If you’re an adult learner looking to finish your degree (or start one for the first time), the mountain of coursework and college credit hours ahead of you can seem daunting. This is especially true if you’re balancing a full-time career and maybe even family responsibilities at the same time.

But did you know that there are ways to earn and transfer college credits without the coursework? Many working adults have some kind of experience or prior knowledge that can offset some required coursework, helping them earn their degree faster and with fewer classroom credits needed to graduate college.

Is it possible that you have some college credit transfer equivalency in your professional background? Check out these 6 ideas on how to get college credits toward your degree.

1. Previous College Credits

It’s not uncommon for working adults to have earned some amount of previous college credit, even if they haven’t completed a degree. Did you know that, in many cases, some of this previous credit will transfer to a new degree program at another institution?

As long as your previous college credit is from an accredited institution and coursework is relevant to your new degree program, you will likely be able to transfer some (if not all) of the relevant credits.

You may be wondering how long college credits last and if they have expired. At Siena Heights University, transfer credit as part of the transfer process is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Many credits can be transferred either as a college credit transfer equivalency or as elective credit. If you are an enrolled student, contact the Office of the Registrar. If you are an applicant or newly admitted student with questions about college credit transfer, contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

2. Military Transcripts to College Credits

If you’ve served in the US military, chances are you’ve undergone training for one or more roles. If so, you may be able to transfer military education to college credits. In fact, military training is one of the most straightforward ways to reduce coursework and the credits needed to graduate college.

To pursue this avenue of college credit transfer equivalency, you’ll need to submit a copy of your DD214, plus your official military transcripts and any certificates or documentation about the coursework you completed during your military service.

3. College Credit for Work Experience

Many people wonder about apprenticeships or college credit for work experience. There are several ways that your previous or current work experience can lead to being awarded college credit hours. One is through an apprenticeship.

According to Apprenticeship.gov, most apprenticeship programs involve a technical school or college-led training component. Many of these programs can provide college credit transfer equivalency, especially at the schools or colleges where you completed the apprenticeship training.

4. Professional Licenses and Certifications

There are all sorts of professional licenses and certifications that don’t require a college degree.

For example, public service fields like fire service and law enforcement are full of these sorts of professional courses, as are other fields as diverse as food service, accounting and even general business.

Many institutions of higher education will consider ACE-certified professional courses for college credit. ACE maintains a list of all the courses it has certified, so you can see if any courses you’ve taken are listed there.

The field of IT is another area where specific certifications tend to be at least as important as college degrees. These are just a few of the groups that each offer a range of certifications in IT or business:

  • AWS (Amazon Web Services)
  • Cisco
  • Microsoft
  • Project Management Institute (PMI)

If you’ve earned any standard IT- or business-related certification, you may be able to turn that certification into college credit. Speak with the registrar or admissions to learn more about this avenue.

Again, even if there is no direct program at your chosen college or university, you can still leverage this experience in your portfolio assessment. Should you choose to pursue the next option in this guide, you would certainly want to include detailed information about any professional license, course, or certification that you hold.

6. Examination

Through programs such as CLEP (the College-Level Examination Program® from the College Board), students may earn credit at many institutions of higher education by demonstrating sufficient mastery of a particular course or subject.

If you have prior knowledge in any of a range of disciplines for which there are intro-level college courses, you may be able to skip one or more of those intro-level courses — and still earn college credit as if you had taken them.

Here at Siena Heights University, we award 6 semester hours of credit for each CLEP General Examination and between 3 and 12 semester hours credit for subject matter specific CLEP examinations. If you pass at a scaled score of 50 or higher, you’ll receive the credit.

Examinations like CLEP can be an excellent way to earn college credit for nothing more than the cost of the examination. The only catch is that typically only those with prior knowledge (or who do intense personal study) will pass these exams.

5. Portfolio Assessment

Sometimes, you may have extensive prior learning for which you haven’t received college credit and that doesn’t fall into any of these other categories. If that learning is specialized or more advanced than intro-level, CLEP examinations won’t help you, either.

But for the students who fall into this middle ground, there is still one option to consider: a portfolio assessment (sometimes also called a prior learning assessment).

The process for building a portfolio differs from school to school. At some colleges, you’ll physically turn in a binder. At others, you’ll use an online portal to submit documentation. Whatever system or method your chosen school uses, you’ll want to include any and all evidence of prior learning in this portfolio. This evidence could include things like:

  • Training certificates with detailed documentation
  • Courses or workshops you’ve attended
  • Job descriptions from relevant work history
  • Letters from superiors at work who will vouch for your experience and knowledge
  • Work product demonstrating mastery of a course area

Most institutions will require you to already be enrolled and have completed some credits before beginning the portfolio process. Typically, you’ll also need to identify the specific courses you’re seeking portfolio credit for, and you should tailor your portfolio to those specific areas of knowledge.

Explore Siena Heights University’s Adult Degree Completion Programs

If you’re looking for ways to leverage your real-world experience into college credit, there are many avenues to explore. Every institution is different as far as what they accept and the process for turning your experience into college credit. If you’re considering Siena Heights, we’ve pulled all of this information into one helpful Transfer and Admissions FAQ, so be sure to check there for further details.

If you are interested in advancing your career in your field of expertise, Siena Heights University offers customizable degree completion programs, such as our Bachelor of Applied Science program. Contact us today to learn how you can complete your degree!