College Credit hours MS in USA

What are Credit Hours & Courses in US Universities ? Full time vs Part time ?

In Campus Life in US by Kumar16 Comments

If you are a new international student, you may have hard time in the beginning trying to understand what credit hour stands for and how do they link to courses. Everyone around  you would be talking the credit hour lingo and courses….it can be frustrating..I was recently asked by one of our readers about credit hours as well, let me share some of my thoughts on credit hours.

What are credit hours ?

In simplistic terms, credit hour is the basic unit of measurement that count towards award of degree either bachelors or Masters.  Every degree would have its own set of requirements for credit hours…i.e. for instance, to obtain a bachelors degree usually schools may require anywhere from 110 to 140 credits depending on school…similarly for Masters, it may be anywhere from 30 to 39 or more depending on program.


What is the relation between course and credit hour ?

A course is typically measured in terms of number of credit hours. Based on the amount of work load and instruction hours, a course is assigned certain number of credit hours.  Basic courses may be like 1 credit or 2 credits in Undergrad. As you take higher level ones in Undergrad, they may be range 3 to 4 credits. In masters most of the courses are either 3 or 4 credits. In Graduate school like MS or MBA, a normal course could typically be about 3 to 4 credit hours, depending on the course weight and load.

What is Credit hour work load, instruction time in class ?

This totally depends on school….but in general, each credit hour corresponds to one hour of lecture time in class per week. For instance, if you take a 3 credit hour class, you would have 3 hours of instruction in class.  Depending on school, a credit hour can have 2 to 4 hours of off class work like labs, home work, project work etc. What it means is, if you take 3 credit class or course, you may be required to study 6 to 12 hours outside of class to be able to do well in class.

Student Status either Full time or Part time based on credit hours ?

In Masters level, typically, if you take 6 credits or less your status is considered part time. If you take 9 or more credit hours, then it is considered full time. It does not matter how many courses you take, what counts is the number of credit hours. For instance, you may take one 3 credit course and two 1.5 credit courses,  though you are taking 3 courses, still you are part time because you are taking less credits. In undergrad level, typically taking 12 credits is considered full time. Also, there may be limit on the number of credits you can take in a semester based on the school…  As an international student, you are typically expected to be enrolled full time to maintain student status during normal terms like Fall or Spring.   So, technically an international student has to take about 9 to 12 credit hours, depending on the school, to be in F1 student status, unless you are in graduating or summer semester.

Credit hours are used in GPA calculation as well, check this article How to calculate GPA in US schools . You have to be very careful in choosing your course load at least in the first semester..Read this article  Why NOT to take more than 3 courses in MS first semester

What are your thoughts on Credit hours  ? Were you full time or part time ?

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Reference : College Credit hour info

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Comments ( 16 )

  1. teja

    I have doubt regarding the CPT of CSU Northridge university.In university it is mentioned that 2 semesters are minimum to get CPT but i don’t know 1 semester is equal to how many months ?

    Please let me know urgently..

  2. Dishank Mittal

    I want to pursue MS in aerospace engineering but I have done my bachelors in Electronics and Comm Engg. I dont have any relevant work experience in Aerospace. So its diffucult for me to get admit from aerospace course. What I am thinking now is take Electrical Engg as the major and during electives I will take courses from aerospace programme as an elective course… Is it possible.. should I do like that??
    P.S. My main focus is on aerospace engineering.

  3. Malgor

    I must register for 9 credit hours for my Graduate studies to be considered for TAship.
    I don’t understand the notion. Is 9 the number of courses I should take or what it is

    1. Teja B.

      9 is definitely not the number of course you should take. You should take anywhere from 3-4 courses, but only if each one is at least 3credit hour which most likely it will be.

  4. Vaishnavi

    For a graduate degree i need to complete 30 semester hours..What does that mean and what is the relationship between semester hour and credit hour?

    1. chaitanya

      In order get a graduate degree ie masters. you should atleast complete 30 credits. And generally each course has 3 credits and per semester as full time a student should register for 3 courses that is equal to 9 credits or credit hours both are the same.

      I hope you got the answer.

  5. Ananamo

    Who wrote this shit? VERY VERY rarely do you ever see a 2 credit course; let alone a 1 credit course! The standard is 3 credits per course at the undergrad level; and sometimes you see 4. Level of difficulty has nothing to do with it! It’s how the college and the course is designed.

    It depends on the individual school to determine what is considered part-time and what is considered full-time. Generally, it is safe to say that if a school operates on semesters (and not quarter system), part-time is 6 to 9 credits, and full-time is 9 to 12 credits (or even as much as 18 credits per semester.

    It is worth mentioning that there are good schools (with proper accreditation) who consider 1 class part-time. Furthermore, some Master’s programs consider 6 credits (2 classes) full time. It is really difficult to work full time job and take 2 classes at the Master’s level (if you want to do well in your studies). In fact, I have seen Master’s level programs require only 1 class to be considered a part-time student.

    Some schools work on a quarter system. There credits will be higher, for example a 4.5 quarter credit course is equivalent to 3 credits on a semester system.

    If we talk about difficulty, we are talking about levels of classes 1000 & 2000 level classes are considered “intro classes”; 3000 level classes are considered upper-division courses. You need a mix of both at the Bachelor’s level. Sometimes 4000 level classes can be taken at the undergrad level as well. Sometimes 4000 level classes can be Master’s level courses too. Typically Master’s level course is considered 5000 or higher.

    1. administrator

      A person on H-4 can either be enrolled full-time or part-time. For full-time requirements, you should check w/ the school.

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