“So, 30 credit hours equals how many years?” is a common question among students. Colleges typically let you know how many credit hours are required for graduation, but that may not hold much real-world meaning for you.
You might be looking for a better idea of how many years you can expect your college process to take.
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Your enrollment time will often depend on your availability and your class load, but the more you know about the process, the better you can plan out your college commitment.
30 Credit Hours Equals How Many Years
A single college course is typically worth 3 credit hours. For a 3-credit course, you can expect to spend 2.5 to 3 hours attending that class each week.
For each hour that you spend in the classroom, you’ll probably spend about two additional hours studying and completing assignments. That translates to another five to six hours weekly for each 3-credit course.
Full-time college enrollment consists of 12 credit hours or more per semester. A 12 credit hour load is about four classes at a time. If you take five or six classes per semester, you might earn 15 to 18 credits.
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If you take 15 credit hours per semester, you can complete 30 credits in two semesters. That’s 1 school year. Another way to finish 30 credits in 1 year would be to take two 12-credit semesters and complete the remaining 6 credit hours over the summer term.
Generally, a student taking 15 credit hours each semester shouldn’t plan to work more than 10 or 15 hours per week at an in-town job. If you enroll part-time instead—taking 11 credits or less per semester—it could take you between 1.5 years and 3 years to finish 30 credits.
Academic Calendar: Quarter vs. Semester System
Not every school uses the same type of academic calendar. The two most common varieties are quarters and semesters. These two approaches have classes that last different lengths . They also involve calculating credits in different ways.
What Is a Quarter System?
Colleges on the quarter system divide the calendar year into four terms. The regular school year includes the fall, winter, and spring terms, and there’s an optional summer session as well.
With quarter credits, you typically take fewer courses at a time, but you spend more time in each class per week. For a standard 5 quarter credit class, you’ll spend about five hours per week in the classroom.
With the quarter system:
- Courses last about 10 weeks.
- There are three main terms per year.
- Classes are often worth 5 quarter credits.
With this system, you may have time to take more courses before graduation. Plus, taking fewer courses at once may allow you to focus better.
What Is a Semester?
A term that lasts 14 to 16 weeks is a semester, and a school year is divided into two semesters: fall and spring. Since semesters last longer, you take more courses at once but spend less time in each class per week. A 3 credit course has about three hours of weekly classroom time.
With a semester system:
- Courses last about 15 weeks.
- There are two main terms per year.
- Classes are often worth 3 semester credits.
Semesters can give you more time to dig into the course material and complete projects that are more involved.
Academic Credit Systems
Not every college approaches its academic year in the same way, and not every school issues credits in the same way either. Plus, there’s a lot of different terminology surrounding college credit hours.
Getting it all straight is essential for making sure you’re on the right track and figuring out how long it will be until graduation. Here’s a basic rundown of the various academic credit systems.
A credit hour is the basic unit for measuring progress through a college degree. Each class is worth a certain number of credit hours, and each program has a requisite number of credits that need to be earned to graduate.
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In the United States, nearly all colleges use credit hours. Not all schools calculate their credit hours in the same way, though, so it’s beneficial to check what sort of system your school uses. Some rely on semester credits, and others use quarter credits.
Colleges that divide the school year into two semesters measure academic progress in semester hours. Often the terms “credit hour” and “semester hour” can be used interchangeably.
One credit is usually equal to about one hour of time spent in the classroom per week. Many college courses are worth 3 semester hours, and it usually takes about 120 semester hours to earn a bachelor’s degree. The majority of schools use the semester-hours system.
Full Time vs. Part Time Credit Hours
Full time enrollment is defined as 12 or more semester hours per term. Classes are often worth 3 credits each, so full-time students usually take at least four courses each semester. Graduating with a bachelors degree in 4 years usually requires earning at least 15 credits per semester.
Part-time enrollment is considered 11 credits or fewer. Going to school part-time can be beneficial for students who are also working, but it can also extend the length of time that it takes for you to complete your degree program.
Contact Hours vs. Credit Hours in College
Contact hours describe the amount of time that you spend being instructed by a teacher. If you’re in a lecture hall or a lab session, that counts toward the contact hours for a class.
For each credit that you earn, you’ll generally have 45 minutes to an hour of contact time per week. A 3-credit course would require you to be in the classroom for about three hours weekly. Over a 15 week semester, that would equal about 45 contact hours.
In addition, you’d also be responsible for investing time in the course outside of class. You might be engaged in activities like reading a textbook, completing homework, or earning practicum experience. Colleges usually expect two hours of on-your-own studying for every contact hour.
Colleges with quarter calendars issue credit hours differently than other schools. Instead of semester credits, students earn quarter credits.
A standard course is usually worth about 5 quarter credits. A full-time college course load consists of about 45 quarter credits per year. To earn a bachelors degree, you typically have to accumulate about 180 quarter credits.
How to Calculate Credit Hours Earned
A quarter hour is worth approximately two-thirds of a semester hour. To convert quarter credit hours to semester hours, divide by 1.5.
For example, a course worth 5 quarter credits would translate to about 3.33 semester hours. With this quarter hours to semester hours formula, you can calculate that 45 quarter credits are equivalent to about 30 standard hours.
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To switch semester hours to quarter hours, multiply by 1.5. A 3 hour class might give you 4.5 quarter hours’ worth of credit. A 24 credit academic year at a school with semesters would be equivalent to 36 quarter credits.
It typically takes 120 semester hours or 180 quarter credits to earn a bachelor’s degree. If you transfer from one system to another, you may find that you lose some credits along the way. If this happens, you might have to take extra classes to make up the difference.
How Many Classes Is 30 Credits?
In general, standard college courses are usually worth 3 semester credit hours. Based on that, 30 credits is usually equal to about 10 classes.
Now, there are some exceptions to this rule. Lab classes are often 4 credit courses because of the additional time spent in lab sessions. On the other hand, some less intensive classes may be worth only 2 credit hours.
Typically, though, you can earn 30 credits during 1 year of full-time study by taking around 5 classes per college semester.
How Many Credits Is a Bachelor’s Degree?
You usually need at least 120 semester credits to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree. Some programs may require a slightly higher number, such as 130 total credit hours. You may earn these credits from lecture classes, lab sessions, and practicum or internship experiences.
If you go to a school that uses quarter credits, you’ll complete a similar amount of work but will need to accumulate a higher number of credits. The typical amount for a bachelor’s degree is 180 quarter credits.
How Long Does It Take to Get 40 College Credits?
You may be able to earn 40 semester hours in about 1.5 years of full-time study. Many full-time students earn 15 credits per semester. You could carry a slightly lighter load and still earn 40 credit hours in three semesters, which is about 1.5 years.
Part-time college studies can take longer, of course. If you take 10 credit hours per semester, you should have 40 credits after four semesters. That’s equal to 2 school years.
How Long Are Credits Good For?
If you find that you have a lot of college credits but no degree, you may want to know that many general education undergraduate courses don’t have expiration dates. They may transfer to another school years later.
That being said, it is important for you to know when college credits do expire. For example, STEM classes may not hold up as long. As fields like science and engineering advance, older material becomes outdated. These credits may be good for about 10 years. Graduate classes usually have a shorter shelf life of about 7 years.
No matter when you took your courses, though, credits usually need to be issued by a regionally accredited college in order to be eligible for transfer.
What’s the Difference Between Credit Hours vs. Credits in College?
People often use the terms “credits” and “credit hours” interchangeably, but they do have slightly different meanings. Here are the differences:
You can think of credit hours as a way to describe classes, while credits are the actual rewards you earn for passing courses.
What’s the Difference Between Credit Hours vs. Units in College?
The terms “credit hours” and “units” are used in different settings.
In general, most schools don’t allow you to convert continuing education units (CEUs) into college credits.
Whether you’re considering a 30 credit masters program or are just 30 credit hours away from a bachelors degree, you might be able to earn these credits in about 1 year. You’d likely need to take 5 classes per semester to make that happen. At a school with quarter credits, you could take around 3 classes per term.
When you’re ready to get started on your 30-credit journey, you can begin by taking a look at accredited colleges. Whether you need 1 year or 3 years to finish your 30 credits, many accredited schools offer flexible scheduling to accommodate busy students.