What Is The Difference Between Semester Hours and Quarter Hours?

Students look at a number of factors when deciding where to attend college, but many of those students don’t pay attention to the difference between the semester system and the quarter system. The main difference between the two systems is how long the classes last. Quarter systems generally have fewer weeks than semester hours. Before you decide that you want to go with whichever school finishes the earliest, you need to think about what this really means and which one is best.

Semesters vs. Quarters

The semester system consists of classes that last for 16 weeks. This means that you spend roughly four months in class each semester. The fall semester usually starts at the end of August and runs until the middle of December or right before Christmas. Most colleges that use the semester system offer two to three semesters each year. The winter/spring semester begins in January and ends in May, while the summer semester runs from May or June until August. Schools that rely on the quarter system divide the year into four quarters. You can take classes during the winter, spring, summer or fall quarter. Instead of lasting for 16 weeks, these classes only run for 10 weeks with a break of a few weeks in between the start of the new quarter.

Benefits of the Quarter System

The quarter system is less popular with schools than the semester system, and many schools that once relied on the quarter system switched to the semester system in recent years. One of the biggest benefits of the quarter system is the frequent breaks. You get a few weeks off between each quarter, and you can use that break to visit with family, work full-time or take a vacation. This system also lets students finish their work faster. They typically take their midterms within the first four weeks of classes beginning, and they finish their midterms not long after students in the semester system take their midterms. Many students enjoy the frequent breaks that come with a quarter program and the ability to take classes all year round.

Benefits of Semester System

More than 80 percent of all colleges and universities in the United States utilize the semester system. Students who attempt to transfer classes from a quarter program to a semester problem often run into problems because the semester system is much more intensive. According to the Oregon University System, some benefits of the semester system include cheaper costs for students, more opportunities for learning and the chance to take the summer off. Students in the quarter system often spend the summer working on their degrees, while students in semester programs take the summer to work in full-time jobs or complete internships. The semester system can also help students when it comes to their finances too, because those students only need to purchase books twice a year.

While more schools now use the semester system, there are still some schools in the country that use the quarter system. The quarter system offers four sections of classes every year with a short break, while the semester program uses three sections of courses with shorter breaks between those classes. Looking at the benefits of each type of program can help you decide if you should attend a school that uses the quarter or semester system.