exStudents interested in earning a social work degree will benefit from both classroom theory and hands-on field experiences with actual case studies. If you already have work experience in this field, it is possible to receive some form of college credit for it in many cases. The exact number of work experience credits usually depends on your total years spent on the job, the policies of your college or university, and the level of degree you plan to complete. The following options may be open to you for this type of college credit.

Submitting an Academic Portfolio

Since social work courses are outside the scope of general education courses, credit by exam isn’t available for these classes. Some college social work departments will accept a portfolio as an alternative. Some schools that offer the portfolio option may require new students to first enroll in a course on how to put together a professional portfolio in a specific format. Documents to include are detailed letters of recommendation from work supervisors, any related licenses or credentials and any other awards earned on the job. Often an advising faculty reviews each portfolio before making a definite decision to grant credit.

Enrolling in an Assessment Degree Program

A few accredited universities offer these types of degree programs that combine past documented social work experience with classroom or online learning. You will usually need to demonstrate fundamental knowledge acquired on a past job. You also may need to complete at least one capstone course and an internship. Admission to these assessment programs also relies heavily on written recommendations from past supervisors or managers. The two most successful and reputable online college assessment programs are found at Excelsior College of New York and Thomas Edison State College of New Jersey.

Credits For Undergraduate Degrees

When enrolling in an undergraduate social work program, sometimes you may be able to receive credits for past work experiences. According to most policies within social work school departments, the same credit is not granted for graduate level social work programs. The good news for prospective graduate students is that an undergraduate major in social work is generally not required for admission to most social work graduate degree programs. Credit for work or life experience can be applied to an undergraduate degree in another field before you finish and apply to graduate school.

Considerations for Social Work Degree Programs

Not all colleges and universities grant credit for past social work towards an undergraduate degree, so do your research carefully on several schools. Credits are determined on a case-by-case basis, and many social work departments have varying evaluation criteria for giving work experience college credits. Holding a current social worker license can count toward college credits at some specific schools.

Tips for Earning College Credit for Social Work Experiences

When making your decision to earn a social work degree, make a list of schools that may be a good fit for you. Find out the names of the advising faculty and contact them by phone or email. Ask questions about the social work department’s policy on granting credit for social work experience. Be specific about your past experience and any licenses or certificates you currently have. Write down the information you get from the advising staff about getting credit for your work experience and use it for making your final choice of a social work degree program.