Bachelor’s Degree: How Many Credits Do I Need?

Approximately, for a bachelor’s degree, you will need to:   

– get 120 college credits

– learn 40 courses in 8 semesters

– complete 360 hours of classwork

– spend 720 hours on homework

– study for 120 weeks in four years.

It looks a bit confusing, doesn’t it? Well, let’s get into the specifics of calculating college credits, as understanding them is not straightforward. 

How Long Is a Semester?

Most college programs are split into semesters, while one academic year comprises two semesters: a fall and spring ones. The fall semester starts in late August or early September and lasts until late December. The spring semester starts in late January or early February and finishes in May or June. 

So, without exam sessions, a semester is almost four months long. If we translate this into weeks, we see that approximately you have 15 weeks of studying time. Followed by a session, and a break, of course!

Credits Hours vs. Study Hours 

A number of your credit hours (or credits) shows your academic progress, proving how much workload you have. In other words, it shows the number of hours you spent on learning a subject. These hours comprise contact and preparation hours. Contact hours are the hours you spend at lectures or in labs. That’s basically the time you spend in contact with a professor. Often one contact hour equals 50 astronomical minutes. 

Preparation hours are the hours when you prepare for the class and do your homework. So, these are the usual hours you sped out of the class, including any practical courses or fieldwork. One credit assumes that you have one contact hour and two preparational hours every week during a semester. 

Number of Credit Hours for One Subject

To successfully complete a one-semester course, universities usually require 3 SCH (Semester Credit Hours). While a semester typically lasts 15 weeks, this means you will have at least three contact hours per week. For example, you take a Business Correspondence course. Then you will have three lectures of a BC per week and spend around six hours on homework. 

So, in total, one student can cover approximately five courses in a semester. This means that daily you will spend three hours at classes and six – for self-study. Nine hours a day can be compared to a full-time job 🙂 Consequently, for a Bachelor’s Degree, you will take around 40 courses in four years.

Obligatory vs. Elective Courses

Forty courses are what you need to learn to get your bachelor’s diploma. But you cannot take any courses. Liberal arts is often a required part of a college program. These are science, writing, history, and basic maths classes. But in general, your courses will be arranged in three essential groups:

low-level obligatory courses. You will be given a list of core requirements –– a list of subjects with numbers of credits they earn. This is a list of subjects you will have to cover during the given period. For example, the first two years of your study will require you to earn 60 credits split across multiple topics. You will often see general topics like ‘History’ with a total score of 6 credits. You are welcomed to study any specific history classes that will bring you six credits. Like we learned above, these are two courses. You can take American History and Western Civilization, for example. 

elective courses. Elective courses make people think that one can customize his/her bachelor’s diploma. And to a great extent, this is true. Usually, colleges allow students to earn up to 30 credits on courses they are free to choose. Just imagine that you can study any 10 of the hundreds of courses that your college or university offers! This option brings a lot of freedom, motivation, and inspiration to young people. Students can try new and exciting topics and also get credits for them.

major courses. The majority of colleges require their students to choose a discipline for profound and detailed study –– a major. There are plenty of majors to choose from, and every program will make you commit to specific courses. These courses are upper-level ones, and they are more specific, intense, and definitely time-consuming than others in your program. You will be given a list of obligatory classes with their credit scores. 

Like, if you choose Psychology as your major, you get around 40 credit hours to study. Social Psychology may ‘cost’ twice as many credits as Statistics, but both of them must be passed. But there still is good news: one will be happy to find there around two electives too! Sure, these courses will be limited to the general topic (psychology), but students still have some freedom here. 

Choosing a Major

If you want to get a bachelor’s degree in the United States, you’ll have to select a major. Major is sometimes called concentration, and this is your main specialization throughout the academic journey. But, like noted above, you will have to start with more simple general courses first. And after approximately two years and a half, you will get to the point of choosing your major area of study. 

When a student succeeds in learning a major, he/she proves hard, sustained, and consistent everyday work. But a major does not only demonstrate your academic success. It also gives you great preparation for your career. Some colleges and programs may allow two majors, or a major and a minor. 

What Is a Minor?

A minor is a course that you can choose to study additionally. It is aimed to enhance a major discipline background or can be a separate sphere of academic interest. Taking a minor is an option; however, this series of classes has to be completed once taken. A minor will appear as a line in a resume. Thus, it will matter when you apply for a job or graduate from school. It will tell the potential employer or admission officer that you can successfully cope with the additional workload. And your chances grow if the minor is related to the applied position’s skills or the discipline you want to enter. 

A Minor: Things to Consider Before You Enroll

  1. Make sure it supports your goals.

It’s always better to have a clear vision about how exactly minor can help you get what you want. And consider your effort and time for, in some cases, poor planning may result in extra expenses. If a student wants to get an advanced degree in some area, a minor is a great way to gain additional expertise, provided he/she follows the schedule. The same applies if you want to get as much background as you can to become a true professional in a job market.

  1. Make sure there are no more accessible options to learn the subject.

If your sphere of interest can be covered with two or three classes, don’t tie yourself with a minor because other essential commitments may suffer from this decision. And then a minor could bring more trouble than value. 

  1. Check if it’s not too late.

If you have completed more than four semesters on the way to a bachelor’s degree, then check with your advisor if you still have a technical possibility to add a minor to your course. On the other hand, if your major and minor are in the same sphere, you can opt for a ‘double-dip.’ One class can be required for both disciplines, so you double your credits without extra time. 

Can I Get Credits Outside College?

Usually, schools offer AP (Advanced Placement) and dual enrollment courses. Both options let schoolers pass exams and earn college credits once their scores are competitive. Such options can help you save your time and energy, and sometimes also money. While AP classes require specific exam scores to be credited, dual enrollment courses are credited in both your school and college results.

Credits and GPA

The GPA (Grade Point Average) score of every college student is calculated based on received credits and marks for each class. GPA is calculated every semester and year. This coefficient usually falls between 0.0 and 4.0 that is equivalent to the average F to A marks. Each college has its own requirements for its students’ academic success. Most of them have a minimal GPA score set, and others also trace GPAs in a sequence. For example, you will not be expelled if you got a GPA of 2.5 once, but getting a GPA of 2.5 two semesters in a row may imply disciplinary actions.

To Stay on Track to Your Degree

Since a college student gains 30 credits per year on average, you can track your progress with simple calculations. However, a number of credits is only a part of your task. Those marks have to be collected from classes that comply with the academic specialization. Though some freedom in choosing electives is possible, students should be attentive to meet all the requirements for their major(s) and minor(s). 

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