What is the US academic credit system like?

If you are preparing to study in the United States, it is important to know how the academic credit system works in the country. That’s because it can influence a lot in your course: from your GPA, through your term to graduate, to the amount you pay in tuition. Want to find out more about it? Then check out everything you need to know in this text!

Everything you need to know about the United States academic credit system

How many credits do I need to graduate?

This varies depending on the length of your course. Each semester grants a certain amount of credits, so if you multiply the number of semesters you need to study by the number of credits granted each semester, you will find out the total number of credits required to graduate.

For example, in the academic credit system in the United States, a regular, full-time course requires 15 credit hours per semester (that is, 30 credit hours per year). If your course lasts for three years, it means that you will need 90 credit hours in total.

How do I get the credits I need to graduate?

Simply by taking the course subjects (and passing them). Each discipline grants a specific number of credits. That way, if you pass all of your classes for a semester, you will receive all credits! If, during a semester, you have elective classes, in addition to the regular classes, check that the electives chosen correspond to the total amount of credits needed, in addition to the mandatory classes.

What is a “contact hour”?

In the academic credit system, contact hours are different from normal credit hours. This is because they include activities other than the subjects themselves, such as lab time and lectures. Typically, a contact hour is equal to 50 minutes in “real time”.

As such, at universities and colleges in the United States, students generally receive credit hours based on the number of “contact hours” they spend studying each week. An hour of credit is usually the standard way to measure the workload at a college or university. Therefore, credit hours are made up of contact hours.

What is a “contact hour”

How many credit hours can I get with a discipline?

Most higher education institutions in the United States grant 3 hours of semiannual credit (45 to 48 hours of contact) for the successful completion of a discipline. The number of credits for lectures, work on independent projects, laboratory time and internships varies according to the specific requirements of the institution.

How does the academic credit system affect GPA?

In the United States, credits are also used to determine a student’s average grade ( GPA ) for a semester or academic year. In some cases, GPA scores are required for admission to other academic programs (such as master’s degrees, for example).

GPA scores range from 0 to 4. A score of 4 is equivalent to an A score, while 0 represents an F score. Each American bachelor’s and master’s program specifies its own minimum GPA requirement for graduation.

A student’s semester GPA is calculated based on the final grades received for each course and the credit hours granted by the program for that semester. The final overall GPA is the average of all subjects that were completed during the years of study.

Is there any difference between “credit hours” and “semester hours”?

No! They are the same. The terms are used with the same meaning at universities in the United States.

A semester credit hour (SCH) is the amount of credits a student receives for the successful completion of one hour of contact and two hours of preparation per week for a semester. One hour per semester is equivalent to 15 to 16 hours of contact per semester, regardless of the duration of the class.

Basically, for a one-hour semester credit course, you should invest one hour of contact in class and two additional hours of preparation (out of class) per week. These hours can be obtained from homework, fieldwork or other practical courses.

one-hour semester credit course

How many credits are needed in an undergraduate course? And for a master’s degree?

In the academic credit system, a discipline is measured based on the number of credit hours required to complete it. For a degree, the basic subjects can have 1 or 2 credits. In the master’s degree (including for MBAs), most classes have 3 or 4 credits.

A standard full-time study charge is generally 30 credit hours per year. Normally, in order to graduate, universities expect students to complete:

  • 120-130 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree
  • 30-64 credit hours for a master’s degree

Some universities use semiannual credit hours to set tuition fees and the number of scholarships for future students. During a semester, an international student must complete between 9 and 12 credit hours, depending on the college or university.

What are “quarter credits”

What are “quarter credits”?

Some universities in the United States use Quarter Calendar Credit Hours , in which the academic year is divided into three parts. In that case, a bachelor’s degree usually requires a minimum of 180 hours to complete, instead of 120.