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Are you a working adult who needs some additional training? Youmay be considering pursuing a college degree. It can be daunting tostudy even part-time while holding down a job and keeping up with afamily, so you might be wondering if there are ways you can shortenthe time it will take for you to earn a new qualification. Maybeyou’ve even seen ads online for “life experience” degrees.

The bad news is that you can’t earn an entire degree based onyour life experiences, no matter how varied or exciting thatexperience is. The good news is there are ways to make professionalor military experience count toward college credit. Innon-traditional college credit options, like online degree program, your experiences could be valuable.

What kind of experience might count?

If you’ve been in the workplace for a while, you’ve probablygained college-level knowledge of some subject or another.

If you’ve served in the armed forces, there’s even more of achance that you’ve learned something that could potentially earnyou college credit, depending on the nature of your service.

The DANTES program (Defense Activity for Non-TraditionalEducation Support), run by the Department of Defense, aims to helpveterans pursue higher education by helping them earn credit forknowledge gained through their military occupations. They provide amanual, the Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences inthe Armed Services (also called the ACE Guide), that lays out whatcollege courses relate to which military training courses you mighthave attended.

Standardized test options for non-traditional credit

Most institutions will require you to take a standardized testto prove that your experiential knowledge is up to college-levelstandards. These tests aren’t free – total costs per test can beclose to $100, including fees and study materials – but they aremuch less expensive than the costs of attending traditional oronlinecourses. (College courses cost a few hundred dollars per credithour, and most courses are about three credit hours.) The two mostwidely accepted standardized tests for alternative credits are:

CLEP tests: Run by the College Board, who also administers theSATs for high school students, the College-Level ExaminationProgram tests cover more than 30 subjects. Topics includebusiness-focused material and general education material.

Credits earned from passing a CLEP Test are accepted by 2,900institutions. Credit awarded will vary by school and according toyour score, but generally you might earn one to three credit hoursper test. As of July 1, 2010, CLEP Tests cost $77 each. Qualifyingveterans can have their fees reimbursed after taking the exams.

DSST Exams: Run by Prometric, a company that provides assessmentand certification tests to educators and employers, the 38 DSSTExams focus more on social sciences and business than the CLEPTests do.

Almost 2,000 schools accept DSST Exam results for credit. As ofJune 2010, the fee to sit for a DSST Exam was $80, with thepossibility of extra administrative fees from the testing center.Again, military veterans may be eligible to have fees waived orreimbursed.

Making sure your alternative credits count

Before you sign up to take any of these tests, you need to besure that the schools you want to study at will accept the creditsyou earn from them. Call or schedule a meeting with an admissionsadvisor to find out:

* Whether the school accepts alternative credits

* What scores they accept as passing (this could vary byschool)

* How many credits you can expect to earn per test

* How many non-traditional credits overall you are limited to(most schools will only let you “pass out” of a few courses)

Once you know you have the opportunity to gain credit from thesetests, you can find out from the testing company where and whenexams will be held. Testing centers are hosted within schools andother institutions around the country.

Information in this article was provided by AmericanInterContinental University Online, an online learninguniversity offering career-focused education at the associate,bachelor and master degree levels. Contact AIU Online today ifyou’re interested in developing marketable knowledge andcareer-relevant skills with an industry-current degree program.(AIU Online does not guarantee employment or salary. Acceptance oftransfer credit is at the sole discretion of AIU.)

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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