College Credit For Work Experience

College Credit for Work Experience

Have you ever considered getting college credit for work experience? Adult learners and non-traditional students make up a fast-growing college student population. As more students with work experience join the student population, the demand grows for colleges and universities to accommodate their needs and skills.

To meet this increasing demand, colleges and universities are beginning to focus on students wishing to earn college credit for work experience.

This article will discuss what it means, who is doing it, and how you can turn your work experience into real college credits, and eventually, into a degree.

While not every college or university offers this opportunity, there are a number of degree completion programs, competency-based programs, and lifelong learning outlets specifically designed to appeal to the needs of working adults. Many programs are uniquely structured for compatibility with your work experience and career goals.


Best Ways to Acquire College Credit for Work Experience

College credit for work experience, which is not necessarily new, has various avenues open to working adults seeking degrees. Such avenues have been on the rise. This is particularly true with the dramatic uptake in online college courses among non-traditional students.

The American Council on Education (ACE) validates this point. The ACE’s College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT®), established in 1974, connects workplace learning with colleges and universities. It basically helps students access academic credit for formal training taken outside traditional degree programs.

With more than 35,000 programs reviewed, CREDIT has been a national leader in the evaluation process for education and training acquired outside the classroom, including courses, exams, apprenticeships, and other kinds of non-traditional forms of training.

There are quite a few avenues to move towards getting a degree with the aid of your professional experience. Such avenues are open to corporations, professional and volunteer associations, schools, training suppliers, labor unions, and government agencies.

Below are among the most common ways to earn college credit for work experience:

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Challenge Tests or Previous Learning Assessments

If you want to enter into a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree program with credits already under your belt, consider completing a prior learning assessment, which is sometimes called a challenge test. A prior learning assessment is an officially sanctioned exam demonstrating work experience and professional knowledge.

Passing specific assessments may help earn you credits in line with your working background. Some popular assessments to consider include:

  • DSST Standardized Subject Tests: Initially made for military veterans and service members, the DSST Standardized Subject Tests have been available to civilians since 2006. They represent a straight path from prior learning assessment to college credits in a vast range of academic subjects.
  • College Level Exam Program (CLEP): About 3000 colleges and universities acknowledge the CLEP and award credits equivalent to work experience in line with your CLEP performance. Based on the College Board, CLEP covers intro-level college course materials in 33 subjects. If you could pass just one CLEP exam, you would save yourself 100+ hours of class time and coursework, including up to $1,200 in tuition fee.


Degree Completion Programs

Degree Completion programs can serve the needs of working adults. In most cases, these programs are solely available to those with some combination of college credits and professional working experience. Many degree completion programs go for the bachelor’s degree, and some are accessible via online college programs.

The ways of evaluating work experience and the number of credits you can transfer may differ from one degree completion program to the next.

Degree Completion programs are uniquely designed to meet the needs of working adults.


Corporate Training Programs/Corporate Universities

Big companies such as Disney, Microsoft, Google, and AT&T are known for their well-regarded internal training programs. Several other medium-sized and smaller organizations provide employees with training in a vast range of subjects, including accounting, computer programming, and human resources.

Some colleges and universities may count this corporate training or education as part of your credit total.

The CREDIT® Program offers a unique review process of corporate training courses and curriculum to confirm that programs by non-college educators are up to accredited college standards. The course content, curriculum, and texts are reviewed to determine the number of college credits awarded for each course.

In fact, roughly half of all regionally accredited colleges adhere to ACE’s recommendations for awarding degree credits for corporate education. While not all colleges acknowledge this kind of credit, others may limit the number of corporate credits they recognize. If you have some corporate training, you may want to look for a college that offers credit for this experience. It would save you time and money.

Find out if your corporate training or education program is among the 35,000 courses, exams, and certifications from apprenticeship programs, employers, federal agencies, online education providers, professional associations, and other organizations recognized as credit-worthy.


Professional Licenses, Certificates, and other Credentials

It is not uncommon for professionals who have already worked in the field to have earned certain professional credentials. With licenses, certificates, or certifications recognized by a relevant sanctioning agency, you may be able to get college credits in acknowledgment of the education and experience underlying these credentials.

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In line with its CREDIT Program, ACE identifies some professional certifications worthy of credit equivalency. Some of them include:

  • Certified Computer Programmer
  • FAA Pilot, Engineer, Mechanic Licenses
  • Chartered Financial Consultant
  • Certified Public Accountant

Some regionally accredited online colleges also offer credits acknowledging national and state-based licenses, including aviation licenses, nurse licenses, real estate licenses, and others. If you have a credential showing your professional experience and qualification level, you may be able to use it to accelerate your progress toward a degree.

Most regionally accredited colleges and universities render credentials at the certificate level in a vast range of disciplines. 


Military Training Programs

If you had been in the military within the last decade, you likely already possess some college credits, whether you are aware of it or not. A vast range of military training and education programs are recognized as being worthy of credits.

Your work experiences in basic training, first aid, and other aspects of your military education can be applied to advance your post-service degree. Also applicable is some of the training done in particular occupational areas of the military, whether as a service member or part of the civilian corps.


Competency-Based Education

Are you looking for a path to degree completion? Consider competency-based education (CBE), which refers to a college education that centers entirely on developing practical and professional skills. In some cases, CBE may shun the college credit system completely in favor of awarding a degree or certification to complete practical courses.

CBE strategies have gained enormous traction as more working adults enroll as students, particularly in an online college. Essentially, Competency-based approaches offer flexibility in acquiring credit and providing students with personalized learning opportunities. Such strategies include dual enrollment and early college high schools, online and blended learning, project-based and community-based learning, and credit recovery.

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Online colleges fit well into CBE, providing a flexible learning path for working adults and delivering practical knowledge and skills to advancing professionals. There are two special regionally accredited competency-based programs: Capella University and Western Governors University.

Both provide two distinctive models for today’s online CBE strategies at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.


Capella University

(Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Capella University provides a unique CBE experience for working adults. An accredited online university, the university renders bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs, which will help take their students to the forefront of their professions.

Their competency-based curriculum offers foundational knowledge and real-world skills. This means that what you are learning is immediately applicable to your career. Over 36,000 students have enrolled in Capella programs.

Capella University Online degrees cover subjects like business management, counseling, criminal justice, health care, information technology, nursing, project management, public administration, and social work. Many of the courses and programs meet the standards instituted by professional associations. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited Capella University.


Western Governors University

(Salt Lake City, Utah)

Established in 1997 and recognized as one of the best online colleges for military personnel and their families, the Western Governors University (WGU) is a private, non-profit online university. The university renders more than 50 undergraduate and graduates degree programs in healthcare, information technology, business, and teacher education.

Established by governors of 19 states, WGU utilizes a unique competency-based academic method. The university demands students to show competencies in specific areas rather than focusing on credit hours in a classroom. You are expected to pass rigorous assessments measuring your skills and knowledge in your field of study for your degree.

Over 20 major foundations and corporations support WGU. If you consider yourself as an organized, independent learner that can devote at least 20 hours per week to studying but need flexibility in time and place to complete your education, WGU could be an intelligent choice.

The university has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.


Can you acquire college credit for work experience?

Many colleges offer credit for work experience, particularly those focused on adult learners, non-traditional students, and professional advancement. Over 35,000 non-college programs are reviewed through the CREDIT program, including courses, exams, apprenticeships, and other types of non-traditional kinds of training.

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How many college credits for work experience can you acquire?

The number of college credits for work experience you can acquire depends on the college or university. However, there are typically limits to how many credits you can earn. Most regionally accredited colleges have the upper limit at 30 credits for prior learning assessments and other professional certificates.

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