Can Life Experience Credits Help You Achieve Your Goals Faster?

Today I have a guest blogger, Mariana Ashley, who writes about how you can turn life experiences into college credit. Though she addresses an adult audience, anyone who needs college credit or a degree in order to accomplish their goals can benefit from this option. I’m familiar with homeschoolers, typically teenagers, who turn their life experience into college credit because of how they used their time through volunteering, work, or serious involvement in some study, thereby cutting costs and time spent on college. I also know a couple of parents who, once their unschooled children left home, were able to turn some of their learning-at-home years into college credit towards education degrees. —PF


Imagine this scenario: you're not certified nor do you have a degree, but somehow you worked your way up the ladder and made something of yourself—you're a manager of mid-size luxurious retail store, a title you've held for the past two years. But the deteriorating economy forces owners to close down shop, leaving you without a job. While there's an opening at the high-end retail store across the street, there's only one small problem: a bachelor's degree in fashion and merchandise and or management is required. You have tons of relative experience, but whoops! No official degree. It seems unfair that you would be forced to spend time and money attending a traditional college just so you can listen to a professor lecture about concepts that life has naturally taught you already. Thankfully there are some programs tailored just for you: we're talking about participating in a "Life Experience" program.

What Is a Life Experience Program Exactly? A Life Experience program, which is sometimes referred to as a Work Experience program, awards credits to students who properly showcase their "expertise" in a particular field. A student's prior knowledge about his or her industry—whether he or she obtained that knowledge through life, work, personal hobbies, vocational learning, or professional training—is assessed through a variety of different ways, including essays. If the professor feels as though the student's knowledge is on par and he or she knows both theoretical and practical knowledge about a particular field, he or she will grant the student credit(s) that can be applied toward his or her degree—which means a student can save time by skipping a few classes entirely. It's important to note that the set-up is totally "experimental learning" and there are no traditional textbooks or exams involved. The program is also offered online through various distance education institutions, so those with families and jobs have a bit of flexibility. This can save time and cost, but like when earning a traditional degree, you still need to pay for tuition.  Assessment can also vary from a few weeks to a few months, so it may take a while to get your credits.

Who Could You Benefit from One? Simply put those who want to switch careers or want a promotion in their field.

That said, below are the top 3 online schools/programs that offer life experience credit:

1. Empire State University

Empire State University, whose brick-and-mortar institution is based in New York, offers more than 300 accredited online degree programs—one of which is Life Experience. Students are able to design their own special program with an instructor tailored to fit his or her individual's needs, but assessments for life experience credit are typically earned the same way: students are required to create a portfolio which consists of a series of essays explaining what he or she knows as well as ace an interview about his or her "experience." The assessment fee for each credit is $300, whatever the outcome.

2. Inver Hills Community College

Inver Hills Community College offers 75 online courses, most of which accept life experience credit. However, it's required to take at least two courses before an assessment of life experience can be completed. The good thing is that assessment is free. However, Inver Hills only allows students to earn up to 15 credits in life experience—about a full semester's worth. Similar to other programs, Inver Hills requires students to write narratives about their experiences to earn credit.

3. Linfield College

Lastly, this four year online university offers prior learning assessment credits through its accelerated adult education program.  Like the other programs, students at Linfield are required to create a portfolio that thoroughly explains their career goals and addresses what they "know." The online college states that students typically earn 8 to 12 life experience credits, although the maximum is 31. The assessment fees are as follows (whatever the outcome): 15 or fewer semester hours $275; 16-25 semester hours $375; and 26 or more semester hours $475.

While it may benefit those that don't know very much about a particular field to just go ahead and take a few traditional classes, those who have been in the biz for quite some time can definitely benefit from a earning a few prior life experience credits online to expedite the process and achieve their career goals. 


Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031