What are College Credits?

Colleges use credits to measure how much time a student spends learning a subject, and are traditionally earned after completing a course at a college. After taking courses and earning credit for four years at a school, they’ll earn a degree, but there are alternative methods to earn college credit, and make progress towards your degree that will take less time and cost less money.

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How many credits do you need to graduate college?

Colleges typically require students to earn 120 college credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and 60 credits for an associate’s degree. A sample course load is 5 courses where each one is worth 3 credit hours, which is in total, 15 credit hours for the entire semester. Earning these credits could take four years if you’re completing 15 credit hours a semester and two semesters a year.

However, if you want to get ahead and earn credit faster, there are alternatives to taking college courses at a traditional university. You can take transferable college courses online, or take tests to earn college credit.

Online College Courses for Credit

Using alternative credit providers like Study.com, you can earn college credit by taking our online courses. You'll be able to study anywhere, wherever you want — there's no classroom or textbook — using your computer or phone, you'll learn everything for the course by watching short video lessons or reading their transcripts.

Online college courses are useful if you want to finish general education classes and don't have time in your schedule, the class is already full, or they don't offer it at your school.

Study.com College Accelerator plan gives you access to everything you need to earn college credit. You'll be able to access over 200 credit-recommended college courses that you can transfer into your college, and access to thousands of videos and lessons and test prep courses to prepare you for any college credit exam.

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The American Council on Education (ACE) is one of the nation’s leading authorities on higher education. They evaluate non-traditional courses for credit-recommendation, ensuring that they meet rigorous standards similar to those required by a traditional college course.

Hundreds of colleges recognize ACE credit-recommended courses, and the credit you earn taking their approved courses can transfer and help you meet your educational goals faster and at a lower cost.

Earn College Credit by Taking a Test

If you’re already familiar with a subject, or want to study for a test instead of taking a full course, you can choose from multiple standardized tests to earn transferable college credit. The most common tests are CLEP, DSST, and AP.


College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a College Board initiative that allows students to earn transferable college credit by taking a test. Students interested in CLEP may have pre-existing knowledge that they can use to pass the test, or they may specifically study for it instead of taking a full course.

Check out the resources available to learn more about the test, or get started preparing for one with one of Study.com’s CLEP Test Prep resources.


DSST exams allow the opportunity for students to demonstrate their pre-existing knowledge by passing a test, rather than taking a full college course. They were originally designed for the military, but are now publicly available for all students who want to earn college credit for their pre-existing knowledge. They are similar to CLEP, but DSST also offers tests for upper level courses.

Want to learn more about DSST? Check out our informational resources, or jump in with our practice tests.

AP exams

The Advanced Placement (AP) program allows students to earn college credit by completing a proctored exam. AP Exams are designed for high school students that completed a year long course, and are only administered in May at the end of the school year. AP Exams are a great opportunity to earn college credit in high school and complete general education requirements before starting college.

If you’re interested in learning more about AP Exams, check out the resources and practice tests.

Save Money on College with Transferable Credit

Earning a bachelor’s degree is one of the best investments you can make because it both unlocks many career opportunities, and is an incredible personal accomplishment. While college can be extremely expensive, you can save time and money by using alternative credit options and transferring credit into your school.

Even just completing a few of your degree requirements with an online course or for credit exam can save you thousands on your college tuition.

Check out the information below to see just how much you can save.

College Credit Transfer

No matter how you earn your college credit, knowing that it will transfer into your school is arguably one of the most important parts. How do you know that your credit will transfer?

The best way to know if your credits will transfer is to communicate directly with your destination school’s counselor to confirm its transferability. It’s best to get this confirmation in writing before taking your tests or completing your courses, and then when you’re ready to transfer, you’ll receive that college credit for your work.

ACE lists over 400 regionally accredited college and universities that have policies for accepting ACE credit-recommended courses, but more schools accept these credits.

Study.com success coaches will help you decide what courses you need for your degree.

To get started earning transferable college credit on Study.com, create an account now.

How It Works

  1. Create a plan on what courses you need

  2. Confirm that your credits will transfer with your destination school advisor

  3. Get started earning credit, whether you’re taking online courses, or preparing for tests

  4. Request your transcript and transfer your college credit to your destination school

  5. Finish taking any courses you need to earn your degree with your school

Our Partner Schools

In addition to the thousands of schools that accept online credit, we've partnered with the following schools specifically to make sure that transferring credit from Study.com is a seamless process.

University of Phoenix students can earn up to 87 college credits to apply to their degree program with special partnership pricing.
View the transfer guide here. 
Earn up to 90 college credits from Study.com courses that can be transferred to Thomas Edison State University.
View the transfer guide here. 

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