More and more, a college degree has become essential for modern life. As many industries and job markets increase their academic requirements of prospective applicants, it is hard to make it far without a college degree. As this shift continues, many working professionals who had forgone earning a degree have found the number of opportunities available to them beginning to dwindle. Facing this changing job market, many active professionals have decided that their best course of action is to return to higher education to earn a degree to help them succeed in the modern workplace. Many working professionals have turned to online colleges and universities due to the many benefits they afford working professionals over traditional campuses. 

But these aren’t traditional students. These are people who have been part of the workforce for years, who are now returning to college to help legitimize themselves in the eyes of future employers. These people have built up years of work experience, which should mean something for their college education. But does this life experience or work experience have any effect on a college degree? Does life experience count towards an online college degree?

Life Experience and Online College

With the labor market favoring college graduates more and more, many working professionals who were once able to find work without a degree have found themselves running out of options. For better or worse, employers have gravitated towards applicants with degrees. Now many of these working professionals are choosing to go back to school to earn a degree. Sometimes these workers are earning a degree in a field they’ve worked in for years.

Much like a high school student can enroll in Advanced Placement courses that can count as college credits, many working professionals wonder if their years of work experience and life experience can count towards their college degree. Fortunately, that is the case for some online colleges.

The Positives of Life Experience for College Credit

Many students have the express goal of completing their college degrees as quickly as possible and as cheaply. College can be very expensive and can also be quite time-consuming. One of the ways to combat that is by taking a few courses as needed to graduate. Much like it is advantageous to use AP credits towards your college degree completion, leaning on life experience to replace potential course credits is another way to expedite a college degree.

The truth of the matter is, many college degrees act as career or job preparation. So if you’ve already been working in a particular field of work for years, chances are you may have already learned much of what is being offered in a degree on the job. Converting that work experience and life experience into college credits that go towards your degree just helps speed the process along. 

The Downsides of Life Experience for College Credit

There are some potential downsides to choosing to use your life experience as college credit. The most significant potential risk is that you might miss out on some theoretical learning that you would get from the course you are replacing with life experience. Sure, you may understand how something might work from actual on-the-job experience, but sometimes knowing how to do something is different from understanding why something is the way it is. Getting the opportunity to understand the theoretical knowledge behind something can prove beneficial to the overall mastery of a given subject.

Another downside to getting credit for life experiences is that it can be time-consuming. While some online colleges and universities accept life experience towards a college degree, the process can require a lot of work. Some schools ask students to create a portfolio explaining why their life experience should exempt them from a specific class or classwork. 

Competency-Based Learning from Online Colleges

One of the best ways students can apply their life or work experience to a college degree is by enrolling in an online college or university that follows a competency-based learning model. Competency-based learning models offer students many different opportunities to test their knowledge to bypass specific courses.

Schools like Western Governors University offer students the ability to take tests that will allow them to earn credit for a particular course depending on how well they do on the test. This is a great way to apply the information you may have learned on the job and use it to earn college credits. If this is something you are interested in doing, please keep an eye out for online colleges and universities participating in a competency-based learning model.

Does life experience count towards online college?

It can be frustrating having to go back to an online college or university to earn a degree in a field that you’ve already been working in. Fortunately, there are some colleges and universities out there that allow students to earn college credits with life experience. While these schools that offer college credits in exchange for life experience aren’t exactly abundant, these opportunities do exist.

Students should keep in mind the positives and negatives of using life experience for college credits. Life experience can help students expedite completing their college degree, but this might also come at the cost of missing out on some theoretical teachings and classroom experience that might end up being beneficial in the long run.

One of the best ways students can earn college credits with life experience is by enrolling in an online college with a competency-based learning model. These schools tend to offer students the ability to test out of specific courses or coursework. Ultimately, this will allow students to complete their degrees much more quickly. 

Suppose you’re a professional working returning to school to earn a degree. In that case, you can be assured that there are opportunities to take your experience and knowledge and turn it into college credit. 

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