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Are you considering if returning to school could be a good step for your career It will take time to develop the skills and knowledge you need to level up as a professional, but there is no denying the importance of a degree or credential at the center of your career.

Thankfully, a variety of options allow you to streamline the process so you can earn your degree more quickly and reduce stress. One of the most compelling solutions is to receive college credit for work experience. Choose the right college, and you will find a dedicated solution for experienced students such as yourself: prior learning assessments.

What is Prior Learning?

Prior learning relates to various forms of learning that occur outside of the traditional college classroom. Recognizing that learning takes place on the job, in the military, and in numerous other situations, the evaluation of prior learning for college credit is meant to reduce both the cost of earning a degree and the time to graduation.

The term Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) refers to opportunities students may have to earn course credit for prior learning, for example, through professional work experience, military experience, passing standardized examinations, or certifications. Students with professional work experience may have several options to earn college credit through PLA.

What Are the Benefits of Prior Learning Assessment?

Assessments for prior learning can be beneficial, especially for students with extensive workforce experience. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) advises colleges, “If you believe that learning counts, no matter where or how it is acquired, your programs need to find ways to assess and recognize that learning.”

At Post, we are pleased to live up to this vision. While we believe that students benefit greatly from courses in a traditional or online setting, we also recognize that the path to a degree can be long for those who have already acquired extensive knowledge in the workplace.

At Post, we recognize the value of learning that occurs outside of the college classroom. Prior learning assessments provide an additional option to earning a degree, especially for working students who might otherwise struggle to find the time or resources.

Who Should Consider the Prior Learning Assessment Program?

Credits earned through Prior Learning Assessment can benefit certain types of students; for example:

You have worked in a relevant industry for at least five years. Industry experience is an important component to help you determine if the PLA program is right for you.

You have earned a certification in a specific area that aligns with course expectations.

Limitations of Prior Learning Assessments

PLAs can be hugely advantageous for some students, but they are not ideal in all situations. Their main limitation? Not all colleges are equally receptive to this opportunity. Some are far more willing to grant college credit for work experience than others. This obstacle can be overcome by examining PLA opportunities closely when researching available degree programs.

Other limitations may not be as obvious at first glance. Keep in mind that there is more to a college degree than a mere piece of paper. In your pursuit of that degree, you will gain valuable insight into your field of choice, as well as crucial skills needed to make your mark as a professional.

If PLAs cause you to bypass this critical period of skill development, you may later encounter significant difficulties in your degree program or career.

Prior Learning Assessment [Infographic]

How to Earn College Credit for Work Experience

Earning college credit for prior learning involves a detailed process, including writing a narrative and submitting proof (documentation) of your professional work experience. The narrative and documentation will align with course expectations. At Post, portfolios, which encompass your narrative and proof are reviewed by faculty who are experienced in the field.

Thankfully, there are many ways to earn credit. The following are among the most common:

Earn Credit for Military Experience

As a veteran or active-duty service member, you have received extensive training from some of the most knowledgeable and inspiring instructors imaginable. Why not put your incredible background to good use as you begin a new journey as a college student?

To secure credit for military training or experience, obtain a Joint Services Transcript (JST). This will include not only a seal from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard but also an additional American Council on Education (ACE ) seal. Your JST will provide extensive insight into your military background, including:

  • Course completions evaluated by ACE and accompanied by credit recommendations
  • Descriptions of military occupations
  • Other relevant service member data

Pass Standardized Exams

One of the most common solutions for securing credit outside a conventional classroom? Passing a College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam, which can verify your knowledge in a variety of areas. Anyone is welcome to take a CLEP exam, which is available at both official test centers and via remote proctoring.

By passing relevant CLEP exams, you can save a great deal of time but remember: these tests are by no means easy. Think of them as equivalent to college-level finals, which would require hours of study even after committing several months to targeted coursework. As such, you will want to verify that specific CLEP credits will be accepted before you dedicate significant time and effort to preparing for these exams.

If you have a background in the military, you may also be able to secure college credit via DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) Subject Standardized Tests (DSSTs). Although these were designed for service members, they are now also open to civilians. Like CLEP exams, these tests are rigorous.

Earn Professional Certifications and Licenses

Professional certifications or licenses provide a reliable path to PLA credits. These credentials are commonly obtained while training for careers in healthcare or public safety, although they are also common in many technical areas. Not every certification or license will be eligible for credit, so check with your prospective college registrar to determine which credentials qualify.

Enroll in Corporate Training Programs

If you are already employed, you may currently have access to a high-level corporate training program, or you may have already completed programs that are eligible for college credit. To qualify, this training must have occurred at a college level and involved a theoretical base.

Keep in mind that programs that focus on developing a narrow set of skills applied in specific situations are less likely to make the cut. However, many corporate training programs emphasize soft skills that are also covered in introductory college courses. Examine program syllabi or other resources to determine where overlap exists.

Submit Your Portfolio

If you feel confident that your professional background aligns with college coursework, be prepared to compile evidence of your experience in a portfolio. This will also contain narrative descriptions of your experience. Valuable forms of documentation include:

  • Proof of certifications or licenses
  • Proof of membership in relevant professional associations
  • Letters of validation for work or volunteer experience
  • Performance appraisals from supervisors

Make the Most of Prior LearningAssessment Opportunities at Post

At Post University, we recognize the powerful link between professional life experience and higher education. We strongly believe that students with military and professional experience bring valuable perspectives to our campus community.

To that end, we allow eligible students the opportunity to earn college credit. Students in associate degree programs may earn up to 15 credits through PLA. Students in bachelor’s degree programs may earn up to 30 credits through PLA.. If you choose to pursue this option, you have an opportunity to complete your degree in a shorter time and spend less money on your degree. Reach out today to learn how you can make the most of the PLA Program at Post University

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!