Earn Penn State Credits via Prior Learning Assessment

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a way to earn college credit by proving you have gained certain knowledge or skills via work experience, volunteer projects, military service, independent study, or other means. Penn State World Campus offers a number of PLA options for undergraduate students.

Many new or returning Penn State World Campus students already take advantage of the transfer credit process, using credits earned at other schools toward the requirements for their Penn State degree.

But there are several other PLA options that may also be available, and these can help you save both time and money in completing your degree requirements.


Many adult learners have served — or are currently serving — in the military. This service can provide a range of potential credit-earning opportunities. Providing your military transcripts is not mandatory, but it can be helpful in allowing us to evaluate areas where you may be awarded college credit. 

Faculty at Penn State have already awarded credits for more than 3,500 military experiences, so providing the Joint Services Transcript to Admissions allows them to add your credits. Veterans and service members can look up their education and training in the transfer credit tool using Military Service School as the institution. Air Force members should use Community College of the Air Force as their institution.

DANTES exams — available to military members, spouses, and veterans — may also be another possible way to earn credits. Consult your benefits officer, as some or all of the fees for these tests may be waived, depending on where and when you take the exams. 


In addition to the DANTES exams, there are other tests that can help you earn college credits. Probably the most well-known testing program is the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). CLEP offers 34 exams spread out across five major subject areas. If your grade on the exam meets or exceeds the minimum requirements, you may be able to earn credits in that particular area. (Restrictions and conditions apply, so be sure to ask your academic adviser about those or contact the PLA office for more information.) Each exam can help you earn at least 3 credits. The cost for each exam is $93. Military personnel, their spouses/dependents, and veterans may be able to have the cost of these exams waived or reimbursed via the DANTES program. Exams are given at thousands of locations across the country, including college campuses and military bases.

Penn State also offers a Credit by Exam process. Certain academic departments and programs have made exams available that allow you to earn credits by demonstrating that you have skills/knowledge that would be obtained via a specific course. There is a $30/credit fee, which is due regardless of the final grade. Rules and conditions apply.

Some external institutions provide courses and exams on a subscription basis. Penn State faculty review these as they are submitted to Admissions. If the courses or exams have received a credit recommendation from the American Council on Education, they may earn Penn State credit. Students can look up these options in the transfer tool using American Council on Education as the institution.


Penn State awards some credits based on demonstration of work-related learning at the college level. Credit isn’t awarded simply based on experience; the process follows the recommendations of the American Council on Education regarding training programs that may make an individual eligible for college credits. Students can look up their trainings and certifications in the transfer credit tool using American Council on Education as the institution.

In addition, training obtained via a police academy, nursing program, or other professional circumstances may also present credit-earning opportunities.


If you feel you can document that you have obtained college-level learning outside of the classroom setting — such as through work or volunteer service — you may be able to earn credits through portfolio assessment. This is a process in which you compile a portfolio of materials that show proof of this learning. Each portfolio must be related to one or two specific courses (equivalent to 3 to 6 credits). There is a $390 fee to review the portfolio, regardless of whether credit is awarded. This option is available only to degree-seeking students not in their first or last semester.

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