What Is an Accredited Life Experience Based College Degree?

Oct 20, 2021

An accredited life experience based college degree is conferred as a result of credits earned for achievements in job training, employment history, work skills and education. Accredited life experience based college degrees typically are available from 2- and 4-year colleges and universities.

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Degree Level Associate or bachelor's degree
Application Requirement Transcripts and evidence of work accomplished (portfolios, performance reviews, awards, etc.)
Eligible Experience Varies by school but can include military service, volunteer work, professional certifications, training and workshops attended, and job experience
Accreditation Verify accreditation prior to enrollment at www.ed.gov

Many colleges offer life experience based associate's and bachelor's degree programs in areas such as information technology, early childhood education, communications, sales, human resources and nursing. Certificate programs are sometimes available as well. Students may pursue these unique degrees to help them compete with others who already have degrees but lack practical job experience.


Applicants to accredited life experience based college degree programs might receive credit for paid or volunteer work, employer-sponsored seminars, workshops, training, professional certification or military education. Additionally, courses taken at a college, university, vocational or technical school are also considered.

Application Requirements

Applicants for an accredited life experience based college degree must submit credentials such as college course transcripts, American Council on Education transcripts, awards, certificates, portfolios and job reviews. Some life experience degree programs may accept letters from former employers describing job responsibilities and accomplishments in detail. Accredited life experience based college degree programs may administer exams to assess life experience and previous learning.


Some life experience based college degree programs are not accredited and are not highly regarded. Students should be especially wary of life experience based degrees at the master's and Ph.D. levels, because they are typically not accredited by approved organizations.

To check the credibility of organizations that accredit life experience based college degrees, students can search a database of 6,900 accredited postsecondary institutions provided by the U.S. Department of Education. The website for the U.S. Department of Education is www.ed.gov. Users can search the database by names of accrediting organizations, institutions, city and state.

Applicants for life experience based associate's and bachelor's degrees may receive college credit from paid or volunteer work, but should research to ensure the colleges they wish to attend are accredited.

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