Two students sitting at desks in a classroom.

Have you ever found yourself wondering how college majors work? How do people double-major and graduate on time? What are credit hours and major credits, and how will they get me a degree? Well, look no further! Here’s a comprehensive explanation of how majors work at NYU, from double-majoring in Film and Television and Psychology to general and elective credits that turn can into minors.

How Do Majors Work?

To complete a major at NYU, you have to earn a certain number of credit hours. Credit hours are a way of measuring a courseʼs total instruction time. Most programs will require you to complete 125 to 140 credits over the course of your academic career. A majority of the classes at NYU are worth four credit hours, and a typical schedule will consist of four classes per semester. Some classes are worth more or fewer credits though. I’ve taken six-credit production courses and two-credit writing classes. The extra credits each semester pushed my course load up to 18, which is the maximum number of credits you can take per semester  without further permission and a tuition increase. Twelve credits is the minimum number of credits you can take as a full-time student. 

There are three types of credits that make up a major at NYU: major credits, general education credits, and elective credits.
A student wearing recording headphones and operating a camera.

Major Credits

Major credits are courses that are specifically required for your academic interest. For example, for my primary major, Film and Television, I have to complete 12 credits of screenwriting courses. One screenwriting course, Storytelling Strategies (FMTV-UT 20), is required for everyone in my major. I chose the other two courses from a long list of offerings.

I took Writing the Short Screenplay (FMTV-UT 1020) and Introduction to Television Writing (FMTV-UT 1017) if you were curious.

Writing courses are just a small part of my overall major requirements. I have to take 54 credits in film to complete my major. That number is specific to Film and Television. Most majors actually require fewer credits. Typically, a major will consist of anywhere from 30 to 60 credits. The number of credits your primary major requires will factor into whether or not you will be able to complete a double major in four years. Since my primary major is rather intensive, I cannot double-major in another intensive major, like Drama, without over enrolling or completing a summer term. However, my secondary major, Psychology, only requires 40 credits, so I can complete it without taking extra classes.

General Education Credits

Since NYU is a liberal arts institution, every student is encouraged to explore multiple fields of study through general education courses. General education courses are classes that are outside your academic interest, specific to NYU’s core curriculum. NYU has a core curriculum that is based on four points:


  1. Foundations of scientific inquiry
  2. Foundations of contemporary culture
  3. Expository writing
  4. Language

Each school at NYU requires around 40 credits of general education courses. In addition, every school has different requirements related to the core curriculum. For example, most students at NYU fulfill their expository writing requirement through a class called Writing the Essay. However, Gallatin’s curriculum is heavily centered on writing, so Gallatin students do not have to take this specific course. Regardless of individual differences among schools, the core curriculum ensures that every student at NYU has a well-rounded, multidisciplinary education.


Two students sitting at the 2nd-floor cafe at NYU Shanghai.

Elective Credits

You might have noticed that if you add together the required 30 to 60 major credits and 40 general education credits, you’ll be at least 20 credits away from your degree. Those extra credits are elective credits, and you can fulfill them however you please. Elective credits allow students to complete a double major or minor or take any class that’s completely unrelated to their primary field of study. Want to take Live Video Performance Art (OART-UT 567) or the History of Italian Food (FOOD-UE 1052)? Elective credits make that possible regardless of your major! I plan on using some of my elective credits to finish my second major in Psychology, and the rest Iʼll use to take courses in the open arts department.

Students and a professor making pasta in a food studies course.
Students in a film production class.

As I mentioned before, the number of each type of credits you will need to complete your academic program will vary based on your major. Your adviser at NYU will help you design and navigate your specific academic plan. If you’d like to know more about the requirements of a specific academic program, you can check out NYU’s website. You can also email or call the admissions center at [email protected] or 212-998-4500.

Zani is an Assistant Director of Admissions for NYU Abu Dhabi and the Global Admissions team, based in New York. She is also a NYU Tisch alumna, former RA and Admissions Ambassador. She is a travel enthusiast and vegan foodie. In her free time you can catch her directing independent documentary films.