How My Work Experience Helped Me Earn My Degree

For years, I’ve been in the atypical position of being in a director-level position at a major software company—with no college degree. I’ve successfully climbed the corporate ladder, through a couple different companies and a few promotions, based upon my work ethic and drive to learn and grow.

But the day I was writing the job requirements for a position two levels below mine, and I included “bachelor’s degree” among those requirements, I thought: “It’s time to finally earn a degree of my own!”

I always thought about getting my degree, but didn’t know if it was possible or if I’d ever find the time.

My life, like so many other Americans’, is busy and often times very hectic. I work full time. I am married with a family. I am very active in my son’s life. He and I recently earned our black belts in karate, and his baseball travel schedule takes us all over the state day and night.

I wasn’t sure how the addition of schoolwork would fit in. Then I learned about a competency-based university called WGU, Western Governors University, and I was intrigued.

I have gained a lot of skills and achieved a great deal of success at work. And now, as I approach my 40th birthday, the thought of going back to school to learn those basic “Business 101” things I already know and have applied is discouraging. But I learned that with WGU’s model, I would be rewarded for those things I was already competent in and knew very well.

Attending WGU allows me to apply the years’ worth of knowledge I have gained on the job and move through courses at a phenomenal speed. In fact, I recently completed three courses in only three weeks. By moving quickly through these courses in which I had experience, I was able to focus on the courses I needed to concentrate on more—Natural Sciences, for example.

My experience allowed me to progress faster than I imagined, and I’m on track to complete my degree this year, just about one-and-a-half years into my B.S. in Business Management program. I would never have been able to accomplish this at a traditional university.

But, that’s the beauty of competency-based education, which is helping thousands of people just like me advance and attain what seemed out of reach for far too long. 

And what about cost? This is another thing I really enjoy about WGU’s model. They charge a flat rate per six-month term (about $3,000 for most programs in 2014), and you can take as many courses as you are able to within that period of time at no extra cost. This includes all course materials, access to course mentors to assist you if needed, and a wealth of other information and benefits. I like this model because it incentivizes me to work hard and stay at it, while rewarding me for being able to prove what I already know.

Another benefit that has been critical for my success is the flexibility. I can work on my courses anytime that I want—day or night—which would normally not be available in the traditional college setting.  

So now, after years of thinking about getting that degree, WGU has allowed me to continue working in my career, enjoy family time with all the sports and activities, and excel in a college program. The day that I graduate will be a proud day for me and my family—and finally, my education will match my experience! 

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