What Is a Competency-Based Program? Earn Your Degree Faster!

Competency Based Program
Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Content Writer At Gradehacker

College life as we know it might be more suitable for young students in their mid-20s, but luckily, there are many ways hard-working adults with families and more responsibilities can study. And one of the best solutions is competency-based programs.

Because if you want to earn your degree faster, it’s almost impossible to be a full-time student that goes to campus every day of the week while taking care of family and fulfilling work obligations. And yes, online programs are an efficient way to save you the trouble of moving, but these can also take you the same amount of time.

Here is where Competency-Based Education programs come in.

As we listed in our fastest ways to earn an online degree list, competency-based degree programs are one of the best alternatives for adult students to study and get their diploma in four years or less.

But if you don’t know what these academic programs are, don’t worry. You are not the only one.

Here at Gradehacker, we are the non-traditional student’s most trusted resource. We have helped many students like you with their classes, including competency-based courses.

We know that you want to earn your college degree as soon as possible, and that’s why today we are explaining how competency-based education works, listing its benefits, and sharing some of the traditional colleges that offer them.

Competency Based Program

But first, let’s cover the basics.

What is a Competency-Based Program?

Competency-Based Education is the perfect opportunity for students who want to study on their own time

Instead of focusing on the time a student spends in a classroom, competency-based learning measures skills and knowledge. In every course, learners won’t have to wait for the class to advance the semester but will be able to prove they’ve mastered the material from the start or on their own time.

How? By giving them all the course material and assignments from the start, online students enrolled in a competency-based learning program can create their schedules as they wish. Of course, they must meet an overall deadline, but until that day arrives, they can read and progress in their assignments as much as they want!

In a competency degree program, you’ll be able to significantly accelerate your time studying if you:

How Do Competency-Based Programs Work?

For example, let’s say you begin a class on May 1st, with a final assessment due on June 1st.

If it’s a topic you are not very familiar with, you can take your time to use that month to read the class material, clear your doubts with the course mentor, and take a practical assignment to check your knowledge. 

However, if you already know the material, you can accelerate your time by proving your mastery in the final assessment in the first week.

If you successfully show a clear understanding and mastery of the material, you will pass the class and be ready to choose a new one. But if not, you’ll have to return to the course to keep learning.

Each class may vary on the final assessment. Some have multiple assignments, like exams or long essays, while others only require you to pass one of these.

What every competency degree program has in common is that all give you the possibility to study on your own time, without required login times or mandatory classes. They just give you a final deadline to learn the material and prove your knowledge. How much this takes you depends entirely on you!

Competency Based Program

Benefits Of Competency-Based Programs


The main reason it’s such a good option for online students is its high flexibility. You don’t have to commute, log in at a specific hour, or take classes per semester.

If you choose this competency-based approach, you can start the month you want and even take breaks between courses!

You Can Earn Your College Degree Sooner

Because you work towards your degree in your own time, if you have the time and learning skills, there is a high chance you will graduate sooner

You only need to prove your mastery in the assessments. Once you receive your college credits, it’s not necessary to wait for the next semester to start; you simply move to the next course you choose.

Of course, it’s not as easy as finishing a class in one week and starting another course in the following. Still, the enrollment time is more frequent, and you can also sign in for multiple classes during the same timeframe and finish them as if they were part of a “semester.


Another benefit of competency programs is that besides time, you also save money.

While prices depend on your chosen institution, most universities offer a flat rate for a subscription period. For instance, instead of paying tuition by course or credit, you pay for a six-month term and take as many classes as you want during those months.

If you make good use of your time, you can finish more courses in less time, accelerating your journey and saving more money!

Competency Based Program

Colleges with Competency-Based Programs

Western Governors University is one of the leading institutions that offer a wide range of competency programs.

WGU´s academic programs cover Bachelor’s to Master’s options, and online students that choose them can enroll in online degree programs in the areas of:

They offer flat-rate tuition for six months, that on a yearly average cost:

If you are a registered nurse looking for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, check out how WGU’s BSN-to-RN program works and whether it is the one for you.

Walden University has 50 years of helping busy adult students pursue their desired degrees. 

Their more than 100 online degree programs include certificates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral; and cover the areas of:

They don’t have a flat rate, as tuition depends on the chosen competency program and its level.

The University of Wisconsin offers a Flexible Option, a competency-based education format that helps online students complete a degree on their own terms.

In UW academic programs, we find associate and Bachelor’s degrees in the areas of:

Just like Walden, tuition depends on the chosen competency program and its level.

Competency Based Program

Save Time And Money With A Competency-Based Program

Competency-Based Programs are for you if you:

Still, as most competency programs are charged for a six-month term, to maximize your time and money, make sure you will be available to take as many courses as possible. If not, perhaps you end up spending more money on a high-quality education technique that you aren’t taking advantage of.

So, be sure your lifestyle and career goals are suitable for the competency-based learning format before you enroll in one.

If you do, go ahead and earn that degree sooner!

However, if you like the idea but are unsure whether you will have the time to fully take advantage of a competency-based program, don’t forget you can count on Gradehacker! 

We have assisted many students like you with these kinds of degrees, helping them with multiple classes in just a few months. If you want to reduce your time in college even more, accelerate your degree with us. We’ll be happy to help!

And if you are looking for more college tips for non-traditional students, check out these related articles:

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