What is Competency-Based Education (CBE)?

A college education is a privilege that many students hope to experience during their academic journey. However, the traditional learning style of college doesn’t work for everyone and can discourage some from pursuing higher education and their dream careers. So, what can someone do if they desire a college education but need a different approach? 

The solution lies in exploring alternative programs. With changing times, new learning models are being introduced in schools across the U.S. One such model is Competency-Based Education (CBE), which offers a fresh perspective on learning, replacing the traditional methods. Let’s take a closer look at CBE together.

What Is Competency-Based Education?

CBE and competency-based learning systems offer students a unique opportunity to leverage their prior knowledge and demonstrate mastery of a concept. Consider a student who, perhaps through observing their sibling completing general chemistry homework at the kitchen table, has acquired a solid understanding of the subject. In CBE, this student can utilize their existing knowledge to showcase their proficiency. 

Unlike the traditional approach of completing a semester-long course, students have the flexibility to learn at their own pace and demonstrate their comprehension when they feel ready to earn credit. The duration of this process may vary for each student, sometimes taking less time than a traditional college class, while for others, it may require additional time. 

If you are familiar with the CLEP (College Level Examination Program), you may already grasp the underlying concept. When students take a CLEP exam, they receive college credit for a course they have never officially taken, yet possess sufficient knowledge to successfully pass the exam. 

Who Is CBE Best For?

Competency-based education isn’t for just one type of student, which is why we love it so much. CBE programs are centered around students’ progress and their individual learning abilities. One demographic that benefits a lot from competency-based education is adult learners who aren’t used to traditional education models because they’ve been out of school for so long.

For example, it’s a great option for the mom who now has a bunch of time to pursue higher education because her children just left for college. From her life experiences, she knows a lot about various subjects. Competency-based education allows her to demonstrate what she knows, pass the class, and learn at her own pace.

CBE is also a fantastic option for students who struggle in traditional college lecture settings but still desire to earn college credit. In CBE, students have the opportunity to prove their knowledge and skills when they feel ready. Through assessments and tests, they can demonstrate their mastery of subjects and receive college credit. This student-centered approach, focusing on mastery rather than conventional learning models, makes CBE programs much more accessible and beneficial for numerous students.

What Colleges Offer Competency-Based Education?

Though this list of colleges that offer competency-based education doesn’t seem long, more and more colleges are adopting it into their academic programs. Not only will it give them a diverse range of students, but also draw in more people who want an education at their institution. If you’re thinking about applying for a competency-based education, look into some of these great schools. 

Keep in mind some schools don’t offer financial aid for this type of program. Also, we recommend speaking with a financial aid advisor before pursuing this type of program. 

Can You Get a Degree With CBE?

Yes, it is possible to earn a degree through competency-based education. Many institutions (like the ones above) offer degree programs that are entirely based on competency rather than traditional credit hours. In these programs, students progress and demonstrate their mastery of specific competencies or skills required for their chosen degree. 

As students successfully complete the required competencies, they can earn credits and ultimately graduate with a degree. CBE provides a flexible and personalized approach to education, allowing individuals to earn a degree based on their demonstrated knowledge and skills rather than solely relying on time spent in the classroom.

Do Employers Accept Degrees With Competency-Based Education?

If a job listing specifically asks for a particular degree program, it will be clearly mentioned. Otherwise, a degree obtained through competency-based learning is just as valid as a traditional degree. You still earn college credits and receive letter grades based on your demonstrated mastery. Nowadays, more employers appreciate the practical skills gained through mastery-based learning, which allows them to assemble diverse teams of individuals with varied expertise.

A competency education program isn’t for everyone, just like a traditional education program isn’t for everyone. If you learn well in a “normal” classroom then it’s better to stick to that when getting a higher education. For students who need a different approach, this personalized learning experience can help you achieve your educational goals in your own time. 

If you’re looking for the right college to get your competency-based education, use College Raptor’s College Match Tool to find a personalized match.