How Many Semesters In A Year At University? All you need to know

How many semesters in a year at university? All you need to know about the semesters of universities and colleges are discussed in this article, plus other things you need to know about the study times at different tertiary institutions.

Tertiary institutions globally function differently in the academic year, from semesters, trimesters, to quarters. But, to specifically answer the question of how many semesters in a year at university, a precise and comprehensive satisfiable information provided will give a clear understanding.

Attending a college or university is one step toward procuring a degree and getting to the apex of academic achievement. Perhaps you are an aspirant of a university or college with an eagerness to know the number of semesters at tertiary intuition. Your referred university may turn out to have an academic year of semesters, trimesters, or quarters.

However, let us assume you want to make a selection on semesters before you are admitted into a university or get an understanding of the academic calendar of universities. 

Before we go into full detail to explain the number of semesters in a year at university, let us provide you with little details too small to ignore.

How Many Semesters In A Year At University

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What Is A Semester?

Universities or colleges may have any of the three sessions during an academic year.

Semesters in universities and colleges split the academic year into a double session. The academic year is separated into fall and spring semesters with approximately 15 weeks each.

Within fall and spring semesters, exists a winter break from fall to spring semesters and a summer break from spring to fall. With approximately 15 weeks for each semester, the last week of the fall and spring semesters are for final examinations.

By statistics, almost 90% of tertiary institutions (universities and colleges) in America use the semester system.

How Many University Semesters Are In A Year?

As we earlier explained at the beginning of the article that most tertiary institutions have a different academic year, especially the semester-based system.

University semesters split an academic year into two sessions each lasting up to 15 weeks. The two semesters start in fall and spring respectively.

For instance, UC Berkeley runs a semester-based system. During each semester comes winter and summer breaks, and talking about summer, there are short summer semesters. Most tertiary institutions operating the semester system sometimes have a shorter semester during summer. This semester is referred to as the short summer semester with a duration of approximately twelve weeks.

It’s a shorter semester because it’s not part of the regular academic year at universities. More explanation about the summer semester will follow as you read further through the article.

Additionally, some universities operate quarters in an academic year. A quarter duration lasts up to 10 weeks and students can take up to three or four classes based on the number of credits for each class.

Tertiary institutions with quarters have their academic year split into four sessions, fall, winter, spring, and summer. Short summer quarters are also part of quarters at universities. All these sessions are in the education system to accommodate and present students with the opportunity to procure a degree.

Now let us elaborate more on quarters and trimesters. 

What is a Quarter?

Universities and colleges operate on semesters, trimesters, and quarters. An academic year at a tertiary institution is divided into fours sessions with a quarter system.

The fall, winter, spring, and summer semesters complete an entire academic year at universities or colleges with the quarter system.

Although the summer session is not required, students can also use the summer session to complete classes they did not offer during other sessions. Out of the four sessions in a quarter-based system, each session lasts for 10 weeks.

Students take up to 3 or 4 classes in each session or 9 to 12 credits. An academic year at universities or colleges with the quarter system usually starts in mid-September and concludes in early June.

What is a Trimester?

If an academic year at universities or colleges is divided into three sessions, then they operate a trimester system.

A trimester system consists of fall, winter, and spring. Each session on the trimester system lasts for up to 12to 13 weeks and students can take 3 to 4 classes based on the number of credits in each class.

What are short summer semesters?

Semesters in a year at the university may not be enough for students. With short summer semesters, students are given more opportunities and lots of benefits. In a time of 10 weeks, summer semesters allow students to collect more courses to earn additional credits or boost their Capital GPA.

The short summer semester assists students with a heavy class load in other semesters. Up to nine hours of summer courses are up for grabs to lighten loads of courses in the fall and spring semesters. 

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When does each semester start?

Universities with the semester system, start between the four seasons in the northern hemisphere which consist of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Now let us elaborate on when each semester commences.

Autumn fall semester

The autumn season in the northern hemisphere starts on the 21st of September to the 21st of December.

But, in the academic year aspect, the fall semester is also the first semester, and it starts in mid-August. This semester kick stars the academic year and it is within this period new students are admitted into the university.

Spring semesters

The spring season in the northern hemisphere starts on the 21st of March and ends on 21 of June.

The spring semester also regarded as the second semester of the academic year starts in the second week of January. According to statistics, 85% of universities admit a small number of new students this semester. However, the newly admitted students during the fall semester were greater in number than in the spring.

The short summer semester

The summer season is the hottest of all seasons and students are mostly on holiday during this period. The scorching summer season in the northern hemisphere starts on the 21st of June to the 21st of September.

In an academic year at tertiary institutions, the short summer semester starts in June and lasts up to 12 weeks. Taking short summer semester classes gives students the extra opportunity to complete their classes, stay focused or get ahead in their degree program.

How Many Months Are In A Semester?

The question about how many semesters in a year at university have been discussed and sufficient information was provided. Now, proceeding further to know the number of months in a semester enlightens the entire university semester thing.

Well, am writing based on my own experience. During my time at the university, a semester lasts up to four months, and the break after the second semester lasts up to two months, and two weeks Christmas break. But my university semester period and breaks are different from the rest of the tertiary institutions around the world.

Three months and a few weeks is the estimated period of a semester in universities and colleges. With 15 weeks for both fall and spring semesters and 12 weeks for the short summer semester, one can make a precise calculation based on the number of weeks in a month.

Tertiary institutions on a semester system have their academic year separated into two sessions, and each semester may last up to 14-20 weeks. The periods of semesters are different in most tertiary institutions with two or three weeks difference.

However, most community colleges currently use the K-12 schedule with two precise 18 weeks semester periods. Most universities and colleges in America operate the semester system in an academic year.

The fall semester (autumn semester) starts in mid-August or early September and concludes in December. The spring semester (second semester) on the other hand starts in January and concludes in May, while the short summer semester starts in May and ends in August.

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How Many Semesters In A 2 Year College?

Normally, a semester-based system splits an academic year into two sessions. If a student is enrolled in a 4-year program, the number of semesters would be eight. For operating on a regular semester system, there would be four semesters in a 2-year college.

But, in a two-year college or community college, as they are commonly referred to, the number of semesters is quite different. For instance, if you take classes in the fall and spring sessions, you have completed an entire year at a 2-year college. Also, students may decide to take summer classes.

How Many University Semesters Are In A Year In The U.S?

We have provided you with the number of semesters in a year at university. Now, let us look into the number of semesters in the U.S education system.

The United States Of America Education System

We will be discussing most U.S tertiary institutions’ factors on the semester system.

Semester system: several universities and colleges in the U.S operate a trimester-based system consisting of fall, spring, and summer sessions.

The fall semester 

Fall or the first semester of the academic year starts from mid-August or most times early September. The number of newly admitted students in this session is always higher. Aid and assistantship are offered during this session.

The spring semester

The spring or second semester usually starts in the second week of January. Several universities also admit new students, but the number of newly admitted is fewer compared to the numbers recorded in the fall semester. Opportunities to procure aid are fewer, but on-campus jobs are available on a part-time basis.

The summer semester

The shortest semester in an academic year and one session of the trimester lasting up to 10 weeks. The short summer semester starts in June and a small number of universities admit new students.

What are credit hours?

The United States of America’s education system authorizes students to select papers with each paper having a certain number of credits between 3 or 4. The selection of papers excludes some mandatory essential papers.

Some university requires up to 30 to 36 hours for the Non-thesis option, and fewer hours are required for the thesis option. Also when students fill the required number of credits, they graduate successfully. 

Transfer credits 

If a student wants to change their major, university, or college. The student may be able to transfer some credit that they have successfully passed to a new major, university, or college.

If you are found in this situation, you have to cover up the remaining credits to get your degree. Please note that there is a limit on the number of credits you are allowed to transfer based on the college or department.

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Graduate or undergraduate degree

At the U.S tertiary institution, an undergraduate degree is a Bachelor’s degree, while that of a graduate is coequal to a Postgraduate degree taking up to two years or Masters’s.

General difference between ME, and MS

Master of Engineering Degree (ME)

  • Application and practice-oriented
  • Accredited 
  • Relatively inflexible curriculum as a result of accreditation requirements 
  • Thesis and Non-thesis options both included
  • Thesis standards established by Speed Scientific School
  • Degree granted through Speed Scientific School

Master of Science Degree

  • Research-oriented 
  • Flexible curriculum
  • Not accredited
  • Thesis is required 
  • Thesis standards established by the University 
  • Degree granted through Graduate School

Computer Science and Computer Engineering

In, the United States of America, Computer Science, and Computer Engineering are separate departments with different areas of specialization.

The hardware is the area Computer Engineering deals with more, while Computer Science specializes more in software.

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How Long Is A College Semester?

Most colleges run a semester, trimester, or quarter in an academic year. How many semesters in a year at university have been thoroughly explained. Now let’s find out if there are similarities in semesters of college or university.


Normally, both universities and colleges have three semesters in an academic year. 

  • The fall or autumn semester lasts up to 15 weeks 
  • The spring semester lasts up to 15 weeks
  • The summer semester which is the shorter semester lasts up to 10 weeks


  • Fall or autumn trimesters last up to 12 weeks
  • The Winter trimester lasts up to 12 weeks 
  • The spring trimester lasts up to 12 weeks 

Accredited Courses 

Presently, the most ordinary accelerated course format is just 8 weeks.

  • Fall or autumn semester lasts 1 to 8 weeks
  • Fall semester last 2 to 8 weeks
  • Spring semester last 1 to 8 weeks 
  • Spring semester 2 to 8 weeks
  • The summer semester lasts up to 8 weeks

When you enrol in any accelerated classes, you take two courses at a time. Although most universities can allow you to take 3 classes or more, once your GPA is maintained at a level.

However, if you take two classes in a semester and stay enrolled, 30 academic credits annually might be your for the taking. 

Which Is The Best Term Format?

Semesters, trimesters, and quarters are all considered the best. Choose one amongst the three that is suitable for you, as each has its pros and cons.


Semesters are widely used in universities and colleges.


  • Better for the newly admitted student 
  • Serious in-depth study
  • You get one on one instructor time
  • An optional summer classes


  • Getting stuck in the same class for an entire semester

Trimesters and Quarters

As a result of having the same period of 10 to 12 weeks, trimesters and quarters share similar pros and cons.


  • Having a light Schedule of only three classes a term
  • Leaving an annoying class
  • Two graduation dates in a year
  • A lighter course load


  • A faster learning process 
  • Short breaks between terms


Universities and colleges are learning institutions with several sessions in an academic year. Semesters, trimesters, and quarters are all pieces of the puzzle of an academic calendar. 

With the information provided to you on the number of semesters in a year at university, you should know the academic year suitable for you at universities or colleges.



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