Colleges Accept Certifications Toward Credit Hours?

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A reader recently sent us the following question regarding the prospect of IT certifications counting for college credit:


“Are there any colleges or universities that accept certifications that can be transferred into college credit hours? I’m looking to get my bachelor’s degree in Internetworking. I currently have an associate’s degree, and I also have my MCSE and A+. The college has told me they don’t accept certs, but to complete my degree, I have to take most of the classes that I took to get my MCSE all over again. BIG TURNOFF. HELP PLEASE!”


Well, CertMag EXTRA is here to help. Unfortunately, though, there isn’t a simple answer to the question. Some colleges and universities permit transferal of certification for credit hours, and some don’t. Accordingly, applicants will have to check with each admissions department at every college they’re interested in to find out.


“The ability to transfer credits is at the discretion of the college the student is enrolled in (or enrolling in),” said Mark Uhlman, VP of administration at The Training Camp, which offers accelerated information technology training and certification testing services for corporations, government organizations and individuals. “If they already have the certification, the easiest way is to find the college that will accept them. There are several colleges that will accept certifications for credit, but their program goes hand-in-hand with the person registering and enrolling for courses at that colleges. They’re using that as an enticement to get people in.” He added that when certifications were accepted, the amount of credits transferred was nominal, usually about six credit hours (half of one full-time semester).


There is another way to make certifications count for the reader and others in similar situation, particularly if they are set on one particular college that won’t consider certifications for credit transfer. Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y., has a “credit bank” program, which permits applicants to compile various credits into a single “bank.” “Part of this credit bank program is the ability to convert industry certifications into college credit that will appear on a transcript,” Uhlman said.


Here’s how it works: Applicants request a certification transcript, or transcripts, to be sent to them by mail. When it arrives, they don’t open it, but send it in a sealed envelop with a check (amount may vary) to Excelsior to cover costs. Excelsior’s applications department will look over the documents and if they are properly organized, up-to-date and accurate, the college will send back a transcript with those certifications converted into credit hours, without applicants ever having to set foot in a classroom. The Windows 2000 MCSE, for example, counted for about 11 credit hours (nearly a full semester) at Excelsior, Uhlman said. Also, since credentialing exams are by and large pass/fail, grades from transferred certifications on the transcript will appear as A’s.


For those who haven’t undertaken a certification yet, but would like the option of having their certification count toward college credit, Uhlman recommended participating in the Industry Training Credit Approval Process (ITCAP) program, which The Training Camp is affiliated with. “There aren’t too many players in this field who will translate (certification) into college credits,” he said. “ITCAP is a program that associates certification exams with actual courses through their affiliates. We offer several different methods of doing that.” By partnering with schools like Pima Community College, Arapahoe Community College and Lake Superior College, The Training Camp can offer participants in its certification courses the opportunity to count those for college credit, at the cost of $100 to $150 per credit transferred. Uhlman said MCSEs could earn up to 14 credits through this program.


One caveat with these techniques, though: If the admissions personnel at the college you’re applying to are aware of these programs, they might reject the credits if the institution has a preexisting policy of not accepting certifications.


The main reason many colleges still do not accept IT certifications is because of the “paper MCSE” reputation programs got a few years ago from poor exam security and inadequate testing methods. However, certifications have drastically improved in both of these respects, Uhlman said. “The type of training, the amount of information you’re being taught and the highly specific nature of the information that’s being taught is in some cases even more valuable than the more generalized training you may obtain in college towards a similar end, a degree in the IT field,” he added. Also, many high schools now teach certification courses, so graduating seniors sometimes enter college with a certification like A+. As a result, more and more colleges a taking a second look at certification for credit.

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