Because education is regulated at the state level, states can set their own requirements for how many credit hours students are required to have before they legally graduate from high school. States can also set additional requirements to test students' proficiency before they graduate, such as computer literacy. While many states set traditional requirements for students to graduate from high school, some states also award academic credits through a combination of work and study. In New York, for example, students may be eligible to earn high school credit through a combination of work and study.
State-based Credit Requirements
The number of credit hours mandated by state schools varies widely. In Wisconsin and California, students must complete just 13 total credit hours to graduate based on a standard curriculum, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. These numbers are among the lowest in the country for standard high school graduation. In Vermont, students following a standard curriculum need 14.5 credits to graduate from high school. That number rises slightly for standard curriculum programs in Maine, Illinois and Rhode Island, which require students to complete 16 credit hours to graduate. With graduation requirements of 23.5 and 24 credit hours for a standard program, Washington, D.C., and Florida, respectively, have some of the highest credit hour requirements for students to graduate.
Standard and Accelerated Credit Requirements
Some states also have separate credit hour requirements for students graduating on an advanced or accelerated track. In Florida, for example, students in the "Advanced Scholars" program must complete 26 credit hours to earn their high school diploma. They can complete these additional credit hours by taking more courses in mathematics and science. In California, students who are on the "Advanced" track must complete 16 credit hours to graduate from high school. They can meet these requirements by taking three extra credits in the areas of mathematics and foreign languages. In Indiana, students in the "Academic Honors" program must complete 24 credit hours of high school coursework. They can do so by taking additional courses in social studies, mathematics and the sciences. Several states, such as Georgia, require the same number of credit hours regardless of whether students are on the regular or accelerated academic track.
Additional Graduation Requirements
While some states impose graduation requirements based on credit hours alone, others add additional measures of proficiency before students can graduate. In Alabama and Maine, students must demonstrate computer literacy before they can graduate. Maine also requires students to be proficient in American history to be eligible for graduation. A number of states also set requirements within certain subjects. For example, Maine and Florida require students to have a laboratory component to their science studies. In some states, such as Iowa, high school students can earn double the amount of credit hours for courses taken at the college level. In addition to setting certain standards of proficiency, many states give students a state test to check for competency. These tests can cover all subject matters or focus on certain areas.