Why you can trust ZDNet
ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Wondering how to put your real-world knowledge and skills toward college? Consider pursuing college credit for work experience.
Many colleges offer academic credit in exchange for completing a prior learning assessment (PLA), an evaluation of your non-academic skills and knowledge. Completing a PLA may help you save money and time on your degree.
Read on for our guide on what to expect when converting prior learning experiences into college credit. We cover how much credit you can earn, which colleges give credit for work experience, and more.
Why turn your work experience into college credit
Turning your work experience into college credit offers a variety of benefits, most notably including:
You can use credit from work experience to make an already-fast program such as an accelerated bachelor's degree go by even more quickly and cheaply.
Is there a limit to how many credits you can turn work experience into?
The amount of work experience credit allowed by colleges varies. You can expect most schools to limit your work experience credit to 30. Some schools may cap allowable work experience credit even lower, at 10-15 credits.
Work experience credit caps also vary by degree level. Undergraduate programs usually allow you to transfer far more credits, sometimes up to 60.
Do all colleges allow you to earn college credit for work experience?
Many colleges give credit for work experience. You generally have a better chance of earning credit for prior learning at public universities than at private institutions.
Not all college degree levels allow you to earn college credit for work experience. Most master's programs max out at 10 credits, and Ph.D. programs typically do not accept it.
Eight ways you can get college credit for work experience
You may demonstrate experience worthy of college credits with a work experience portfolio, military experience, professional certifications, and more.
Armed service members can earn college credit for military experience based on the American Council on Education's (ACE) recommendations. The ACE validates its recommendations to schools using the Joint Services Transcript (JST) recognized by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard.
Thanks to the ACE, the degrees required for lucrative jobs for veterans have become more attainable.
2. Pass standardized exams.
Many students earn college credit for prior learning by examination. Students sign up for and pay a fee to take brief exams on college-level topics. If they receive a passing grade (around a "C"), they may present the exam to their school to earn credit for that topic.
The two most popular exams are the DSST and CLEP.
The DANTES Subject Standardized Test, or DSST, is currently recognized by 1,900 schools. It features more than 30 exam topics and costs $85 per exam, not including additional test center fees.
Each exam consists of 100 questions. Students have two hours to complete the test. Service members take their first DSST exam for free.
Credits from the College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, are currently accepted by over 2,900 schools nationwide. The test offers 33 different topic examinations, with each examination costing a nonrefundable $89 fee.
Test centers or remote testing services sometimes tack on additional fees. Military service members can sometimes take CLEP exams for free.
3. Gather and submit a portfolio of your work.
Some colleges and universities allow learners to apply for prior learning credit with a work experience portfolio. Consider documenting:
Schools observe different policies for earning credit through this method. Some only allow you to earn a few credits for one portfolio, while others may allow you to submit portfolios for multiple courses.
4. Earn professional certifications and licenses.
Professional certifications and licenses can also count for college credit if they're relevant to your degree. Some popular certifications and licenses that may earn you transfer credit include:
Licenses that require extensive professional development may be worth as many as 60 credits towards an undergraduate degree.
Majors where professional licenses or certifications might count for substantial credit include nursing, engineering, and computer science. Even certifications in automotive services or firefighting can count for credit in the right program.
Corporate training courses may count for college credit. Providers of corporate training can include:
You can double check on whether a training program can earn you college credit by asking your organization's human resources department if your particular training course has been evaluated by the ACE.
Your employer usually pays for organizational training and onboarding. Thus, you not only save but earn a small amount of money for receiving credit through this method. Topics that corporate training commonly cover can include: