Credit Hour Requirements & Policies
To earn a degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, you must earn a minimum of 120 semester hours (s.h.) of credit towards graduation.
You may find that you need to earn more than the minimum 120 semester hours if you
- are earning a Bachelor of Music (BM) or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree
- choose a major late
- change majors
- add a second major, a minor, or a certificate to your plan of study
Your degree audit records the number of hours you have earned toward graduation. Track your progress by frequently requesting and reviewing your degree audit on ISIS.
Maximum and minimum credit hour rules listed below include both UI and transfer coursework. For transfer credit maximum hours, see Transfer credit, below. For the maximum number of credit hours per semester, see Maximum course load.
Credit by examination maximum
- A maximum of 30 semester hours of credit by examination from all approved sources is accepted toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation. A maximum of 15 semester hours of credit by examination may be awarded in the major; however, some departments may accept fewer hours of credit by examination.
Independent study hours maximum
- A maximum of 9 semester hours of credit from independent study is accepted toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation. Practica, capstone courses, internships, Guided Independent Study (GIS) courses, Honors Thesis, and Honors Project hours are not included in this 9 s.h. limit. You may request a waiver of this policy from the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Curriculum; waivers will be granted only with support from your advisor.
Maximum hours for Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science
- Ordinarily, a maximum of 56 semester hours of credit from one academic department is accepted toward the minimum 120 semester hours needed for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree, with these exceptions:
- The School of Journalism & Mass Communication does not permit students to apply more than 48 semester hours from Journalism courses to a BA or BS degree.
- Students earning a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Dance may earn up to 61 semester hours in Dance (effective fall 2015).
- If you earn more than the maximum semester hours from one department, you will not receive credit toward graduation for those hours; the excess hours will, however, be used for all other purposes (GPA, registration, etc.).
- The 56 semester-hour maximum applies to both UI and transfer coursework.
Maximum hours for Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Music
- For the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Art, a maximum of 62 semester hours from the School of Art & Art History is accepted.
- For the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Dance, a maximum of 82 semester hours in Dance is accepted (effective fall 2015).
- Students earning a Bachelor of Music (BM) degree have no maximum hours restriction for semester hours from the School of Music.
- If you are earning two majors, two degrees, or a major and a minor from a department that offers degrees in more than one subject area (for example, if you are earning a BS in Physics and a BS in Astronomy from the department of Physics and Astronomy), you may apply more than 56 semester hours from that department to the 120 semester hours needed for graduation, but must earn a minimum of 56 semester hours from coursework taken outside of your major department.
- If you are seeking double majors in the teacher education programs, you must earn a minimum of 56 semester hours in courses taken outside the College of Education.
- These rules apply to both UI and transfer coursework.
P (pass) and S (satisfactory) hours maximum
- A maximum of 30 semester hours of credit from all sources (UI and transfer) with a grade of P (pass) or S (satisfactory) is accepted toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation. A maximum of 15 semester hours of P and a maximum of 15 semester hours of S credit from the University of Iowa is accepted.
ROTC credit maximum
- ROTC credit includes credit from Aerospace Studies (Air Force ROTC) and Military Science (Army ROTC). CLAS students who enter these programs earn graduation credit from courses offered by these programs. CLAS accepts a maximum of 20 semester hours of ROTC credit toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation.
Courses MATH:0100 Basic Algebra I and MATH:0300 Basic Geometry carry no degree credit. Students who take these courses, or courses equivalent to them at another college or university, may not count semester hours from these courses toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation. However, grades awarded in these courses are used in computing grade point averages and do count toward semester loads for all official purposes (e.g., full-time and half-time status, maximum schedule, minimum semester hour requirement, satisfactory academic progress, dean's list eligibility, etc.)
Your degree audit shows the correct number of hours you have taken toward the 120 semester hours required for the degree by subtracting any hours from courses without degree credit. However, your permanent record (official transcript) includes these hours in "hours earned" even though they do not count toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation.
Duplication is assessed when you take a course more than once but the course is not repeatable for credit (listed in the ISIS course description as "Repeatable: No").
- Ordinarily, the course number, not the title, determines duplication. A department may change a course title but still consider the course as duplicating earlier versions. However, when a department drops a course and adds a new course that uses the same number, duplication is not assessed. Questions about the status of a course should be directed to the relevant department or to Graduation Analysis.
- NOTE: The University of Iowa has adopted a new course numbering system. A course may be identified by its current number, its legacy (old) number, or both. Duplication will be assessed if you take a non-repeatable course under the legacy (old) number and retake it under the current number.
- In evaluating duplication, all numbers of a cross-referenced course (the same course offered by multiple departments) are considered the same course.
- Duplication will be assessed if you take a course that has been identified as equivalent to a course for which you already have transfer credit or AP, CLEP, or IB exam credit. Consult Admissions for transfer course equivalencies or check the transfer course database in ISIS.
- Duplication of courses taken at the University of Iowa may not be determined until the time of final graduation analysis. Any hours of duplication will be deducted from the total hours earned toward graduation.
- Although duplicated courses carry no degree credit, grades awarded in them are used in computing grade point averages, and the hours count toward semester loads for all official purposes. Note that grade reports and the permanent record include duplicated hours in "hours earned" even though these hours do not count toward graduation.
- Departments sometimes identify a course as "repeatable" (listed in the ISIS course description as "Repeatable: Yes"). This means that the course may be taken more than once with credit toward graduation awarded each time. If a course has not been marked as "repeatable" by the department offering the course, duplication will be charged.
- Duplication is not assessed after the second-grade-only option has been applied to your record for a repeated course.
CLAS departments and programs sometimes identify a group of courses as requiring a progression from one course to the next. Regression occurs when you take a course that is earlier in the sequence than one you’ve already taken and passed.
Regression is identified only at the time of final graduation analysis, and hours of regression do not count toward graduation. It is your responsibility to be aware of situations in which regression might occur. If you have questions about regression, contact your academic advisor, the department in question, or the Office of Academic Programs & Student Development, 120 Schaeffer Hall.
Current list of potential regression situations:
- Biology course sequences as determined by the Department of Biology
- Chemistry course sequences as determined by the Department of Chemistry
- Computer science course sequences as determined by the Department of Computer Science
- Mathematics course sequences as determined by the Department of Mathematics
- Physics and Astronomy course sequences as determined by the Department of Physics and Astronomy
- Statistics and Actuarial Science course sequences as determined by the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science
- World language courses shown on ISIS as having prerequisites
- Statistics courses as indicated on ISIS
- PSY:1001 Elementary Psychology taken after any other course from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
CLAS accepts coursework and grades from two-year and four-year institutions and lets you use such credit in earning a degree from the College. See below for restrictions.
A maximum of 60 semester hours of degree credit from two-year colleges is accepted in transfer toward meeting the minimum 120 semester hours required for graduation. If you earn more than 60 semester hours of degree credit from a two-year college, the credit hours beyond the first 60 will not count toward the total hours you need for graduation, but the extra semester hours and grades will be used in computing your grade point averages, and you may use the coursework to satisfy course requirements.
There is no limit on the number of credit hours that may be transferred from four-year institutions. However, you must satisfy the UI and CLAS residence requirements regardless of the amount of transfer work that is accepted.
If, at any point during your enrollment in the College, you want to supplement your UI study with coursework at another institution (whether two-year or four-year), you should contact Admissions before taking those courses to determine their transferability to the UI. If you do not get the courses approved before taking them, your transfer credit may not be accepted. See the ISIS transfer search page for unofficial information on the transferability of different courses.
Students must report all work completed at other institutions, whether before or after first admission to Iowa. If you fail to have an official transcript sent to Admissions from an institution you previously attended, you may lose your registration privileges.
Ordinarily, a maximum of 16 semester hours of vocational or career technical credit is accepted in transfer toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation. The number of hours transferable by students with AS and AAS degrees from institutions that have established special articulation agreements with The University of Iowa may vary.
Departments may have different policies regarding the maximum number of semester hours of transfer credit that may be applied toward the requirements for a major, minor, or certificate. To determine how much of your transfer coursework will count toward these requirements, consult the relevant department.
For information on how transfer courses or degrees from two-year institutions satisfy General Education Program requirements, see General Education Policies.
The College awards credit by examination for Advanced Placement (AP), Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. For specific information on these tests, contact Admissions or see Credit by Exam Options. You may also earn credit toward graduation through the Furthering Language Incentive Program (FLIP) and the Mathematics Incentive Program (MIP).
Students who enter the College without having completed the high school course requirements may complete those requirements by earning acceptable scores on approved standardized tests. Contact Admissions for more information.
CLAS permits students to use up to 30 semester hours of credit earned by examination toward graduation. You may apply credit earned by examination toward General Education Program requirements or toward major, certificate, or minor requirements (if the department permits). You can also use them as elective hours.
Advisors and departments will help students use the results of placement and proficiency examinations to choose appropriate courses to continue their study.
Credit by examination policies
- A maximum of 30 semester hours of credit by examination will be accepted toward the 120 semester hours required for graduation.
- Ordinarily, credit earned through examination is applied first to the General Education Program. Credit may also be applied to requirements of a major, minor, or certificate, or as elective credit.
- Departments determine whether any credit by examination will be accepted toward major requirements. Under CLAS policy, no more than 15 semester hours of credit by examination may be approved for use in the major.
- Most credit by examination is placed on the student’s permanent record at the end of his or her first session of enrollment.
- Credit earned through the Furthering Language Incentive Program (FLIP) and the Mathematics Incentive Program (MIP) is considered credit by examination and included in the maximum 30 hours of credit allowed by examination.
- Credit hours earned through examination are ungraded and are not used to compute the GPA.
- Credit by examination that is part of a student's transfer record is not considered residence credit. Other credit by examination hours are residence credit.
- Credit by examination brought to the University of Iowa on transcripts from other institutions will be evaluated by Admissions under the same rules as other transfer credit. The University will validate exam credit from transfer students who bring 12 or more semester hours of regular class credit. See Credit by Exam Options on the Office of Admissions website for details.
- Some AP, CIE, CLEP, and IB tests may overlap. Credit hours earned from overlapping tests will result in duplication, and students will not earn credit from all the tests.
- Students cannot earn credit from a CLEP test if they have already received college credit for an equivalent course or if they have been enrolled for more than three weeks in an equivalent college level course. Students interested in taking a CLEP test should consult with their academic advisor and complete a CLEP eligibility form before registering to take a test.
- Students may use appropriate scores on University of Iowa mathematics and World Languages tests to complete the high school course requirements. Credit is not awarded for these exams, which function primarily as placement exams. Students may complete high school course requirements in English, Mathematics, Natural Science, or Social Studies with credit-earning scores on AP, CIE, CLEP, and IB tests (see Credit by Exam Options).
The Office of Admissions is authorized to evaluate transcripts from the military services.
Students with educational experience obtained at a non-accredited institution or in a formal training program in which there is no standardized procedure for evaluation of credit may request the validation of their credit. Students should consult the Office of Admissions, as well as the department concerned.
Undergraduates may enroll in graduate-level courses (numbered 5000 and above) only with the permission of the instructor and after completion of any prerequisites. There are no CLAS restrictions on the number of graduate-level credit hours taken by undergraduates.
Graduate courses offered by CLAS and taken by an undergraduate are counted as undergraduate credit for the degree and are applied to the CLAS residence requirement. Graduate credit earned as an undergraduate cannot be used as credit toward a graduate degree.
CLAS academic policies for undergraduate students apply to graduate courses taken by undergraduates. If you have questions, please contact the Office of Academic Programs & Student Development.