by Jamie Buss

Last month, this blog announced a new national website to explore health care careers – the Virtual Career Network.  But you don’t have to be interested in health care to benefit from this site. In fact, one of its unique features is a Prior Learning Assessment aimed at helping adults with several years of workforce experience qualify for some college credit based on learning they have already done. Getting college credit for prior learning is a great way to save time and money while you’re earning a degree or certificate.


Many colleges and universities award credit for prior military training, national exams, and professional training. These trainings and exams have been evaluated for college credit by the American Council on Education, a national organization representing post-secondary institutions. College courses you’ve already completed at another institution might also transfer for credit.


The Prior Learning Assessment collects and organizes information about your previous experience and creates an “assessment of prior learning.” The tool prepares a report that you can print and bring to an advisor or admissions staff member at a post-secondary institution. This report can help the college assess your prior learning for possible college credit. Each college has its own forms, requirements, and procedures for applying, so you should ask how it works at the institution and program you are interested in pursuing. The only entity authorized to formally award such credit is the institution and/or program.


Here are some examples of previous experience that might translate into prior learning:

  • Official military training – The Prior Learning Assessment has a comprehensive list of trainings offered in all branches of the U.S. military going back several decades. The tool presents recommendations for college credits that may be awarded to a Servicemember who took that training.
  • National exams – Many colleges and universities accept national exams to meet college course requirements. The Prior Learning Assessment offers a comprehensive list of nationally-recognized exams and provides recommendations of college credit for them.
  • Professional training – Many large national employers and professional associations provide training for which you might get credit. The Prior Learning Assessment offers a comprehensive list of these and provides recommendation of college credit for such training.


Finally, you may also want to prepare a portfolio as part of the Prior Learning Assessment process by writing about your learning or demonstrating it in some other way. Your work can be evaluated by a college faculty member for potential college credit. The Counsel on Adult and Experiential Learning provides online tools that can help you prepare a portfolio. 


Jamie Buss is the Industry Projects Coordinator for iSeek Solutions.