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Can My Work Experience Count Towards College Credits?

Can My Work Experience Count Towards College Credits

Many colleges are starting to count work experience towards college credits. Earning credit for your work experience may not always be straightforward, and the route you choose will highly depend on your previous experience.

It’s no secret that college credits are expensive. With the cost of tuition increasing almost yearly, earning credit for your work experience is a great way to save money and time instead of re-learning what you already know.

How You Can Earn College Credit for Work Experience

Each institution accepts different forms of work and experienced based credit. Here are some of the most common ways you can earn credit for your previous work experience.

Proficiency Exams

One of the most common ways to earn college credits, proficiency exams test your knowledge on common subjects and entry level college courses. Tests include topics such as American Government, Introduction to Psychology, Beginners French, and Fundamentals of College Algebra. By taking these tests, you can skip freshman year college courses, saving time and money. The two most common tests are CLEP (the College-Level Examination Program®) and DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests). The exams typically cost $100 or less per exam. This is a fraction of the cost of most freshman-level classes. After you successfully pass an exam, you can send the transcripts directly to your desired institution.

Similarly, if you took Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams in high school, they can count as college credit. Contact the testing company so you can send the results to your desired institution.

Professional Credentials and Licenses

Professional licenses and credentials such as Certified Public Accountant, real estate licenses, or Google Associate Cloud Engineer can be translated to college credits in two ways.

Some professional credential programs are recognized by the American Council on Education (ACE) as providing college-level education. These credentials may be transferred as college credit; however, universities are highly selective as to the programs they accept.

In addition, some colleges may accept state and nationally recognized licenses as college credit. This, however, is up to the institution’s discretion. Check with your institution to see if you can qualify.

Military and Law Enforcement Experience

If you are currently in the military or are a veteran, you can earn college credit for your service. Military personnel can request a Joint Service Transcript (JST) or a transcript from Community College of the Air Force or Air University. Many courses offered through the military are certified through the American Council on Education as providing college credit.

A JST lists all the classes you took as a part of your military training, the occupations you held in the military, proficiency exams you took, other experiences you had, and other college classes you took as a part of your service. A CCAF transcript only lists the classes you took as a part of the college. You can send this transcript directly to your institution of choice.

Read more about the American Council of Education’s Military Guide

Similarly, your experience in basic training from a police academy can count toward college credit. However, because training from each academy is different, this experience does not have direct endorsement from ACE. This means it’s up to each college’s discretion if they will count this towards college credit.

Corporate Training Programs

Many companies offer continuing education programs that are recognized by the American Council on Education (ACE) as offering college-level education. Many corporate ‘universities’ offer continuing education for their employees in subjects like coding, management, and sales. In order to qualify directly as college credit, these classes must be endorsed by ACE. This means the courses were examined according to the American Council on Education’s rigorous standards and certified as offering a college-level education. The transcripts recommend how many credits and what kind of classes your experience counts for. You can send these transcripts directly to your desired higher education institution.

Compiling a Portfolio of Experience

Through your work, hobbies, and volunteer experiences, you can learn college-level skills that translate to college credits. This can be demonstrated through a Portfolio of Experience.

A Portfolio of Experience is designed to help you demonstrate your skills that you have learned in your career. Unlike the other options previously listed, a portfolio involves a great deal of writing and offers you more flexibility in presenting your case.

A portfolio is great if your experience is not directly related to a proficiency exam that you can take. It’s also good for people who have done continuing education courses or certifications and licenses that are not directly endorsed through ACE.

To earn credit via a Portfolio of Experience, you must choose a class or several classes you would like to earn credit for that match your experience. Then, you must describe in detail how your prior experience is relevant and demonstrates a similar educational experience.

You must be prepared to demonstrate how you have applied knowledge of the subject, rather than just theoretical knowledge. This is usually done through writing one or more essays about what you did, how you did it, what you learned, and how that is similar to the class you’re trying to earn credit for.

If you have certificates, reports, articles, artwork, licenses or any other relevant demonstration of your knowledge, you should attach that to your portfolio.

Each institution has different requirements for their process. Some require in-person interviews, while others require you to write a letter of intent. You may also be required to attach your resume, letters of recommendation, or more.

Compiling a portfolio of experience is labor intensive. Many institutions will require you to take a 1 or 2 credit course to help you compile your portfolio, as well as have you meet with advisors on a regular basis. You also usually have to pay to have your portfolio reviewed. The cost varies by institution. It is also important to note that not every institution will accept a portfolio of experience for credit. Check with your chosen institution to see if they will work with you.

Yes, Work Experience Counts

In sum, you can definitely count your work experience towards college credit. Each institution varies widely; some colleges may be more willing to work with you than others. It is also important to note that completing an exam, submitting a portfolio, or sending transcripts does not guarantee you credits from that school. Therefore, it is all the more important to work with counselors and advisors to make sure that you’re on the right track to earning credit.

If you are successful in earning credit through one of these ways, you can save money and time.

Further reading:

American Council on Education’s guide to earning credit for prior experience