A college degree represents a major achievement because earning one is not a simple feat. It takes hard work, dedication and successful completion of a certain number of semester hours. Semester hours and credit hours or college credits are essentially the same thing. The number of hours represent how much work a specific course will require. To earn a college degree, you need to complete a certain number of semester hours, but the specific number of hours needed and the types of courses required vary by degree.

Semester Hours

Each semester hour is equivalent to one credit. To earn a bachelor’s degree, you have to complete 120 college credits. Since most courses are typically worth three credits per class, you will need to successfully pass 40 classes to earn the bachelor’s degree. Completion of requirements for a bachelor’s degree takes about four years on average, assuming you take at least 15 semester hours for two semesters per year. College semesters are typically 15 weeks long. The courses you take are just as important as the number of hours since each degree program has its own list of required courses.

Most college lecture and seminar courses are worth three credits or semester hours, but laboratory classes are typically worth less because they meet for shorter periods of time and require less homework. Each credit represents one hour of classroom facetime followed by approximately two hours of homework each week. So, for an average college course, you would spend three hours in class and would need to complete about six hours of homework on a weekly basis. A full college course load of 15 semester hours would therefore require approximately 45 hours of work each week for the entire 15 weeks of the semester.

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Internship and Field Work Credit Hours

You can earn some semester hours outside of the classroom by participating in internships or field work. You calculate the number of semester hours awarded for internships based on faculty instructional time and student work time. It is the responsibility of faculty members or program directors assigned to oversee internship and field work programs to maintain accurate records so that semester hours can be properly calculated.

How to Calculate Semester Hour Requirements

The minimum number of semester hours required to earn a bachelor’s degree is 120. Some of those hours pertain to core requirements while others pertain to electives. To determine the number of hours within specific areas of study that are required for a degree in your chosen field, review the course catalog for your selected major within the college you attend. Even if you think you know what courses and how many hours are required for graduation in your field, meet with an academic adviser, and verify those requirements to make sure that you are on the right track.

About the Author

Kristina Barroso earned a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University and works full-time as a classroom teacher in a public school. She teaches middle school English to a wide range of students from struggling readers to advanced and gifted populations. In her spare time, she loves writing articles about education for TheClassroom.com, WorkingMother and other education sites.