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What Are the Benefits of Competency-Based Education?

A competency-based degree program can make it faster and less expensive to acquire the skills employers want.

In today’s professional climate, your know-how can be your most important asset. If you’re a working professional and want to expand your skills, competency-based degree programs offer an opportunity to earn your degree online while developing new skills that make you more valuable to your current employer—or more marketable to others if you’re looking to make a change. Best of all, competency-based education gives you the freedom to learn at your own pace, which can help you lower the cost of your education while reducing the time it takes to earn your degree.

What is competency-based education?

According to a study by the American Enterprise Institute, competency-based education can “streamline the path to a college degree for a significant number of students.”* Rather than enrolling in predetermined courses that require a specific amount of time to complete, you master individual skills and knowledge areas (competencies) at whatever pace works best for you. You demonstrate your mastery of competencies through competency-based assessments. Once you’ve proven your mastery of all the competencies in your program, you earn your degree.

What Are the Benefits of Competency-Based Education?

How can competency-based education save time and money?

Students in competency-based degree programs can complete as many competencies as they want during any specific term without incurring additional tuition costs. The U.S. Department of Education has found that “[b]y enabling students to master skills at their own pace, competency-based learning systems help to save both time and money.”

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGBUC) concurs. According to its report on the subject, competency-based education’s “technology-based approach to learning has the potential to lower cost for students and their families.”

The AGBUC also points out that competency-based education’s “sharp focus on student learning outcomes is designed to validate the quality of the degree.” Simply put, these online degree programs are structured to help ensure that the time and money you spend is worthwhile. You have the opportunity to complete these programs more quickly, with the real-world skills employers want.

Can a competency-based degree help you find a job or earn more?

In The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman has examined employer response to competency-based education, and reported that employers “just want to know one thing: Can you add value?”§

Because competency-based degrees require you to demonstrate proficiency in your field, you will enter or advance in the job market with skills you’ve practiced and mastered. This can be beneficial when applying for jobs or raises.

Where can I find a competency-based degree program?

A growing number of accredited universities offer competency-based learning. Because most of these institutions offer their competency-based education as an option within their online degree programs, you can enroll in (and complete) these programs from anywhere in the world.

Explore competency-based learning through Tempo Learning™ by Walden University, an accredited university offering online programs, and earn your degree at your own pace in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

*American Enterprise Institute, Center on Higher Education Reform, “The Landscape of Competency-Based Education,” on the Internet at

†U.S. Department of Education, “Competency-Based Learning or Personalized Learning,” on the Internet at

‡Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. “Competency-Based Education: What the Board Needs to Know,” on the Internet at

§The New York Times. “How to Get a Job,” on the Internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,