Prior Learning Assessment

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of PLA?

PLA can put you on the fast track to earning a certificate or degree by awarding college credit for previous learning received in nontraditional settings. It can also help identify self improvement opportunities. PLA can help you to advance in your career, qualify for pay raises, meet personal goals, and identify what you know at the college level.

How does the PLA program work?

Basically there are two steps to earn credit — The first step is to submit a résumé and supporting documentation to the PLA Specialist. The second step, if required, is to take a proficiency examination.

What format should be used for the résumé?

Any common format is acceptable. The content is of primary importance. The PLA Specialist will advise you on this.

What is supporting documentation?

Supporting documentation is a collection of information that has been accumulated about the student’s past experiences and accomplishments.  It is the evidence that college level learning has taken place in a nontraditional setting. It supports the claims made in the résumé and establishes the student’s readiness to take a proficiency examination.

How is my supporting documentation evaluated?

The PLA specialist assembles a review committee of faculty to evaluate the evidence and make a determination if course credit is warranted or if a knowledge and/or proficiency examination is required.

What is a knowledge or proficiency examination?

A knowledge or proficiency examination determines whether the student has met the learning outcomes of the course. The student passing the examination is regarded as having knowledge and skills necessary and is awarded credit for the class.

Where will the examination be given?

Knowledge and skill assessments are usually offered in the college classroom and/or laboratory for which credit is applied.

How much credit can I earn through PLA?

You may earn as much as 25% of your program course credit through the PLA process. Your credit award will depend on the college-equivalent knowledge and skills you have acquired and the length of your chosen program.

What programs are available for PLA credit?

Students may earn PLA credit only for technical courses taught in Career and Technical Education programs. Credit for academic courses such as English and Math are credited by other means. Credit may be awarded for academic courses by examination or nationally recognized guidelines (AP, CLEP, ACT/PEP, DSST, Challenge Exams, ACE PONSI/CREDIT, ACE/MILITARY) or through other statewide programs identified by the Department of Postsecondary Education. Please see your PLA Specialist for further information.

How long does the PLA process take?

The length of time for the PLA process varies from person to person. From start to finish, the process could take from as little as a few weeks to as long as a couple of months depending on how long it takes to acquire supporting documentation from employers and certification agencies. 

Do I have to be admitted to an Alabama Community College to take advantage of PLA?

Yes. You must be an admitted student in order to participate in the PLA program.

Do I have to be a degree-seeking student to take advantage of PLA?

No. Although most students go on to earn associate degrees, the requirement is to be accepted in a Career and Technical Education certificate or degree program.

How do I apply for PLA credit?

You may apply for PLA credit by contacting your local community college PLA Specialist. They will gladly assist you.