Credit for work and life experience
Five ways to graduate faster and spend less on school.
Ways to get college credit
Returning to school as an adult has a few perks — namely, you may be able to get college credit for your skills and work/life experiences acquired outside of a traditional classroom. All of which can save time and money in your pursuit of a degree.
And while each school may set different limits on what credits they accept, with more adults returning to school, the process is becoming more common.
Getting a degree can take 120 units at minimum. You may be able to get college credit for up to 30 units, depending on the school and program.
A college class can also cost upwards of a few thousand dollars. Every class you receive credit for is a dollar you can save.
There are a few ways to get college credit for your experience, which you’ll need to apply for. Those options include the following:
- Credit By Exam
- Military Training Credit
- Corporate Training Programs
- Professional Licenses and Credentials
- Academic Portfolio
Learn about each method’s benefits, requirements, and limits.
Credit by Exam
College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows students to take tests in 30+ subject areas to earn college credits. A variety of online and residential colleges accept CLEP. Schools award credits to students who meet the minimum qualifying exam score, typically 50–60 out of a possible 80. CLEP is accepted by many Texas schools, including Texas A&M, Texas State, Baylor, and the University of Texas.
Every school sets the number of CLEP credits they accept. If getting the maximum credit is important to you, keep that in mind as you do your college research.
CLEP costs, credits, and format
Popular CLEP subject areas
DANTES Subject Standardization Tests (DSST)
Originally just for military personnel, now anyone can take a DANTES exam. If you pass, you can apply for credit to meet your degree requirements. Every school sets the number of DSST credits they accept. If getting the maximum credit is important to you, you may want to keep that in mind as you research colleges.
DANTES costs, credits, and format
DANTES subject areas
Credit for military training and service
If you served in the military or attended any military training school, you likely have credits through the American Council on Education (ACE). Bootcamp alone could be worth credit for physical education! See the credits you could earn by the occupation you had in the military with the ACE Military Guide.
Similarly, the Texas College Credit for Heroes program seeks to maximize college credit awarded to veterans and service members for their military experience. It focuses on schools specific to Texas.
What are Joint Services Transcripts (JST)?
To convert your military experience into college credits, schools will need your Joint Services Transcript (JST). Your JST provides proof of your military education, training, and experience. Schools will review your transcript and then decide how much credit to award.
Military transcripts include the following:
- Personal service member data
- Military course completions
- Military occupations
- College-level test scores — CLEP, DSSTs, and NCPACE score data
- Other learning experiences — courses and occupations not evaluated by ACE for college credit
Corporate and professional training
In today’s competitive marketplace, many organizations invest in the skills of their professionals. A wide variety of in-house and other training courses may be approved for college credit.
The American Council on Education (ACE) works with employers and colleges to recommend training for degree credit.
Professional licenses and credentials
Did you know a real estate, aviation, or other professional license may count towards college credit? In fact, online colleges often accept state and nationally recognized licenses for class credit.
Examples of qualifying credentials include the following:
- Certified Computer Programmer
- Certified Novell Engineer
- Respiratory Therapist Technician
- Certified Professional Secretary
- Chartered Financial Consultant
The number of credits you can earn will depend on the license and school.
If you have artwork, videos, software, or other work examples that are best represented visually, submitting an academic portfolio could be an ideal forum to get credit for your work. You might also be able to submit business deliverables such as a report or business strategy document.
What you can submit and how much you can earn will depend entirely on the school. You may need to take a class to learn exactly how to put together a portfolio that meets your school’s requirements. Other schools may provide guidelines and have you submit it on your own.
Reach out to your school directly for answers to questions on academic portfolios.