Quarter credit hours are granted in place of semester credit hours by schools that utilize a quartered calendar system. Traditionally, schools have two 16-week semesters (fall and spring), whereas schools operating with a quartered calendar have four equally divided terms. By using a quartered calendar, the hours spent in a given course are actually fewer than what you’d spend in a course running a full semester. For that reason, the weight of each quarter unit (hour or credit) is approximately 2/3 that of a semester unit. Given that, degree completion requires more units, per accreditation standards.
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Converting and equating credits
Converting quarter credits to semester credits is easy for the sake of making approximations, but it is advised that you speak with an admissions officer to verify your calculations.
Semester credits are worth 1.5 times more than quarter credits. Thus, a 120-credit-hour bachelor degree under the conventional system is equal to a 180-credit-hour degree under the quarter credit system.
Approximate degree lengths:
- Associate’s 60 = 90
- Bachelor’s 120 = 180
- Master’s 36 = 54
Understand quarter credits before you buy
Schools of all ranks may use a quarter calendar; it reflects nothing about the quality of the institution. However, the concern regarding the conversion of credits usually arises when someone is thinking about transferring schools. You ultimately need to speak to admissions about converting your credits because some schools round credits, and often it means a loss of work. For example, if you have two three-credit courses equaling six quarter-credits, it will convert to 4 semester hours. But, what happens to that forth hour? At a tradition school issuing three credit hour courses, your 6 quarter-credits may gain you credits toward only one course.
Understanding quarter credits is also important when you are comparing school program costs. You have to go beyond looking at the unit (credit or hour) price. A traditional school and a quarter calendar school may each charge $350 per hour, or per credit. Clearly, $350 x 120 hours is going to be much less than $350 x 180 hours. For this reason, to accurately compare costs, calculate the program totals. Or, for budgetary reasons, you may be interested in comparing annual costs.
The appeal of quarter credits
The nicest part of quarter credits, for many, is that you will not linger in a course longer than desired. Obviously this matters a lot when you don’t enjoy a class, but there are more important reasons for why shorter course durations are good for you. More rapid course completion boosts your feelings of accomplishment, allow you to explore more terrain in a given year, force the course to stay focuses and productive, and they keep you in a more regular rhythm. Lastly, quarter-credit systems expose you to more courses during your degree tenure, which can be very beneficial for you in terms of career preparation and personal growth.