Why Graduate Credits for Work Experience May Be Less Available
Although an increasing number of reputable undergraduate programs are opening up to the idea of crediting a mature student’s years of work experience, the process is understandably more difficult at the graduate level. There are now several ways an undergraduate student can prove that his knowledge is at par with others who have been admitted into a particular program. These include a prior learning portfolio, taking the CLEP or GRE, or asking a specific department for an assessment examination to test the student’s abilities in a subject he may have gained special expertise in during his years of work.
Obtaining graduate credits for work experience is often much more difficult. Most recognized universities and departments openly state on their websites that they cannot offer graduate credit for work or life experience and it may be worth your while to go through the coursework and excel at it thanks to your work experience rather than ask for a few credits or a waiver.
According to the Stony Brook University website for instance, a graduate school aspirant cannot be awarded "graduate level credit for clinical or life experience. The credits must be achieved through coursework"1 The West Charter University Master of Science in Administration website also clearly states that "WCU policy does not permit the granting of graduate-level academic credit for life experience. However, students should confer with their concentration adviser regarding which courses to take that will enhance their background and not merely duplicate their previous experiences."2
There are basically two reasons why it is sometimes difficult to get graduate credit for work experience:
One, unlike undergraduate programs, graduate studies can't really be standardized to the level where every student is required to know the same syllabus or material pertaining to a subject. There is a syllabus of sorts that lists the body of knowledge a student is expected to have assimilated to qualify for a master's degree or pass his doctoral comprehensive examination, but this body of knowledge is vast and varied and the syllabus can, at best, serve only as a preliminary guideline or literature review for the graduate student.
Two, graduate level classes are interactive, participatory and need students to do independent research. Most will require an original term-paper or project report from the student as part or the entire requirement for passing the class. The idea is to get a wide-ranging as well as expert and in-depth knowledge of your field. Even if you already have a certain expertise in one part of the subject, graduate departments may feel it would probably be better for you to take classes to bolster your knowledge of another aspect.