Earn Credit for Your Prior Experience-based Learning

At the College of Professional Studies, we recognize that learning occurs in various settings throughout our lives. While some learning happens in structured classroom settings, other learning occurs in settings with less formal guidelines.

Experiential learning credits are college credits awarded based on these alternative learning experiences.

Vincente Cuevas photo“One rarely thinks of their professional experience translating into college credits unless you are challenged to do so. Once you reflect and acknowledge the professional competencies you’ve garnered over the years, you can truly appreciate your previous experiences.” – Vincente Cuevas, PLA student (View full article)

How experiential learning credits are awarded:

Experiential learning credits are awarded as a result of a successfully completed Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). The PLA process reviews and analyzes alternative learning experiences through a highly individualized process and offers you the opportunity to petition for college credit based on the knowledge, training, and skills you previously learned.

What prior experiences may qualify as experiential learning credit?

In general, there are multiple life experiences that may translate to college level learning. Below is a list that contains some, but not all, experiences for which a student may be awarded college credit:

  • Five or more years of work experience that demonstrate depth and breadth of progressively responsible work with verifiable competencies (full-time or part-time)
  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
  • Articulated Credit
  • PLA Portfolio Evaluations
  • Military experience
  • Community service
  • Entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Professional licensures/certifications
  • Volunteerism
  • Internships
  • Apprenticeships

What Are The Benefits of Experiential Learning Credit?

  • Save time, money and expedite degree completion – up to 30 credits may be earned through the PLA.
  • Enhance the value of life-long learning – recognize the impact and significance of your life experiences.

How to earn experiential learning credits:

Students should first work with their academic advisor to determine if they are a good candidate for pursuing experiential learning credit. Once identified as a good candidate, your advisor will recommend enrolling in the prior learning assessment credit-bearing course offering. The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) course (BPS 379) consists of a highly individualized process that will offer you the opportunity to petition for college credit for the knowledge, training, and skills you have previously gained through a broad range of experiences outside of the traditional academic setting.

Only students who are matriculated into one of our BPS programs, have successfully completed BPS 211 and have consulted with their advisor, may register for BPS 379: Prior Learning Assessment.

What is a Prior Learning Assessment:

The Prior Learning Assessment is a set of well-established, researched, and validated methods for assessing non-collegiate learning for college credit. It is a process that allows learners to demonstrate knowledge and skills in a particular field or fields and have that learning evaluated for college credit.

The Prior Learning Assessment course will help guide you to:

  • Identify areas of relevant learning from your past experiences,
  • Demonstrate that learning through appropriate documentation,
  • Submit learning materials for assessment, and
  • Petition for academic credit for your experiential learning.


  • Students who are matriculated into a part-time undergraduate BPS degree at Syracuse University.
  • Students who have successfully completed BPS 211: Introduction to Professional Studies.
    NOTE:  This course is a pre-requisite for BPS 379: Prior Learning Assessment.

Is PLA right for me?

If you find most of the following statements apply to you, you might be a great candidate for PLA credit.

  1. Adults over the age of 24 with a GED or high school diploma. Adult students are characterized by self-direction, work experience, and independence.
  2. Degree-seeking students with unfilled credit. The more unfilled credits students have on the degree program, the more likely the candidate will have room to plug in credits earned through prior learning assessment portfolio.
  3. Students who have worked under the scope of a supervisor or have worked as a supervisor or manager for more than 5 years. For example, a candidates’ work experience might be as a front-line employee, customer services representative, supervisor, administrative assistant, small business owner, paraprofessional, manager, or CEO.
  4. Learning that can be verified. When using portfolio-assisted assessment, the learning must be verified by a written document such as a letter, certificate, or original artifact. Students are held to a higher standard of proof than a resume.
  5. Learning acquired that is closely matched to the outcomes or competencies required to pass a college course. Students are expected to have acquired the same or higher level of expertise as a student who received a passing grade in the equivalent college course.
  6. Learning is applicable to a number of contexts. The candidate’s learning should be transferable to another setting.  For example, a student’s skills as a supervisor and recruiter were proven to be transferable when he accepted a position with another company.
  7. Student whose lifelong experience is closely related to their educational goal. A candidate who worked as a computer Data Security Analyst, for instance, could more readily apply credits toward a degree in Cybersecurity than a degree in Education.
  8. Students who communicate with academic advisors. Students who are willing to listen and follow the advice of an academic advisor, mentor, prior learning specialist, or instructor are better equipped to earn credit.

How to get started:

To determine if the PLA course is the right fit for you, start by reaching out to your academic advisor in the Office of Online Student Success.