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How Many Credits Should You Take?

by Margaret Hurst
Marketing Specialist

January 20, 2016

Credit hours can be a bit confusing if you’re new to higher education. If you take too many your grades may suffer, but if you take too few then you may not earn your degree in the timeframe that you want. We’re here to answer all of your questions about what credit hours are and how they work so that you can come up with the best game plan for yourself.

What are credits?

Credits, also known as credit hours or units, are an educational measurement that reflect how much time a class will take you over the course of the semester. A bachelor's degree requires 120 credits to complete. The majority of university classes are 3 credits each. 12 credits in a semester is full-time, and 15 credits is considered a full load. A bachelor’s degree is often referred to as a 4-year degree because if you take a full load of courses for fall and spring semesters, you’ll finish in 4 years. However, not all students follow this schedule. Taking 15 credits is like having a full-time job. Many students have work and family obligations, so they only take a part-time load.

How many credits should I take?

The amount of credits that you take will depend entirely on how much time you have to spend on school work. It’s important to be realistic amount how much you can dedicate to school, while keeping in mind your family and work commitments.

According to Arizona Board of Regents policy, 45 hours of work equals one credit. An hour of work is the equivalent of:

50 minutes of class time (often called a “contact hour”); or

60 minutes of related homework (out-of-class work)

You can read the full policy here.

If you are starting back at school, working full-time, and aren’t sure how you’ll handle the workload, you may want to start off with one class for the first semester and see how it goes. However, if your goal is to earn your degree as quickly as possible and you’re ready to put in the time, then you may be able to handle several courses each semester.

If you’re still unsure of how many credits you should take, speak to your advisor. Your advisor is an expert who can talk through it with you and help you come up with your plan.

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