Get College Credit for Prior Learning: How to Qualify

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By DeVry University

May 12, 2020
4 min read

When life abruptly changes, it can help to know that some things stay the same—including your ability to reach your education goals. In fact, there may be multiple ways you can get college credit for the knowledge and skills you’ve developed outside of your previous coursework. Discover the benefits of prior learning credit and how you may be able to use your previous work experience, a completed exam or even time served in the military to get credit for prior learning.

What is Prior Learning Credit?

Prior learning credit allows you to earn college-level credit for subjects and skills you've studied outside of a traditional classroom. It can be particularly helpful for transfer students, industry professionals with years of field experience or students who may wish to graduate sooner.

Experiences That May Qualify for Prior Learning Credit

Whether you're returning to school or progressing in your education, you can potentially get college credit for a variety of learning and professional experiences. Depending on your school, program of study and other factors, prior learning credit may include:

  • Previous education experience: Have you completed classes at another college or university? Leveraging your qualifying transfer credits is often the most common way that you can apply your prior learning experience. Some institutions maintain academic agreements with two- and four-year colleges and universities to ensure that students can transfer credits when eligible.

  • Military coursework and training: Depending on your training, you may be able to get college credit for prior learning completed during your time in the military. Each institution may have their own evaluation process, however, often your military coursework and educational experiences are based on American Council on Education (ACE) recommendations, so the specific military coursework accepted for prior learning credit will vary on an individual basis. For examples of military courses that may qualify, check out the ACE Military Guide.

  • Professional certifications and training: Throughout your career or education, you may have completed certifications from companies and organizations like Microsoft, Cisco or CompTIA. Depending on your area of study and other restrictions, you may be able to get prior learning credit for earning these certifications.

  • Examinations: Some schools offer potential prior learning credit based on certain qualifying national exams including the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement and College Level Examination Program, as well as industry-specific tests such as the American Health Information Management Association Exam.

  • Professional knowledge: Sometimes you master skills by completing professional projects, creating your own website or other non-traditional methods of training. In these instances, you may benefit from completing your school's Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) application process which could translate into earning college credit for skills demonstrated outside of a classroom.

Explore Your Prior Learning Credit Options

Speaking with an admissions representative is often a great first step in understanding your eligibility for prior learning credits. They can help you learn more about traditional transfer credits or earning credit for skills demonstrated outside of the classroom.

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