Credit vs Non-Credit

Understanding Credit vs. Non-Credit Courses

Colleges and universities throw around a lot of academic terminologies, and sometimes we assume that everyone knows or understands what we are saying. A common area of confusion is the difference between credit and noncredit courses.


You take a credit course and plan to eventually (at ACC or another institution) earn a credit certificate or degree. The number of credits a course is worth is based upon the time you're expected to be in class. You receive credit by attending and completing a course. Credits add up and can be applied toward a degree.

Examples of Credit Students

  • You're working toward an associate degree in nursing.
  • You plan to get a job in a doctor's office after graduation.
  • You're working toward an associate degree in History.
  • You expect to transfer to a four-year college after graduation to earn your bachelor's degree.
  • You're attending a four-year college, but are home for the summer.
  • You decide to take a course that will transfer to your home school and apply to your four-year degree.


You might take a noncredit course, sometimes called continuing education, to gain job skills or just for fun. Noncredit courses cannot be used toward a credit degree, but (and here is where it seems muddy) many noncredit job training and skill building courses award continuing education units, industry certifications or continuing education certificates.

Examples of Noncredit Students

  • You're taking a course in Microsoft Office to improve your skills and beef up your resumé.
  • You're learning to paint landscapes because it's something you've always wanted to do.
  • You're working toward a continuing education certificate in welding so that you can land a job in that field.

Still Not Clear on the Difference?

It might help to browse our course offerings. Our eight Career Pathways include a variety of programs available as Associate Degrees, Technical Certificates and Continuing Education Certificates. 

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Educations Glossary of Academic Terms. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact us for help.