Academic Credit System in the US

In the US system of education the term course is different from what we know. Academics in higher education (undergraduate and masters degree) is divided into modules called ‘courses’. Other than the scheduled number of instructional hours, each academic course includes fieldwork course, laboratory course, lecture course, studio or performance course, practical course or seminars or research course.

Credit hours

At the undergraduate level you are required 4 years of study and minimum number of credit hours, which usually varies from 120 to 130. Credit hours are the number of hours of instruction that are scheduled per week. Accumulation of minimum number of credit hours is a graduation requirement. On successful completion of a course, a student’s performance is judged with both the course grade and a set number of credit hours.

Most colleges and universities follow either a quarter-based calendar system or a semester-based calendar system. In a quarter systems, the academic year is divided into three sessions called quarters. Each quarter lasts about 12 weeks. There is usually an additional quarter in the summer, where registration is optional. Foreign students are not required to attend courses in the summer to maintain their status.

In the semester system, academic year is divided into two semesters – the fall and the spring. Students usually take up 16 credits each semester i.e., 32 each year. On an average, each course has 3 credits or more depending upon the number of hours per week. Again, there may be an optional session during the summer. Number of credit hours is also decisive factor for determining your status as the full-time or part-time student. Foreign students must maintain a full-time course load in order to maintain their visa status.

At the graduate or the master’s degree level, the minimum number of credit hours required is 30. This includes credit hours of full-time study within a year or 2 years.A student can get his or her master's degree by taking 8 courses of subjects with 3 credits each and a thesis of 6 hours credit or 10 courses of subjects with 3 credits each without the thesis.

See Also USA Education System

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