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Five Ways to Earn College Credit - Without Taking a Single Class

Sep 26, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

To earn a college degree, you need to accumulate a lot of credit. Credit is expensive—and earning it can be time-consuming. If you’re enrolled in traditional college, those classes could be costing you $500 per credit—or more. And earning enough credit for a four-year degree takes…well, four years. Usually.

But there’s a better way. You can earn college credit without paying hundreds of dollars per credit, and without dedicating years of your life to sitting in a classroom. These are all legitimate, legal, and completely above-board ways to earn college credit without attending a single class. While you may not be able to earn an entire degree this way, you could reduce the cost of your college education by thousands of dollars—and the time spent in school by years—through these methods.

Take the CLEP Exam

The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows test-takers to qualify to receive college credit in any one of 33 areas, from the humanities to math and science subjects. If your college participates—and hundreds do—you could receive anywhere from 3 to 12 college credits for a satisfactory score. There’s no requirement to take a class before taking the tests, and a high score could help you bypass introductory-level classes or elective requirements.

Happy Student

College isn’t easy. But you can reduce the time and money spent by earning credits outside the classroom.

Apply for life experience credit

Some colleges will give you college credit based on life experience including work history, previous academic experience, and past awards and publications. The application process is often rigorous—you may have to write an essay, interview before a panel, and assemble a portfolio demonstrating your particular expertise. The school often decides how much credit you can have and in what area.

ACE CREDIT recommendation

The American Council on Education is a trade association that will assess previous workplace and military training—and translate it into a tailored recommendation for college credit. The program mostly focuses on formal training and examinations you’ve undertaken outside the formal college system. Over 1,800 colleges nationwide accept ACE credit.

DSST Exams

Once designed specifically for those in the military, DSST exams are now regularly taken by civilians. These tests cover 38 specialties that are usually more trade-based than the CLEP exams—topics falling under broad categories such as business, public health, history, science, and math. The credits are usually given through ACE credit recommendations after you’ve passed a test, and you can take the tests either online or in person at military bases and college campuses across the country.


There are several ways to earn college credit for an internship. If you’re already enrolled in college, talk to your school about partnership programs they already have with local businesses and organizations that create opportunities for students to earn credit for internships. Many colleges have existing programs and partnerships where their students can earn credit while earning money.

If your college doesn’t offer credit for your internship, there may be another college that does. Find out if the company you’re working for is engaged in a “credit equivalency” program that will allow you to transfer the credits offered by a different college for your internship to the school you are attending.
If neither of these are options, don’t worry—you can still earn college credits by applying for life experience credit—and including this internship on your resume and in your portfolio.

College isn’t easy. But you can reduce the time and money spent on school by earning credits outside the classroom. Look into earning credits by exam through tests like the CLEP and DSSL. Explore leveraging your life experience and prior education experience through ACE credit recommendations and a portfolio assessment through your school. Through the knowledge and experience you already have, you could save thousands of dollars on your college education.

How To Get an Internship -


Joe K Over a year ago

Excellent ideas.

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