The independent, trusted guide to online education for over 23 years!

6 Ways to Get College Credit for Work & Life Experience

Online life experience degree programs are available at most accredited colleges today. Using them can help you earn your distance degree more quickly—and at considerable cost savings.

Why have most online universities developed life experience college credit assessment programs? Today, the majority of “college kids” are 24 years old or older. In online bachelors degree programs, the average “college kid” is an adult student, about 36 years old. The average online masters degree student is 40 years old.

If you’re an adult “college kid,” chances are excellent that you’ve acquired specialized college level knowledge on the job for your career—or through independent reading or hobbies. Your life experience and work experience—corporate training, professional licenses, etc.—can be converted into real college degree credits.

Valid college credit for work experience can make an online degree much more affordable. Here are five ways to turn what you’ve learned in life and work experience into valid online college course credit.

Two schools that offer accelerated programs are Western Governor's University and Capella University.

WGU offers a method of learning that allows students to fast forward through work where they are already proficient.

Quick Facts About College Credit for Experience
Pros & Cons of College Credit for Life Experience

If you get credit for things you have already accomplished, you can skip certain courses and get to your degree faster. You can also save money, as proving your prior experience is cheaper than taking the whole course. If you have big gaps in your learning or need a refresher, then taking the course again might be a good idea.

6 Ways to Get College Credit for Work Experience

There are six basic ways to get credit towards a college degree for prior work, educational, or life experiences:

  • Take an exam to prove competency in a subject
  • Gather a portfolio to document your work
  • Corporate training or other seminars
  • Professional licenses and credentials
  • Military training and experience
  • Competency-Based Education
Using Credits Towards Your Degree

Each program has different limits on how many credits they will allow to be “transferred” or credited towards your degree. Some allow as few as 12 credits, while certain schools have programs for degree completion that will allow you to apply transfer credits of different types for almost all of your courses. Each program and each method of prior learning assessment has different steps. Read more about each pathway below.

Check the Costs & Find Your Degree Program

It is typically much less expensive to take exams, which start at $85, than to take a whole college course. Likewise, for portfolio evaluation, corporate or military credits, or when you complete your degree more quickly through competency-based education.

Be wary of programs that charge huge fees for “life experience” credits—these could be degree mills. Reputable degree programs will have accreditation and should charge much less for transferred or awarded experience credits than the cost of courses you take. There is no one-size-fits-all program, so compare your options to find schools most likely to accept your prior learning as credit toward your degree. Add up the total of the costs you would pay for transfer credits and courses to get your degree—you could save yourself a lot of time and money!