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Graduation Requirements

Carnegie Units

California graduation requirements are recorded in Carnegie units, originally based on time spent on a course. Each Carnegie unit is a one year course of study, worth 10 credit units. A one semester course may equal 5 credit units or 2.5 credit units, depending upon the workload. An independent study credit unit is a minimum of 15 hours of coursework. The local school district sets the number of units required for high school graduation.

California Department of Education Graduation Requirements

The state of California specifies a minimum set of courses required for high school graduation that local school districts have the authority to augment with additional requirements. The California State University and the University of California have established a uniform minimum set of courses required for freshman admission. View the California Department of Education Graduation Requirements page to learn more about courses required for graduation and freshman admission.

Section 51225.3 states that commencing with the 1998-99 school year, all pupils receiving a diploma of graduation from high school must complete all of the following while in grades nine to twelve, inclusive:

Courses in the subjects specified, each course having a duration of one year, unless otherwise specified.


  • Three courses in English.
  • Two courses in mathematics, including one year of Algebra I beginning in 2003-04 (California Education Code Section 51224.5).
  • Two courses in science, including biological and physical sciences.
  • Three courses in social studies, including United States history and geography; world history, culture, and geography; a one-semester course in American governmentand civics, and a one-semester course in economics.
  • One course in visual or performing arts or foreign language. For the purposes of satisfying the requirement specified in this subparagraph, a course in American Sign Language shall be deemed a course in foreign language.
  • Two courses in physical education, unless the pupil has been exempted pursuant to the provisions of Education Code Section 51241.
  • Other coursework as the governing board of the school district may by rule specify.

Transcripts  How do you know how many credits you have earned? Each 9-12 course is worth credits toward graduation and also receives either a letter grade or a pass/fail grade. If you need your transcript for a scholarship or other purposes, please allow one week for processing. Find out more, download the How To Determine KTL Course Credit flyer.