Key Takeaways

  • Social Security work credits are units the government uses to determine if you’ve worked long enough to qualify for certain benefits.

  • For 2023, you must earn $1,640 to get one Social Security credit, and $6,560 to earn the maximum amount of four credits.

  • You can find out how many work credits you’ve acquired by checking your Social Security statement (online or via mail).

How do people qualify for programs like Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicare? While requirements vary, one way your eligibility for benefits is determined is how many Social Security work credits you’ve earned.

What are Social Security work credits?

Think of Social Security work credits like building blocks. They’re used by the federal government to calculate if you’ve worked long enough to qualify for:

  • Social Security, which provides basic monthly retirement benefits for workers once they reach a certain age (no younger than 62).
  • SSDI, which provides monthly financial assistance to people who have a qualifying disability.
  • Medicare Part A, a component of Original Medicare that helps cover the cost of inpatient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.

Work credits are based on your total wages for the year. If you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn one credit for a certain amount earned in wages, up to four credits every year. For 2023, you must earn $1,640 to get one Social Security credit, and $6,560 to earn the maximum amount of four credits. Each year, the amount you need to make to earn credits increases slightly to adjust for rising average wages.

You can't earn more than four work credits in a single year, regardless of how much you make. The work credits you earn stay on your Social Security record. You won’t lose them if you switch jobs or are unemployed for a time.

Each of the government programs listed above has its own guidelines for how many credits you need to receive assistance. If you haven’t accrued enough work credits as required by a program, you cannot collect benefits.

How many work credits do I need to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits?

If you were born in 1929 or later, you need a total of 40 credits (or about 10 years of work) to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. These credits don’t have to be earned consecutively. If you spend time out of the workforce and then return, you just keep adding to the credits you’ve already earned.

The number of Social Security work credits you earn does not impact how much you receive in retirement benefits. Rather, your payment amount is based on your average earnings over the course of your working years.

How many work credits do I need to quality for SSDI?

In addition to having a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of a disability, you must also have worked in Social Security-covered jobs. The number of work credits you need to claim disability benefits depends on how old you were when you developed a qualifying disability:

  • Before age 24: You may qualify for benefits if you have accrued 1.5 years of work and earned six work credits in the three-year period ending when your disability starts.
  • Age 24 to 31: You may qualify for benefits if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time your disability began. For example, if you develop a disability at age 31, you need five years of work out of the past 10 years.
  • Age 31+: You generally need a minimum of 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before your disability began.   

Age Disability Began

Years of Work Needed

Before 28






























How many work credits do I need to qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A?

Once you reach age 65, the Social Security credits you earn also count toward your eligibility for Medicare. There are situations in which you may qualify for Medicare at an earlier age—for example, if you have permanent kidney failure.

In order to receive full Medicare Part A (hospital) coverage with a $0 monthly premium, you or your spouse must have 40 Social Security work credits. However, if you don’t have enough work credits, you can still receive Part A coverage by paying a premium.

How do I earn Social Security work credits if I’m self-employed or in the military?

If you work for yourself or are in the military, you can still earn Social Security credits in the same way traditional employees do. However, there are certain types of work that are subject to special rules on how credits can be earned. These include farm work, domestic work, and work for nonprofit or religious organizations that do not pay Social Security taxes.

What if I earn more work credits than the number needed to qualify for benefits?

Even if your earned work credits exceed the minimum number you need to be eligible for benefits, your benefit amount does not increase.

How many work credits are needed for survivors benefits?

If you've worked for many years and paid Social Security taxes and then you pass away, your family members may be eligible for survivors benefits even if they have never worked. The number of credits needed depends on your age when you die (the younger you are, the fewer work credits needed).

Can I buy Social Security work credits?

No. You can't purchase, transfer, or borrow Social Security work credits. The only way to earn them is through working and paying Social Security taxes.

How do I find out how many credits I have for Social Security?

It’s easy to check your work credit status online:

  1. Go to the Social Security website.
  2. Create an account or sign in if you already have an account.
  3. Once you're logged in, your credit earnings are listed under "Eligibility and Earnings."

If you're age 60 or older, you can find your work credit status on your Social Security Statement, which is mailed to you three months before your birthday each year. You can also request your Social Security Statement via mail by printing, completing, and mailing a "Request for Social Security Statement" (Form SSA-7004).