Life experience degrees: Do they exist?

Many colleges and universities allow you to earn credit for life experience. They do not, however, award an entire degree based solely on life experience… only diploma mills make those kinds of promises. How life experience credit is awarded and assigned varies widely by university.

Life experience and college credit

For illustrative purposes, I will include an excerpt from the credit for prior learning page at Columbia College. Please note, I am not in any way trying to “sell” Columbia College. The name appears in several of my posts because Columbia is the college I am presently attending (and will graduate from in a few more months). I use them as an example because I am familiar with their policies.

Columbia College’s website lists the following “possible” non-traditional sources of credit:

  1. ACE accredited corporate courses
  2. Excelsior (formerly Regents) Exams / ACT PEP
  3. Advanced Placement Exams
  4. CLEP Exams
  5. Certified Professional Secretary Program
  6. Credit for Prior Learning
  7. Defense Language Proficiency Tests
  8. DANTES DSST Exams
  9. International Baccalaureate
  10. Basic Law Enforcement and Corrections Training
  11. Military Service & Training (click here for detailed military credit information)
  12. MU Fire & Rescue Training Institute (FRTI) for the Associate in Science in Fire Service Administration
  13. Pilot’s License
  14. Real Estate License
  15. RN and LPN certification (for non-nursing degree students)
  16. Other

In addition to these alternative credits, Columbia College also allows students to create a portfolio outlining their life experience to award credit; I have included an excerpt below. The requirements are extremely stringent, however, and in my case, it was easier to just take the classes. Again, this is simply one example of how an online college awards credit for life experience. Other colleges may or may not offer credit for prior learning. While I was attending Central Texas College, they had a similiar program, but certain aspects varied (such as minimum scores required on CLEP exams, etc.).

Columbia College’s credit for prior learning portfolio

Many students who participate in learning experiences outside the classroom wish to earn college credit for their work. Columbia College offers a number of ways students may earn such credit. CLEP tests, ACE credit and course test-outs are the preferred means because they require a theory-base for awarding credit, have national norms/criteria or both. If none of the above credit-awarding methods are an option, Columbia College awards credit for prior learning.

Before applying for credit for prior learning (CPL) credits, students must have completed 12 hours of Columbia College credit. Students also must have completed ENGL 111 and ENGL 112 or their equivalent with a grade of C or better. These credits, if taken at Columbia College, may be included in the 12-hour requirement. 

Columbia College courses that offer CPL credit are generally applicable to degree requirements. A maximum of 15 credits of prior learning can be awarded. CPL is not awarded where college credit in a similar course has been earned. CPL credit does not count toward Columbia College residency (Columbia College website, 2007).

If you feel that you have experience for which you should receive credit, then make that one of your criteria in selecting an online college. Some award credit, others do not. I have already mentioned two that I know for certain award credit for prior learning in this post, and I will try to add more in the future. If your college or university awards credit for work experience, feel free to leave a comment and share this information with others who are interested. Thanks!

Related posts:

  1. Life experience and online learning
  2. Illustrative example of how online learning credits may be awarded
  3. CLEP exams save time and money
  4. Life experience degrees


Source: Columbia College website (2007)

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