The Life Experience Credit: An Explanation
If you’ve been on the job for a few years—or a few decades—your experience may be worth credits at your online college. Many schools offer life experience credits to students who can prove they already have the skills taught in a certain course. If you can translate your experience into college credit, you can save money and time earning your online degree.
Be wary of schools that offer too much life experience credit, however. Many diploma mills offer degrees based largely on life experience. Legitimate schools usually limit the amount of life experience credit you can qualify for, and you’ll always be required to prove your expertise.
How To Get College Credit For Your Life Experience
How do you get credit for your life experience? The process depends on the school. Here are some of the most common ways you can prove your knowledge—and translate that knowledge into credits towards a degree.
See Also: Distance Education Colleges
Speak with the college
This is always the place to start. Speak with your school to determine how they judge your life experience. Some schools accept standardized test scores such as the CLEP or a job-ready assessment; others want to see a portfolio of prior knowledge, and some may want to see a combination. Some colleges will even ask for a personal interview to judge the depth of your knowledge.
Take a CLEP test
The CLEP exams, offered by the College Board, test competency in a range of subjects under composition and literature, history and social science, foreign languages, math, science, and business. Full list of exams here.
Many colleges accept CLEP tests, but policies change from school to school. Most colleges demand that you make a certain minimum score to earn credit, although required scores vary by school. Some colleges grant requirement exemptions but do not offer credit, and many limit the amount of credits you can earn. Before signing up for the CLEP test, be sure you know your school’s policies.
Submit a portfolio
Many schools expect you to submit a portfolio showing your experience. The criteria changes depending on the school’s policies. Most of the time, you’ll have to tailor your portfolio towards demonstrating skills taught in specific classes you feel you’re qualified to get credit for.
Include completed work assignments, certifications, personal essays, letters from supervisors or team members, curriculums and assignments from job training classes—anything to demonstrate you already know what a certain class is teaching.
Do a Job-Ready Assessment
Like the CLEP test, a job-ready assessment is a standardized test used to gauge a student’s prior knowledge. Job-ready assessments are typically used in vocational or technical subjects, and there are over 75 topics available. Like with the CLEP, some colleges may offer college credits based on a job-ready assessment score, although policies vary between schools.
If you’re certified for a certain skill, you may be able to get college credit if you can prove that the online certification covers topics taught in a certain class. Teaching, counseling, various computer and technology fields, and some administrative and business fields all commonly require certification. Many of these are worth at least a few credits. Others may shave off as much as a year from the time it takes to get your degree.
Leverage your workplace training
If you’ve completed any on-the-job training programs during the course of your work, you may have been earning college credits without realizing it. There are many schools that offer clearly defined amounts of credits certain on-the-job training courses earn.
Many of these credit-for-training programs are managed through the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT). Participating schools generally share the ACE guidelines.
If you’ve waited to go back to school and earn your degree, you may stand to save some serious money and time. Many online colleges offer life experiences that can shorten your time in school by months—or even a year. It can take some time and preparation to earn life experience credits, but you stand to save thousands in tuition costs. Most students agree that the up-front investment is worth it.