Unraveling, How Many College Credits for a Semester Hour

Unraveling, How Many College Credits for a Semester Hour
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Confused about Credit Hours?

In order to appropriately schedule your time, you need to know how many college credits are equivalent to one semester hour. Depending on the school chosen, figuring out how credit hours work can be a simple or more difficult process.

This will differ between full and part time students. Full-time students take at least 12 credit hours per semester. Part-time students take 11 hours or less per semester.

Semesters or Quarters?

Most academic years in college are divided one of two ways: by quarters or by semesters. Colleges and universities that use the quarter system divide the school year into four quarters of 8 weeks each. Colleges and universities that use the semester system divide the school year into two 16-week semesters. This article will focus mainly on the semester system, though most of the information will apply to to schools that use a quarter system as well.

An academic school year starts in August of September and ends in May or June. The Fall semester starts in August or September and ends in December. The Spring semester begins in January and ends in May or June. During the Fall semester there are breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. The Spring semester had spring break. Even with those breaks, there are still 16 weeks of instruction per semester.

Credit Hours Per Semester, Unraveled

Classes on a semester plan are 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits in length. One credit classes are usually reserved for labs that are associated with other classes. Two hour classes are usually classes such as health classes and other elective classes such as Intro to Communication and Music Appreciation. Four hour classes are courses that have built-in labs or require extra criteria such as a Mass Communications classes being part classroom, part volunteering at a radio station or newspaper. But the majority of classes are three hour courses.

The number of courses that a student can take each semester depends on the difficulty of the classes and how the classes are scheduled. Most colleges use a Monday, Wednesday, Friday/Tuesday Thursday schedule. Classes that meet three times a week are 50 minutes each, while classes that meet twice a week are usually one and one-half hours in length.

There are also a few classes that meet once a week for three hours, but these classes are usually held at night. To be considered a full-time, a student must carry at least 12 credit hours. How these credits are divided is up to the student. For example, a student can take 4 3-credit hour courses, or a combination of 1 through 4 hours courses. For instance, a Freshman might take Freshman English (3 hours), a Physical Science class such as Biology and its lab (4 hours), a Foreign Language class (3 hours) and Music Appreciation (2 hours) to get their 12 hours. First year students usually take between 12 and 15 credit hours a semester, while students in their second year or more take an average of 18 hours, the majority of which are within their major. At most schools, anything over 24 hours needs special approval from an academic advisor.


Taking classes in college should be both an educational and enjoyable experience. Starting with a couple of courses and working up to a full course-load will ensure students enjoy their experience without becoming overwhelmed.

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