Credits and Credit Hours: What’s the Difference?

Credits, credit hours, contact hours, courses –– have you already got lost in these academic terms? Well, no worries –– let’s look into this together! (spoiler: credits and credit hours mean the same).

Defining the Terms 

Credit = Credit Hour = Semester Credit Hour = College Credit is a unit that measures a student’s academic accomplishments. It is equal to 15 academic hours of instruction (or contact hours) that a student gets during a 15-week semester. Each hour spent in class is supported with two hours of homework. 

One college course brings you 3 credits. This means that you go to History or Political Science classes three times a week and spend about 6 hours on preparation during a semester. Preparation here means that a student spends time on practical courses, fieldwork, labs, or simply does homework.

Contact Hour = Hour of Instruction is the academic hour (usually 50 minutes) that a student spends on lectures. This is the time when he is involved in learning activities and interaction with a professor.  

For one course in college, a student usually gets 3 credits and spends 9 hours studying the discipline (at class + at home) per week during a semester. Typically, students choose 5 subjects per semester and earn 15 credits, and one year of study brings them 30 credits. 

How Many Credits Do I Need to Graduate College?

A bachelor’s program will require approximately 120 credits from you –– 30 credits × 4 years of study. However, this number is not universally accepted, and the total number of credits may vary –– depending on a major and college rules.

You’ll need around 60 credits to complete an associate degree since this program lasts for two years. Still, associate programs differ a lot because they can include various studies in class and hands-on ones. 

If a student gets an associate degree and wants to become a bachelor in another college, earned credits can often be transferred. However, each case is unique, and you will need to check all transfer details before the final decision. 

Transferring Credits

You’ll always want to transfer as many credits to your new college once you decide to get a bachelor’s degree in another educational institution. Because every non-transferred credit will have to be earned again, and this means you’ll have to invest time, effort, and money once again. 

Though most of the general courses will be transferred, you’ll have to take tests on some disciplines if your associate degree is related to a different specialization. If you graduated from a community school, you’d have to check if both schools have an articulation agreement between them. If so, you can be eligible to have all associate degree credits transferred toward a bachelor’s diploma.

Once a former student wants to return to getting higher education after years of break, the chances are that only basic subjects will be transferred. No matter why you decided to suspend your studies 5-10 years ago –– whether it was health conditions, work, or family commitments –– you’ll have to re-take most of the subjects.

How Should I Choose Subjects to Earn All Credits?

Colleges give students breakdowns of classes required to complete a program – a course catalog. Depending on the chosen major, you’ll be given a list of core classes and electives. Core classes are compulsory, while you can choose between the electives. Often, students choose electives to learn something they are interested in or have a passion for. 

If you compare the two, electives are more about creativity, fun, and talent than required courses so that they can be your escape from hard mandatory studies. Sometimes students get so engaged in an elective that they choose it as a minor subject and get additional specialization. So here are some ideas about choosing classes outside the compulsory curriculum.

How to Choose Your Electives

Though elective subjects will be your official academic commitment, they can be an adventurous journey instead of studying routine. And here are some tips to help you have fun while exploring something you like. 

  • Follow your interests, but mind the workload. Keeping the balance between your personal and academic commitments may not come easy in the middle of a semester. Studying something engaging is great, but it’ll anyway require plenty of your resources. So, don’t expect that electives will be as easy as reading your favorite blog on the topic.
  • Learn the syllabus of your course to find out the professor’s requirements, course objectives before enrolling. Take a look at the articles and other reading materials to get an idea of what you’ll have to work with. Otherwise, you can get involved in a challenging responsibility for the next four months of your life.
  • Learn more about the professor. Even if you admire the subject, a toxic prof can ruin your passion for it. So, research the opinions of other students about your future lecturer. Is he fair? Is he passionate about the subject? Does he return papers soon, and do students feel educated after his courses?
  • Test the first classes. If you still can’t decide which course to choose, sign up for several ones and go to those classes before the enrollment deadline. And make sure to drop the improper ones on time, as you will hardly have your funds returned after the final eligible date. So, if the professor’s attitude and individuality resonate with you, don’t hesitate to take that class or at least put it on your final list. 

Final Thoughts

Understanding the terms of the college credit system is easier than getting a bachelor’s diploma. In the academic language, credits show your knowledge and skills. However, 120 credit hours will not always come easy, even if you’ll have half of them transferred. Four years of study is hard day-to-day work, but getting to your goal is always easier if you have a plan. So when you see all the subjects-to-take options, create a timeline with tasks to get to the graduation smoothly. And good luck with your diploma!

Leave a Comment