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6 Benefits of Competency-Based Education that will Excite Adult Learners

Female student working in a library, female student at work in business attire

You’re ready to leave your stale job behind and pursue a career where you can make a difference. But as an adult learner, you have a lot of questions about what it will take to earn your degree. You’ve seen your friends waste time and money on classes that don’t apply to their career path and you’ve watched them struggle to balance the demands of a full-time job, family and college courses.

But earning your degree doesn’t have to be so complicated. Thanks to competency-based education (CBE), students are enjoying more flexibility and saving money by completing their degree programs in a fraction of the time. CBE courses offer plenty of perks for any student, but adult learners will especially appreciate this revolutionary approach to earning a degree.

CBE courses could be the key to earning the education you’ve been putting off all these years. Find out if this learning method is right for you by learning more about the practical benefits of competency-based education.

But first … What is competency-based education?

Competency-based education is “a flexible way for students to get credit for what they know and build on their knowledge and skills by learning more at their own pace,” according to the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN).

In short, this new method of earning a degree gives you new options for earning credits—options that allow you to prove your skills and earn credit as quickly or slowly as you need. Check out these benefits of competency-based education for adult learners to find out if this approach is a good fit for you.

6 Reasons adult learners will thrive in competency-based education programs

1. You work at your own pace

One of the pillars of the CBE method is a focus on the skills students possess rather than the amount of time they’ve spent working toward a degree. Every student learns at a different pace, which is why CBE allows you to set your own speed instead of sitting through a required number of credit hours.

This means if you quickly grasp a new skill being taught, you can prove you’ve mastered the concept and move forward in your education without waiting for the end of a semester. On the other hand, if you’re struggling to get a handle on a complex subject, you can take the time you need to fully understand the information without being rushed by the pace an instructor set for the class.

Not only can this self-paced system save you time, it can make for a more enjoyable, higher-quality level of education.

2. You’ll build on your existing knowledge

You’ve picked up plenty of wisdom thanks to your experiences in the workforce. You definitely don’t want to waste time and money sitting in a classroom being lectured on things you’ve been doing for years!

In a CBE program, it doesn’t matter where you acquired your knowledge—all that matters is that you know it! It’s this focus on skills that allows you to draw upon your existing knowledge and prove you’ve mastered required competencies. Instead of sitting through repetitive courses, you’ll be using your existing skills to help earn your degree.

Building on your existing knowledge not only gives you a boost toward completing your degree program, it can give you the confidence that comes from knowing your past experiences are still a valuable asset in your new career.

3. You can control your own schedule

Traditional college degree programs often require you to put the rest of your life on hold so you can sit in a classroom. But you have a full-time job and a family to care for! Even going to school part-time would put pressure on your already slammed schedule.

CBE courses allow you to set your own schedule. Many CBE programs are centered around online learning, with flexible check-in times for you to interact with instructors. You’ll have the flexibility to work around your scheduling concerns, like a busy season at your day job, or your kids being home from school for the holidays.

When you’re freed from the stress of managing a tight, inflexible schedule, you can devote more of your energy toward what matters: learning the skills you need to help advance your career.

4. You can graduate sooner

Traditional education models typically require at least 120 credit hours to earn a bachelor’s degree. No matter how you schedule your courses, that still adds up to a big chunk of time spent in a classroom! Many adult learners with existing jobs and obligations would be hard-pressed to earn a bachelor’s degree in less than four years.

Thanks to CBE’s focus on skills rather than time, you’ll have the opportunity to graduate much sooner than you may have otherwise. Your existing knowledge may give you a head start in testing out of a competency sooner and your ability to work at your own pace lets you move forward in your education as soon as you’re ready for the next level.

Some programs allow CBE students to graduate in half the time of their traditional counterparts on average. Now that’s something to celebrate!

5. You’ll likely save money

It’s no secret that a college education doesn’t come cheap. But CBE programs can help you keep costs down as you earn your degree. Unlike traditional programs, CBE courses give you several opportunities to earn your degree at a more affordable price.

Because you’ll be leveraging your existing knowledge in your current program, you won’t be wasting money sitting through unnecessary courses. CBE’s self-paced structure also gives you the opportunity to master competencies faster than you could complete a traditional course—and the sooner you graduate, the less money you spend!

No one wants to be held back from expanding their education due to financial concerns. CBE could be the solution to the affordable degree you need!

6. You can gain real-world experience

Many job postings require job candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. But a degree alone won’t make you stand out from the crowd. When it comes time to add a new team member, employers want to know they’re hiring someone who has the real-world skills it takes to add value to their company straight away.

Unlike traditional degrees, which often include courses that don’t directly apply to your future career, CBE competencies focus on the practical skills employers are seeking. One CBE nursing program, for instance, allows students to complete their learning online, then prove their mastery by spending several days in the field caring for real patients.

This type of tangible experience is exactly what your dream employer is looking for. The purpose of earning your degree is to help you move forward in your career, and having competency-based education on your resume could be the key to that advancement.

Is competency-based education right for you?

It’s hard to ignore the benefits of competency-based education programs. For adult learners in particular, this modern method of learning could be the solution to a handful of concerns about going back to school.

Are you wondering if this flexible degree program is the right path for you? Learn more with this handy resource: What is Competency-Based Education & How is it Different [Infographic].


Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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