Credit hours in high school are the basis of a nationwide criterion for graduation. Requirements vary by state and by school type (public, parochial, or private). However, there is a general consensus about what courses and how many hours constitute a quality high school education. The breakdown of these hours is discussed below.


High school credit requirements for math range from three to five and include Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry. Depending upon whether the student is on a college prep track, an upper-level math like Calculus or Trigonometry may be taken to fulfill this requirement. Students on a regular diploma track for graduation can take other courses like Business Math or Statistics.


A student must have four credit hours in English courses. These credits are usually earned by taking English grammar and literature in 9th-12th grades. As with math, some students will have the option of taking Advanced English to earn college as well as high school credit.


A student must earn at least 3 science credits in high school. These include Biology I, Biology II, and Chemistry. There are also other courses that can be taken to earn credits in science like Physics or Earth and Space Science.

Social Studies

High schools will generally require 4 credit hours to be earned in social studies. There are a variety of courses that can be taken to earn these credits. United States History, World History, and State History are required of all students. Civics, Geography, Sociology, and Anthropology can also be applied to this social studies requirement.

Foreign Language

To graduate from most schools, a student will have to earn one or two credit hours by taking a foreign language. This represents one or two years of study between the 9th and 12th grades. Students are encouraged to proceed with the second year of study in the same language in preparation for college.

Computer Science

Computer courses are now standard in high school. These may be in the form of data entry, keyboarding, or programming. There is usually a technological requirement of at least one credit hour in this area.

Elective Course Hours

The remaining credit hours needed for a high school diploma can be earned through other courses like Physical Education, Accounting, or vocational training courses for employment in medical assistance or auto mechanics.

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