What happens to my college credits if I’ve been out of school for a while?

College credits don’t really ever expire, what changes, is the school curriculum. Curriculums and methodologies change over time, so it’s important to understand how that could impact you if you take a break.

How long are your credits good for?

Your credits don’t necessarily expire but depending on how long it’s been, they might be ineligible for transfer. There are some general rules that apply to most schools that you should be aware of when it comes to the lifetime of your classes – especially if you are looking to transfer schools:

  • Core classes: These are your general education requirements and most of these credits never expire. So, if you are going back for your undergraduate degree, the credits should easily transfer to most schools.
  • STEM Classes: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math class credits have an average life of 10 years. Anything over 10 years is generally ineligible for school transfer.
  • Graduate Classes: These courses are aligned to professional needs. As time goes on, the methodologies change which gives these credits a 7-year life span.
  • Life Experience: Believe it or not, some institutions will honor real-world experience in place of certain classes. You will need to work with your school to find more information on that process and how years of experience can count as credits.

Are all degree programs and schools the same?

Not all degree programs and schools will have the same limitations on college credit lifespan. However, due to the constant changes in technology and as methods evolve, most class credits are good for 5-10 years.

Relevance of subject matter is also something to keep in mind. Some classes, while no longer eligible to fulfill the credit they were initially intended for, may still be usable in other ways. For instance, they might satisfy other requirements such as elective credits.

Credit Transfer

Accreditation for certain programs is another important factor to consider. If you attended a school that is not accredited or no longer exists, your credits will most likely not transfer to a new school. If your school is accredited and your classes were completed within the last 10 years, there’s a high likelihood you can get most, if not all, of those credits transferred to your new school.

Transferology is a great resource for looking up college transfer opportunities. You can create a free account and use their tools to find schools you’re interested in and see if they will accept the transferred credits. that you can transfer your credits to. options of where you can attend school if transferring is the route you want to take.


The biggest piece of advice is to try and limit the amount of time spent out of school if possible. The longer you wait, the greater the chances that some of your classes might become outdated and you’ll end up having to take more than you originally planned. Work with your school or the future school of your choice to find out your options are. Even if you have to take some extra classes to make up for old ones, the investment will be worth it in the long run.