What is Prior Learning Assessment?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the process by which the University of Mary evaluates academic credit for college level learning and skills you have gained outside of the classroom, including from employment (e.g., on-the-job training, workshops, and certifications), military and/or police training, civic activities and volunteer service.

If your professional work experience has gained you technical and work-related competencies, the University of Mary recognizes these competencies with PLA. PLA offers a way to evaluate your skills for college credit, which can help you progress more quickly towards a post-secondary degree, saving you (and in some cases your employer) both time and tuition dollars.

PLA is available for undergraduate students only.


  1. Graduate more quickly

    Since PLA allows you to you receive credit for your knowledge, you accomplish the degree requirements more quickly and complete your degree more efficiently.

  2. Save money

    The cost for prior learning credits is less than a full course and you’ll spend less time in school, ultimately lowering the total cost of your degree. 

There are many different methods of offering PLA, including standardized exams (e.g., CLEP, DSST) and evaluation of portfolio assessments. When carried out according to nationally established standards, these methods can signal whether you have college-level skills and competencies that are worthy of college credit.

Check the CLEP/DSST fact sheets below to learn what credit will be granted based on the appropriate score level:

Prior Learning is assembled into a written portfolio (which includes written documentation). Portfolios are evaluated by departmental faculty to determine credit awards. Your portfolio instructor will help you investigate the possibilities as part of the required PLS 321 Prior Learning Assessment for Academic Credit class.

The bottom line

To put it simply, students with PLA credit have a higher graduation rate, better persistence and lower time to degree completion. If you've got professional experience that may qualify, contact us for more information!