I Have 120 College Credits but No Degree [2024 Guide]

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“I have 120 college credits but no degree.” If this is you, you might be wondering how you can turn your previously earned credits into a degree.

120 College Credits But No Degree

Having 120 credits toward your name won’t automatically qualify you for a bachelor’s degree, but it could help you get there.

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You’ve put a lot of work into your college endeavors so far. By learning about getting college credit for your past work, you can start the process of finally receiving a bachelor’s degree.

How to Turn 120 College Credits into a Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s Degree College credits

The key to quickly completing a bachelor’s degree is to gain as much credit for your previous efforts as you can. You may have several options available to you for receiving credit hours for a bachelor’s degree.

The more options you use, the sooner your graduation day may come.

Reverse Transfer

Reverse Transfer College Credits

Did you start your higher education experience at a community college? If so, you might be eligible to earn an associate degree through reverse transfer. This can also be known as retroactive credentialing.

Here’s how this works:

  1. Submit transcripts. Submit all of your transcripts—those from 2 year colleges as well as 4 year colleges—for review.
  2. Wait for school’s ruling. Wait for school officials to review whether you’ve passed enough classes to qualify for an associate degree over the course of your schooling.
  3. Transfer associate’s degree to bachelor’s program. If granted an associate degree, apply to a bachelor’s program that will accept your full degree for credit.

If you can do that, you’ll already be at least halfway toward a bachelor’s degree. Reverse transfer policies can vary significantly from one community college to another, so you may want to talk to your past schools to learn more about your options. Sometimes, it’s even possible for your community college credits to transfer out of state.

Transfer Credits

You don’t always need to have an associate degree to receive credit for your past studies at a new school. Many colleges will evaluate each of your previous classes on a case-by-case basis.

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They’ll check to see whether a class you’ve already taken aligns sufficiently with a course at your new school. If so, you might receive credit for that course without needing to take it again.

Since transfer decisions are made on an individual basis, your new college isn’t obligated to accept your past work. The steps to transfer college credits may include:

  1. Apply to a school. You first have to apply and be accepted to a school.
  2. Submit transcripts. You can submit past transcripts from any accredited colleges you’ve attended, including community colleges and 4-year schools.
  3. Wait for the school’s decision. All that’s left is to await a decision on how many credits are being accepted for transfer.

These credits can sometimes count toward your core curriculum requirements. Other times, they may be classified as free electives.

Some schools will let you transfer in less than a year’s worth of credits. Others will allow transferred credits to count for at least half of the degree requirements, making this the fastest way to get 60 college credits. With even the most generous transfer policies, you’ll probably have to earn at least 30 credits—one year’s worth of classes—at your new school.

Turn Work or Life Experience into College Credits

Life Experience into College Credits

Your new degree program may require courses unlike any that you’ve taken in the past. Even still, if you work in a similar field, you might be able to place out of those courses. That’s because some colleges will grant credit for professional knowledge and experience.

To assess what you know, colleges may review your:

  • Certifications or licenses in your field
  • Portfolio of work
  • Scores on tests that assess college-level knowledge

Many schools would prefer that you spend your time learning new things instead of rehashing what you’ve already learned on the job.

Personalized Learning

bachelor's degree credits

Even if some of your past coursework and professional experience are not accepted for bachelor’s degree credits, they may still help you speed through the degree process.

At some schools, you can bypass portions of select classes if you can demonstrate that you’re proficient in those areas. By skipping half the material, you may progress through a course in double time.

Bachelor’s Degree Requirements

Bachelor’s Degree Requirements

Amassing 120 credits isn’t necessarily enough to grant you a bachelor’s degree. The courses that you take must align with the curriculum for a particular program.

The curriculum for most accredited degree programs include general education, electives, and major-specific classes.

General Education

Throughout your college career, you’ll take courses covering a wide range of topics. These classes might include:

  • American Government
  • College Algebra
  • College Composition
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Lab Biology

Even if you select a new major that’s quite different from your original college ambitions, several of your general education courses may still transfer.


Bachelor’s Degree Electives

Some of the credits for bachelor’s degree programs come from elective classes that you get to select based on your interests or your career goals.

Electives at some schools include:

  • American Film Studies
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Personal Leadership Growth
  • Principles of Ecology

If some of your past major courses transfer into your new program as elective credits, you may not need to take additional electives before graduation.

Major Field of Study

Bachelor’s Degree Major

Many of your bachelor degree credits are comprised of courses that are required for your major. These are the courses that are designed to prepare you for a career in a certain field.

These courses will of course vary depending on what your major is. The following are examples of courses that may accompany particular majors:

  • Criminal Justice: Criminology, Juvenile Corrections, and Policing Systems
  • Management: Ethical Leadership, Communication in Business Settings, and Information Technology
  • Education: Learning Theories, Classroom Technology, and Literacy

In addition to set classes that everyone in your major must take, you may also be required to select a few electives from within your department.

What Are Credit Hours?

Credit hours are a system for tracking progress as you advance through a college program. They represent the amount of time and effort you have invested in your studies. Typically, the more credit hours you have, the closer you are to earning a degree.

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It’s not quite that simple, though. Not only do you need to have at least 120 credit hours before you can graduate with a bachelor’s degree, but they must be earned from certain courses or departments. You may need around 45 general education credits, 45 major credits, and 30 elective credits.

How Many Credit Hours Is 120 Credits?

“Credits” and “credit hours” are two different ways to say the same thing. They represent how much progress you’ve made toward earning a degree. You earn credits for college by receiving instruction and completing assignments.

Credits aren’t the same as classes, though. Most college courses are worth more than one credit hour. In fact, many classes are worth 3 or 4 credits. Overall, you’ll need at least 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree, which usually means taking 30 to 40 classes.

How Long Do College Credits Last?

College Credits Last

Your college credits may retain their value for many years. The content of some classes doesn’t change much over time, so it might not matter how long ago you took those courses. As long as you’ve covered the material at some point, some schools will give you credit.

Not all subject areas are as static, though. For example, computing is a field that’s constantly evolving. Your past coursework can become outdated in 10 years or less.

Can I Use Old College Credits Towards a Degree?

Old College Credits

There’s a good chance that at least some of your old college credits can help you progress toward earning a degree now. You’ll have the best chance of receiving credit for past classes if you took them at a regionally accredited school and earned passing grades.

While transfer policies vary from school to school, there’s one rule that’s pretty universal: You won’t know if you don’t ask! So if you have a lot of college credits but no degree, you can inquire about a prospective school’s transfer policy to see if they may accept at least some of your old college credits.

Getting Your Bachelor’s Degree Online

Getting Your Bachelor’s Degree Online

If you already have 120 college credits, it may be time to take the final steps toward earning a bachelors degree. You can try transferring college credits or testing out of select classes.

You might even discover that you only need a few more classes to complete a degree program. It can be possible to take those courses while keeping up with a full-time job, especially if you choose online studies.

Many accredited online colleges offer generous transfer opportunities, and they’ll often work with you to help you accomplish your graduation goals. If you’re ready to resume your journey toward a degree, you can start today by exploring accredited universities.

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Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.