How Many Credits Do You Need To Graduate High School

How Many Credits Do You Need to Graduate High School?

Most students earn credits in high school called Carnegie Units. Each unit represents one year of completed coursework in a specific subject. There are no national standards–every state has its own minimum requirements–but the average number of credits needed to graduate is 20. Credits have to be distributed among math, science, languages, social studies and electives that include technology, physical education and art or music (see Reference below).


Most students have to earn four credits in math during high school. These credits are most commonly earned for algebra I, algebra II, geometry and trigonometry. Other math courses like business math, statistics and calculus also count toward the requirement.


Students have to earn three or four credits in science. Courses that meet this requirement are biology I and II, chemistry, physics and earth and space science. Students might earn additional credits for science lab classes.


High school seniors must earn four credits in English. Each credit represents one year of study in English grammar and literature in grades 9 through 12.

Foreign language requirements vary. Students earn one credit for each year of study of a foreign language.

Social Studies

Students usually graduate with four credits earned in social studies courses. These include American and world history, civics, state history and geography. Some schools have additional courses such as anthropology and sociology that can be used toward fulfilling this requirement.


Students can earn credits for elective courses that will count toward the overall number required. These include classes such as art or music appreciation, keyboarding, accounting, technology and physical education. Students earn a half-credit for classes that last one semester.