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Although it is possible to use life experience toward fulfilling the requirements of obtaining a bachelors degree, it is not common. Most colleges or universities only accept specific types of professional experience for credit toward fulfilling degree requirements—a process called Credit by Portfolio Evaluation, which is typically restricted to students with particular types of formal professional training such as nurses or police officers.
Occasionally, other types of professional training may be considered on a case-by-case basis, but life experience rarely results in credit conferral.
Many less reputable programs claim to confer a degree based largely on prior skills or portfolio credit so be cautious when seeking to use life experience to obtain a bachelors degree. It may be possible but it's rarely easy and very unlikely to result in the majority of coursework toward an online degree. In fact, most colleges and universities require a minimum number of course hours to be taken through the university in order to confer a diploma on a student. Any claims to the contrary should be regarded with caution.
If you have extensive experience in a given skill or subject area then one way to gain valuable credit, time and money savings is to “test out” of certain core subjects. For instance, if your program requires a foreign language and you happen to be fluent in another language then it is often possible to sit for an examination that demonstrates your mastery of the subject. However, it's important to note this will rarely result in allowing you to take fewer credit hours for the completion of your degree!
Another option that may be available if you desire credit for real life experience is an Independent or Supervised Study course. These are typically less structured and require advance approval but are flexible in providing credit toward “real life” experience. Because this will require advance planning and a sponsoring faculty member who agrees to supervise your progress; plan to present a clear goal and rationale when requesting an Independent study program. It is a great way to enhance your hands-on training while obtaining course credits toward your college degree!
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|