How Long Do
College Credits Last

Amanda Hoyle, M.Ed., Psy.M. • 10 Minute Read
Sometimes students come across circumstances beyond their control and have to take a break from their studies. In this break, students can pursue a number of paths including doing an associate degree, embarking on a career and then returning to complete their studies. Further opportunities and possibly better-paying jobs would require them to return to complete their studies.

Other students would actually return and earn a second bachelor's degree or master’s degree.

In both cases, transferring those college credits that you built up might not be the most exciting administrative work out there. Credits that have a shelf-life might hinder this process as well. However, doing some research and asking, “how long are college credits good for” or “how long do university credits last” is the best idea.

We have provided you with a quick and informative article for you to gather that knowledge.

College Credits: Do They Expire?

Do college credits expire after 10 years? How long until college credits expire? How long are my college credits good for?

These are common questions asked by students. The expiration date for different programs and credits depends highly on the institution and the type of coursework completed.

However, college credits don’t actually expire. School curriculums and methodologies change over time and this could affect your ability to utilize those credits. If you're going back to finish your undergrad degree, most standard core classes transfer easily between schools.

Transferring these credits comes at a price, the institution at which you received those credits needs to be educationally recognized by the governing state that they reside in. The correct registration process and legal pathways needed to be followed by your previous and current school.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) courses have a shelf-life of 10 years. Due to the advancements and constant change of the field, the understanding and practical methodologies used within them might have been disproven or irrelevant already. You might need to redo a couple of courses to learn about the new advancements and maybe gain a new skill.

Pluto being disproven as a planet is an excellent example of how science and technology have changed over the years.

A standard rule that you can follow is that if your STEM courses are older than 10 years, they may not be transferred.

Graduate courses would have a shelf-life of 7 years. The courses that require a professional touch are much harder to transfer in because the methodologies taught then might not be useful in the present.

Saving time and money would include looking for accredited programs that provide you with some credit, benefit, or recognition for the work you already completed. These programs make a huge difference in your research. You can also save about a year of studying when you’ve found the most suitable program for your completed credits.

College Transfer Net is a helpful website for students to enter their completed work from a previous college or university and find out how they could transfer into credits.

What Factors Determine Whether Or Not Credits Will Transfer?

We can summarize the three factors into the 3 R’s.


One of the main reasons that will determine whether or not credits are eligible to be transferred would boil down to how relevant or closely related they are to the program you desire to apply to. If the courses you’ve accomplished are related to the degree of study that you want to apply for, they will likely transfer.

Depending on the institution and program you’re applying to, certain courses that are not core courses or related to your field of study may still count as an elective requirement.


Recency refers to the length of time that has passed since the credits were earned. Recency is also dependent on the type of courses you did or would like to transfer to. An unwritten rule by schools states that certain credits have a “use-by” date that can range from 5 to 10 years. These refer to fields that are ever-developing with advancements all over. The coursework might become outdated or irrelevant.

General education courses are likely to transfer much easily between schools as they do not become obsolete in a short amount of time. Make sure that you research the extent to which your courses are updated for you to transfer them.


If your past or present school, or schools, are not accredited, your courses will not transfer. Completing these courses at an institution that is not accredited disproves the quality of education provided by the school.

Even if these courses were core courses and you have recently completed them with relevance to your desired study choice, you will not be able to transfer the credits. An accredited institution means that it has met certain bare minimum requirements in terms of quality to teach individuals. The requirements are set by the governing body of the state or region that the institution resides in.

Can College Credits Earned Online Apply To A Different School?

Depending on the program and institution, there are various protocols to follow in order for your credits to be accepted. Online credits can be carried over to a different school if the institution is regionally accredited. This means that if you attended an online institution that is accredited, you are allowed to transfer those credits (with the correct factors achieved) to your next school.

Transferring Credits From Work Experience

With some credits, external applications can be helpful. This means that you could have worked in the desired field of study and came back to complete your studies. The experience that you gained can be beneficial when looking to earn additional college credits.

Having work experience can be used as leverage to earn additional credits but consult your college first before assuming that they allow substitution credits. For example, certain schools offer med-students credit for professional experience in some of their healthcare programs.

Discover Your Credit's Value

The most accurate way to figure this out is to contact the school, or schools, where you earned those credits. Send the administrative team an email or call them. Ask about the process that you should follow to obtain these credits.

They are most likely going to refer you back to sending an official email for them to use as proof of request for your transcripts. This also gives you proof of your request for future usage. If you are transferring, make sure to ask your new school how they would prefer to receive your transcripts. Allow for an evaluation of your submitted transcript by the admissions counselor and get a credit evaluation.

Contact Your College Administration

Consult the admissions representatives of the school that you're applying to. They'll be able to provide you with a guide on transferring credits, the types of programs you’re interested in, and all the important information needed. Your transferring of credits and application process will be explained in detail by these representatives. Check out our "how to transfer credits" article on quick and convenient methods for transferring credits.

Also, browse Transferology to use their tools to find schools you're interested in and if they will accept the transferred credits. You have to create a free account where the information is individually customized for your convenience.

Closing Thoughts

The last piece of advice that we can present to you is to speak to an advisor. Whether you’re transferring abroad or simply moving to a different state, contact the school you’re interested in. They will be able to help you on your journey to tertiary education. A journey that can open many doors, so don’t allow unnecessary admin work to stop you from achieving your dreams. Where there’s a will, there’s a way...

In this case, there’s an article!

Good luck!

Amanda Hoyle, M.Ed., Psy.M
Amanda is a proficient and widely publisced educational leader, with Master's degrees in both Education and Psychology.
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Amanda Hoyle, M.Ed., Psy.M
Amanda is a proficient and widely published educational leader, with Master's degrees in both Education and Psychology.
Related Articles
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