If you are a new international student in US enrolled in undergrad or graduate degree like MS or MBA, you may have hard time in the beginning trying to understand what credit hour stands for and how do they relate to courses in the US schools. Everyone around you would be talking the credit hour lingo and courses….it can be frustrating, if you are new to this and have not heard about it back in your home country..
What are Credit Hours in US Universities?
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 US Universities ( aka US Schools) may require anywhere from 110 to 140 credits depending on University…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. Usually course lab work or seminars are for 1 credit. Basic courses may be like 2 credit or 3 credits in Undergraduate level. Also, as you take higher level ones in Undergrad, some of them may 4 credits. In masters most of the courses are either 3 or 4 credits. In Graduate school for 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, one 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 in class instruction. 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. This varies slightly by school, but in general, that’s the rule. 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 ?
Reference : College Credit hour info
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