Earning a college degree is often a long, arduous task. The Urban Institute reported that the average bachelor’s degree completion time is 5.7 years. Many students need extra time beyond the standard four-year timeline. In fact, 19.9 percent of bachelor’s grads take seven or more years. One-fourth of associate grads even need five years or more. Longer college journeys accrue more debt because students are charged additional tuition each year. Many learners, especially adults, don’t have extra time or money to finish though. Dropping out before graduation significantly hurts their chances of getting a good, high-paying job. Fortunately, there are more avenues than ever to accelerate college degrees. Taking fast-paced, condensed online courses is one great way. Another lesser known method is getting work/life credit. Several collegiate programs let you put life and work experience toward a degree. In this article, we’ll explore how work/life experience credits are granted to speed up your higher learning curriculum.
Basic Overview of the Work/Life Credit Process
You’re likely asking yourself one question: “How do I get college credit for work experience?” Work/life credit might sound like a scam that’s too good to be true. Work/life credits are real college credits awarded based on specialized knowledge. Colleges conduct an in-depth review to convert your work or life experience into actual credits. These credits count toward your degree total to minimize your future coursework. Work and life experience credits let you skip courses with similar or identical content. For example, an adult could receive 30 work/life credits for his or her experience. This would drop the 120-credit bachelor’s requirement down to 90 credits. Essentially, this would cut out one year and make you a sophomore instead of a freshman. Credits of life and work experience are an efficient way to avoid classes you’re already proficient in. Work/life credits hit the fast forward button to reach degree completion quicker. The following are five ways returning adults can prove their know-how to accumulate experience credits.
Creating an Academic Portfolio of Life Experiences
First, adults can receive work and life experience credits by making a personalized portfolio. This is called a Prior Learning Assessment portfolio. PLAs are designed to document the unique achievements you’ve accomplished in your career. You’ll create a title page and cover letter describing your reasons for petitioning credit. Attach an up-to-date resume with chronological positions and job descriptions listed. Feature at least one to two references from employers or supervisors attesting to your skills. Include copies of awards you’ve won and certifications you’ve completed. For creative majors, supply detailed images of 10-20 original artworks you’ve produced. For English or writing majors, print out articles or blog posts you’ve published. For computing majors, link to online software systems or apps you’ve coded. Prior Learning Assessments should provide hard evidence of your aptitude. Reference the syllabus to each course you’re seeking credit for. Prove to the PLA committee that you’ve already met the course competencies.
Getting Credit From College-Level Equivalency Exams
Second, non-traditional students can test out of college credits through challenge exams. There are two main multiple-choice standardized tests that can evaluate your course-related knowledge. For instance, the College Level Exam Program (CLEP) currently offers 34 tests accepted for credit at over 2,900 institutions. Each exam in any subject, such as Introductory Psychology, Information Systems, or Chemistry, costs $89. Adults register for CLEP tests online and spend 90-120 minutes taking them at certified centers nationwide. Similarly, the Dantes Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) are available in 38 course areas at 1,266 proctored partner locations. Exams from Fundamentals of Counseling to Principles of Physical Science are priced $85 apiece. In Fall 2019, the average military pass rate for DSST tests was only 47.2 percent. Getting work experience equivalent credit by exam isn’t easy but can be effective. Credits by exam could help satisfy foundational prerequisites, cut core courses, or fill electives. Schools usually have caps of 12-60 for credits from CLEP/DSST tests and their own challenge exams.
Attending For-Credit Corporate Training Workshops
Third, global corporations invest nearly $367 billion total in workplace training each year. Anyone with work experience has likely undergone some on-the-job training exercises. Did you know this may translate into college credit? It’s essentially free life/work credit paid for by your employer. Since 1974, the American Council on Education has reviewed more than 35,000 formal corporate training programs. Delta Air Lines, AT&T, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Holiday Inn, and Pearson are just a few companies they’ve approved. The credit-bearing, in-house courses instruct employees on diverse topics from Spanish to Intermediate Accounting. The ACE Credit Program has a searchable database to find courses you’ve completed. If your training experience is on the list, you’ll earn academic credit. Simply visit the ACE Resource Center online to request a transcript of your credits. These American Council on Education credits can be reported right to your college’s registrar or listed in your PLA portfolio.
Receiving Class Credit for Military Training and Work
Fourth, active-duty or veteran men and women in uniform qualify for life/work credit. Brave service in the U.S. Armed Forces for Uncle Sam potentially counts for several credits. The Department of Defense is another ACE partner with credit-approved Pentagon programs. Enduring military bootcamp can fulfill all physical education and first aid core courses. Training for your enlisted military occupational specialty (MOS), such as aviation or cyber operations, may satisfy major courses. Most military experience credits are granted for lower-division, 100- and 200-level classes. Requesting a Joint Services Transcript is necessary to get these work/life credits. Colleges might require the DD Form 214 for honorable discharge. The American Council on Education estimates that 2,300 colleges allow military experience credits. Don’t forget to also cash in your military benefits. Connect with your financial aid office’s VA certifying official to access Post-9/11 GI Bill funds. Since 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program has further helped our nation’s heroes afford annual out-of-state, private, and graduate tuition up to $24,476.
Turning Professional Certifications Into College Credits
Fifth, certification programs you’ve completed during your career can tally up life/work credits. Certified professionals with licenses that don’t require a degree often head back to school anyway. National or state-based certification may give adults a leg up with experience credits. The American Council on Education has reviewed and approved several common certifications worthy of credit. For example, CompTIA has a four-part information technology certification series that’s eligible for 18 college credits. The NASBA lets individuals who’ve passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam early use credits to accelerate the 150-hour path. Pilots who’ve finished the tough Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license can receive up to 35 credits for bachelor’s studies. Registered nurses who crush the NCLEX licensing exam might qualify for Accelerated RN-BSN programs even with only a diploma. Other credentials, such as Certified Purchasing Managers and Adobe Certified Associates, deserve credit. Use the ACE College Credit Recommendation Service tool to determine if your industry certification counts.
Transferring Previous College Course Credits Too
How many years of work experience is equivalent to a degree? It depends. One year, or roughly 2,080 clock hours, of work experience would usually equal about 30 credits. This varies greatly based on your industry, level of employment, and job responsibilities though. Four years of work experience doesn’t mean you immediately get handed a bachelor’s either. Returning adults generally need to complete at least the last 30 credits in residence. That leaves 90 bachelor’s credits available through life and work experience. Don’t forget to add in previous college-level credits. Perhaps you’ve taken a for-credit summer course. Maybe you dropped out after a couple years of university coursework. Whatever the case may be, request official transcripts from your former schools. Transfer credits typically stay valid for a maximum of 10 years. Transferred courses must be relevant to a class in your desired major or used for an elective. The majority of institutions solely accept transfer credits graded C- or higher.
Finding Colleges That Give Life/Work Experience Credits
Search engines like Google will put hundreds of colleges with life/work credits at your fingertips. Finding accredited colleges is what you need to focus on. Regionally accredited schools that give life and work credit are the best. Regional accreditation is a voluntary review process good colleges in a given area sign up for. It’s conducted by third-party regional accreditors to ensure unbiased results. Six regional accrediting agencies are approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Universities with regional accreditation exceed high quality control standards with excellent practices. Regional accreditation is superior because it’s the most widely respected. Not only by employers but also by other colleges. Regionally accredited life experience credits can be transferred to any college. Regionally accredited colleges are also always eligible for federal financial aid through the FAFSA application. Look for regionally accredited schools that specifically cater to adults, such as Walsh University, Linfield College, and Excelsior College.
Nationally accredited schools that give life and work credit are often more abundant though. These include institutions like Full Sail University, Stratford University, and Columbia Southern University. National accreditation is an institutional approval awarded by organizations across the United States, such as the ACCSC and TRACS. Nationally accredited schools are still reviewed every 5-10 years but with more lax standards. Most use a for-profit business model to generate money for their shareholders. Nearly all nationally accredited colleges deliver distance adult education online. The majority offer rolling open admissions to welcome virtually any applicant. Nationally accredited credits aren’t always eligible for financial aid grants and scholarships. They’re also tough to transfer to other colleges, especially regionally accredited ones. Colleges with national accreditation might be looked at skeptically during your job search. Picking nationally accredited schools for work/life credit options can be a gamble.
Words of Caution When Putting Life Experience Toward a Degree
If you’re contemplating work/life credit programs, then make certain they’re legitimate. Be wary of colleges that promise instant life experience credit with no proof. Avoid universities that will award degrees solely for life or work experience with one flat-rate fee. Honest, trusted schools never hand out diplomas with no coursework involved. Steer clear of those granting degrees in only a few months. Colleges that practice this horrendous habit are called “diploma mills.” The fitting title refers to their cranking out high-cost degrees without actual faculty instruction and learning. Diploma mills are bogus scams that are guilty of defrauding students. Do ample research about a college so you don’t fall victim to their ploys. Check for up-to-date accreditation and a satisfacotry Better Business Bureau rating. Type in the name carefully because some diploma mills try to mimic actual colleges. Find a physical street address and phone number to contact the school firsthand. When you get a bad feeling about a college, listen to your gut. Report any fake universities you come across to the authorities to help stop their criminal scheme.
According to The Hechinger Report, there are 8.9 million college students who are over 25 years of age. Adult enrollment in higher education has skyrocketed 35 percent since 2001. Older students bring a wealth of experience and life knowledge with them to the classroom. It’s only fair that adults receive credit for their wisdom. Do colleges give credit for life experience? Absolutely! An increasing number of non-profit and for-profit universities offer work/life credit. Non-traditional students take advantage of this opportunity to accelerate their degree. Most schools let you shave off 15-60 credits based on your past experiences. After all, there are some skills you can’t master in a textbook or lecture hall. Gaining credit for your hard work will save you study time and tuition dollars. Experience credits are earned by portfolio, exam, certification, corporate training, or military service transcripts. Contact schools’ admission offices to ask about their work/life experience credit programs and decide which best suits you.
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