For years online colleges across the country have been advertising the option to receive college credit for life experience. But what exactly does that mean, and is it really a good option?
Life experience credit is meant to be a way for working professionals to save a little time and money when working toward their bachelors’ degrees. It’s exactly what it sounds like–they receive credit for what they have accomplished thus far in life.
Have you spent the last 10 or 20 years managing a grocery store? What about doing the books for your family business since you the age of 18? You may be able to receive credit for that experience. This might allow you to skip some of the more basic courses and go straight into the advanced management or accounting classes.
There are a few important things to remember when considering work experience credit as an option.
Quite a few online colleges that offer “accredited” degree programs with a large number of credits awarded for work or life experience are scams.
Most legitimate programs only offer 12-18 credits (one semester) for life experience. That helps cut down on time and cost. But, it’s not quite to the extent that some colleges may lead you to believe. As with ANY college, before enrolling in an institution that says it is accredited and offers work experience credit, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Make sure that the accreditation is recognized by the proper authorities. Finding out if a prospective school is legit should be painless and hassle-free.
Look at our guide to accreditation for more in-depth information.
Just because it was an experience, it doesn’t mean that it’s worth college credit
This is one of the main criticisms of credit for experience programming. How do you determine that someone’s experience is worthy of college credit? There is a significant difference between managing a department store, and working as a mailroom clerk for 5 years. In order to make sure that your experiences are worthy, colleges have to evaluate them. Evaluation can come in many forms and cover everything from essays to exams. Many programs have a mandatory class that helps students to determine the worth of their experiences which the colleges then use for evaluation purposes.
Your experience needs to coincide with your degree
If you’ve been a welder for the last 20 years and you want to receive your degree in computer science, English, or another unrelated field, you may not qualify for work experience credit. On the other hand, if you were to study construction engineering you might be able to test out of basic (or possibly even advanced) fabrication classes.
Receiving college credit for work or life experience you have already completed can be a great way to knock out a portion of your coursework, as well as save yourself some money. If you are considering this option, do your research and talk to your admissions counselor to determine if experience credit programming is right for you.