Master’s Degree Programs – Can you earn a master’s degree by turning corporate learning and life experience into course credit? The answer is either yes or no, depending on who you ask and how they value your non-traditional experiences and turn them into college credit. Here are a few different ways you can earn credit for a master’s degree.
Master’s programs, which typically require 30 to 48 credit hours of graduate college credit, often allow up to six hours of approved electives. You can incorporate your interests and your life experiences into independent study or guided reading courses.
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A characteristic of independent study courses that include life experience is a greater emphasis on research or a focus on the theoretical underpinnings of your field of study. This is a very conservative approach to combining life experience and college credit.
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Many master’s programs, such as programs in human relations, public administration, business administration, or counseling, require a supervised internship that culminates in a research paper or project. Graduate-level credit hours awarded for internships vary, but range from 3 to 9 semester hours.
You may have taken graduate-level college courses at many different colleges or universities to suit your career or lifelong learning goals. Some graduate programs, especially interdisciplinary studies programs, allow students to combine courses into a single, unified degree plan.
In some cases, it does not matter how or when the courses were taken, as long as the credits were transferred by an accredited institution of higher education and the grade earned was a B- or better. Stacking college credits so that they form the building blocks or core components of a degree program can significantly shorten the time to graduation. For example, some colleges accept 12 to 15 hours of transfer credit for a 30- or 33-hour degree.
Military professionals must attend numerous schools and specialized training courses, many of which are evaluated by ACE and considered equivalent to graduate-level courses. Although some military schools may not award degrees, the certificates and courses you earn can often be submitted for consideration in graduate programs.
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You might think giving credit for military training is a little odd until you look at the curriculum, study materials, and grades for some courses, especially in the fields of international relations, leadership, project management, and organizational behavior. Then you may realize that they are similar to those taught on college campuses. In some cases, military courses are more rigorous because they are frequently assessed and graded, and the instructors may be world-renowned experts in the field.
Learning that is equivalent to graduate-level courses offered by colleges may not be evaluated by ACE, but tested by a committee of the college faculty awarding the credit. In these cases, students are required to submit course descriptions and programs in addition to letters.
Some master’s programs will accept credit by examination. There are usually limits to the hours a person can earn, and these may include or touch upon areas of a person’s professional life, such as accounting. For example, some colleges award MBA degrees to students who participate in test prep, which involves studying for standardized exams like the CPA.
Sometimes, an accredited college or university advertises that they award college credit for life experience. It requires you to prepare a portfolio and demonstrate that your work and experience were equivalent to your college coursework. Although life experience credit is acceptable in some undergraduate settings, it is almost never acceptable in graduate programs. Prospective students with years of experience often wonder why their independent reading or professional work does not equate to a degree.
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