sometimes more!) to graduate.
Counting Transfer Credits
Where counting credit hours really becomes important is when you transfer credits. It’s always a good idea to spend the extra time to get as many of your previous college credits transferred as possible (to learn why, click here). And the more you transfer, the less you have to complete to finish your degree. Once you’ve completed the transfer process, you can then figure out how many credits you have left to earn, as well as what core classes and electives you still have to take (learn how to transfer college credits here).
Can I Transfer Credits After 10 Years?
It can be tough at many schools to transfer very old credits. In science subjects, particularly, the tools and facts grow and change over time. If your credits are 5 or 10 years old, you probably have a better change of transferring them if they are basic requirements like English or writing. More advanced courses may not transfer as easily. But each school is different — it pays to do as much research as possible.
From Credit Transfer To Graduation
Overall, understanding exactly what college credits are and how they work will help you go through the planning process for your degree much more smoothly. Once you understand what your graduation requirements are, you can map out a timeline to help you earn your credits in a balanced way, at your own pace. Also, understanding college credits will help you better negotiate credit transfers by making you more knowledgeable about how the credit system works. Then, you can earn your degree with confidence, knowing you’re taking every step you need to get to graduation.
Sponsored Schools Specializing In Online Degrees
A very large and well-known school with over 40,000 students on 11 campuses and in a large online degree program, and top quality accreditation. Offers a very wide range of bachelor’s, master’s and associates degrees in:
– Criminal Justice
– Health Care
– Computer Technology
– Information Systems
– Legal Studies
Learn more about Purdue’s degree programs
AIU is a large online school that accepts a very high number of credits toward completion of its bachelor degrees. The school offers online associates and bachelor degree programs in:
= Computers & Information Technology
– Healthcare Management
– Criminal justice
Get information on American Intercontinental University
Rasmussen is a school of about 13,000 students in an extensive online program and on 24 campuses in Florida and around the midwest. Founded in 1900, it offers a variety of career-focused associate’s and bachelor degree programs in:
– Computer Science
– Criminal Justice
– Graphic Design
– Cyber Security
– Health and Wellness
Additional programs in other specialties.
Get information on Rasmussen College
Southern New Hampshire University is an 80 year old private school that’s become very widely known for it’s career-oriented online degree programs. As a not-for-profit, the school is under less pressure to institute big tuition hikes each year than some other schools. Many degrees are offered on an accelerated basis. SNHU offers an array of online associates and bachelors degree programs in:
– Creative Writing
– Digital Photography
– Graphic Design
– Human Resources
– Criminal Justice
– Information Technology
Additional degrees in other subjects.
Get information on Southern New Hampshire University
CTU is a large institution based on Colorado Springs with over 25,000 students. It has solid regional accreditation (the best kind) and has been ranked #1 Best for Vets in the category for online and non-traditional universities by Military Times Magazine.
Offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees online in:
– Criminal Justice (multiple specialties)
– Project Management
– Information Systems (multiple specialties)
Learn more about Colorado Tech’s degree programs
San Diego, CA-based school, Ashford University offers a vast array of degrees online across the range from associate to bachelor and masters. Degrees available in:
– Business Management – BA & MBA in 19 different specialties
– Early Childhood Education
– Health Care Studies
– Homeland Security
– Sports Management
Get information on Ashford’s online programs
(Ashford University is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission, 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, 510.748.9001, www.wascsenior.org.) Certain degree programs may not be available in all states. For more information about on-time completion rates, the median loan debt of students who completed each program, and other important information, please visit: https://ashforddisclosures.com.
Founded in 1951, Grantham is one of the earliest online-only colleges in the U.S. It’s accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), and has one of the most affordable tuition rates our research has been able to turn up. Grantham offers online associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a wide range of subjects including:
– Business Administration, many specialties
– Criminal Justice
– Computer Engineering
– Information Systems Security
Get free info on Grantham University
John O’Brien has been a writer, editor and consultant in higher education for over 14 years. His background includes writing for insidehighered.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education. As editor of College Degree Complete, he has advised hundreds of adult students on how to transfer colleges without wasting the credits they’ve already accumulated, to finish their degree programs in the fastest and most affordable way.