The independent, trusted guide to online education for over 24 years!

Best Accredited Colleges For A Life Experience Degree

Mother is working on her laptop at her home while she is taking care for her newborn child

Some working professionals lack the academic credentials to move forward in their careers, although their skills and work experience would beg to differ.  But what if the education they seek makes them start at the very beginning?  What if the rumors are true, and a college degree will put you back financially further than you’ve already climbed?  If you are one of the many working adults looking for an education that will help you advance without breaking the bank, and without putting you back to square one, it’s time to consider programs that convert your life experiences and competencies into college credits!

It may seem too good to be true, and yes, there are some pitfalls to the life experience degree.  By reading this article, you will be prepared to avoid scams, defend your wallet, and optimize your college experience through the best colleges for a life experience degree!

Question:

My friend claims he earned his college degree—a life experience degree—by “testing out of” courses and putting together a portfolio of his work and military training over the last two decades. Do real accredited universities ever offer life experience degrees? Aren’t all universities that offer these types of degrees a scam—Todd in Modesto, CA

Answer:

Yes, you can apply life experience credits toward an accredited degree! But be careful. Input “life or work experience degrees from accredited universities” into any search engine and you’ll be swamped with hundreds of websites that promise to review your resume and convert your experience credentials and training into a college diploma. —GetEducated.com

Quick Facts About Life Experience Credits

Is every degree offering credits for life experience a scam?

No, it is not always a scam, but in your search for a life experience degree that is a truly accredited program you will come across more scams than not.  There are a number of problematic qualities in a fake program’s advertisements.  It is important to do research about accreditation, cost, and general vocabulary when searching for life experience degrees.

What is a Diploma Mill?

A diploma mill, also known as a degree mill, is a phony university that sells college diplomas and transcripts—the actual pieces of paper—rather than the educational experience. Diploma mills are scam colleges that literally crank out fake diplomas to anyone who pays the requested “tuition.”   Diploma mills often promise a fast college degree based on “life experience.”

How can I find out what accreditations are viable versus fake?

If your chosen university is accredited, but NOT by an agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education, it may be a degree/accreditation mill offering fake diplomas.

Is it possible to earn an entire degree based solely on credit for life or work experience?

While it is possible, it is more likely that any program offering a degree with no limits (usually around 30) and no formal/traditional credit requirements (like an on-campus senior year of a bachelor’s degree) is a scam.

How much does a life experience degree cost?

While the answer to this question can vary, truly accredited universities do not typically award degrees of any kind for a lump sum or flat fees.  Students are normally charged by credit or by course tuition and fees.  Avoid programs offering a paper degree within 30 days of your application for a large sum (think, hundreds to thousands of dollars at once).

What are some real schools offering viable life experience degree credits in 2021?

While the number of schools offering life experience or work experience credit toward undergraduate or graduate degrees is growing, a few schools have been providing this option for decades.  GetEducated recommends looking at schools such as Capella University, Western Governors University, Point Park University, and Strayer University.

Real Accredited Universities Or Scams?

Many websites offering life experience for degree credit may be scams, and the diplomas they promise are, in fact, fake. Most of these universities are “accredited,” but by fake agencies

However, a growing number of these schools are the real deal. 

A select few accredited universities in the U.S. do offer life experience degrees. These colleges represent solid opportunities for seasoned professionals to jump-start a college degree by applying credits from work training and expertise gained through licensing and other external credentialing agencies. Four colleges in particular excel in helping adult online learners turn their professional knowledge into college life experience credentials. Nontraditional students should definitely explore these colleges and what they have to offer.

How are Life & Work Experience Credits Determined by Accredited Schools?

There are two different ways to apply your experiences to a degree program.  Competency-based programs are designed for students who want to focus on mastering a particular subject through skills building and self-paced learning.  Accredited experience programs offer degrees where your experiences can transfer directly into credits, but usually, you must attend some schooling to officially earn the full degree.  Both are great for those seeking to save time and money while completing a college degree program and entering the next phase of their professional life.

In general, if your friend claims to have earned a master’s or doctorate degree online based solely on life experience, check their credentials carefully. They were probably the victim of a life experience degree scam, and their work experience degree has almost certainly been issued by a “diploma mill.”

Diploma mills are fake online colleges that “mill” or crank out worthless paper degrees to thousands of unsuspecting students each year. You can consult a list of diploma mill schools to determine if the university your friend attended is a real accredited university or a probable scam.

University Credit Through “Competency Exams”

If you’re a well-read natural learner, these schools will let you take “competency exams” to earn college credit in areas such as American history, foreign languages, literature, business law and finance.

Capella University

Capella University was approved by The U.S. Department of Education to offer an innovative “FlexPath” direct-assessment program in August 2013 making Capella one of the first schools to offer competency-based bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that utilize an approved direct-assessment learning model.

Capella’s FlexPath programs offer the potential to significantly reduce the cost of a degree, accelerate the time required for degree completion, and better align learning to the needs of the student.

Traditionally, degree programs are constructed around credit hours that measure the time required to complete specific courses. Under Capella University’s Flexpath program, degree programs are constructed around the direct assessment of demonstrated competencies.

Strayer University

Strayer University Online knows not all learning is classroom-based; you deserve credit for what you’ve accomplished. Using procedures developed by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), they assess knowledge gained outside the college classroom on a course-by-course basis for possible credit toward a degree.

You’ll document and submit your college-level learning experiences in an online portfolio demonstrating your ability to fulfill course requirements. They’ll evaluate the portfolio under CAEL standards; meeting at least 70% of the course objectives awards you life experience college credits. Save up to 25% off your tuition with the Strayer Graduation Fund. Read more about Strayer University’s transfer credit policies.

Western Governors University

Another life experience to degree credit option is Western Governors University of Utah. Founded by the governors of 19 western states, WGU offers an outstanding online education program under the guidance of dedicated mentors.

WGU is a competency-based university. You earn college credits by demonstrating your knowledge or “competency” in specific subject areas. WGU students work with online mentors to develop personal academic action plans.

Rather than being required to study a subject for a 16-week semester, you’re only required to study a subject for as long as it takes you to acquire the knowledge needed to pass a competency exam. The competency method allows those who enter with advanced knowledge to move more rapidly than they would be able to with traditional online education.

Competency-based degrees, especially at the bachelor’s level, are a very popular option for working adult students. Following the lead of the above schools, more state universities are designing competency-based degrees to help professionals with hands-on experience “test out” of formal courses and accelerate their degree progress.

Best Universities for Accredited Experience Degrees

Is it possible to earn an entire degree based solely on credit for life or work experience?

The answer is yes—but rarely. Most regionally accredited universities limit the number of life experience credits they will accept to 30 credits maximum (one year of college). Typically, the last 30 semester credits (senior year) of any regionally accredited bachelor’s must be taken as formal courses directly from your degree-granting college. Thus, if your college is offering you an entire life experience degree based solely on a resume review, it is probably a scam.

Two regionally accredited, online universities, Thomas Edison State University and Excelsior College, operate primarily as assessment colleges. The two special colleges were founded in the 1970s to help nontraditional students earn undergraduate degrees through credit-for-experience options. It is possible at these two colleges to earn an entire college degree without taking a single formal course.

However, most who attend these universities do complete some formal college courses as a part of their education. Adults who’ve had years of specialized military training or corporate training should explore all of these colleges carefully. They are great schools to consider if you’ve had technical training. This could include such training as accounting, finance, IT certifications, teacher certifications, project management, human resources, aviation mechanics, nursing, or electronics technology. This experience is then “translated” into college experience credit and applied toward an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.

Point Park University

With Point Park University online, working adults can transfer up to 90 credits toward a bachelor’s degree after completing a prior learning assessment exam and experiential learning credit opportunities.  Think, DSST exams, College Level Examination Programs (CLEP), and more.  PPU requires students to complete a minimum of 30 credits traditionally with the university.  

For a career-focused, flexible, affordable education designed for your success, Point Park University could be the life experience degree destination for you.

Start Converting Life Experience into Accredited Degree Credit Today!

You’re ready to take the next step in your professional development. Why not convert your knowledge and skills into a degree?  It can be a difficult process to edge out the diploma mills and accreditation scams. But, there are still several opportunities available in flexible, affordable, LEGITIMATE formats.  GetEducated is dedicated to providing you with a guide for the best-accredited universities across the country.  Check out our page of accredited degrees and schools, or check out the related resources below to learn more about degree mills and how to avoid them!