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What Is Competency-Based Education?

Through competency-based programs, you can earn your degree and acquire business-ready skills while learning at your own pace-and reducing your tuition costs.

In a world where most of us are balancing multiple priorities—like jobs, family, and personal lives—many working adults no longer have the time to earn college and graduate degrees through the traditional course-based system of higher education. Competency-based degree programs offer a more flexible learning environment that allows working professionals like you to earn a degree online at your own pace.

How does competency-based learning work?

Rather than enrolling in predetermined courses that require a set amount of time to complete, competency-based degree programs allow you to master specific skills in your field of study at a pace that works best for you. You can use the learning resources provided to you by faculty, and apply knowledge acquired through work, life experiences, or prior education. Better yet, you can complete as many competencies as you desire during a specific term, giving you the opportunity to lower your tuition costs by finishing your degree faster. Once you’ve proven proficiency in all of the competencies in your field, you earn your degree.

What Is Competency-Based Education?

What is the goal of competency-based education?

Competency-based education’s “underlying premise … is that what students know and can do is more important than how they learned it or how long it took to learn.”* Competency-based degree programs seek to reward you for your knowledge and help ensure you gain real-world skills you can immediately use in a work environment.

How does competency-based learning work?

The majority of universities offering competency-based education do so as part of their online degree programs. In this setting, faculty members are available to guide you through each specific competency, providing you with educational support and ensuring you have access to the learning resources you need. Once you feel you have mastered a competency, a faculty member will assess your learning through an exam or through the completion of an assigned task—such as a paper or a project.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education points out, “Digital technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to individualize education to meet each student’s learning needs.” By providing you with the opportunity to learn online from home and at your own pace, competency-based degree programs give you the flexibility to hold down a full-time job while accelerating your learning so you can earn your degree faster.

Where can I find a competency-based degree program?

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

Competency-based education is expanding learning opportunities for working professionals. If you’d like to streamline your path to a college or graduate degree, it could be the perfect option for you.

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.

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

The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Time Is Right for Colleges to Shift from Assembly-Line Education,” on the Internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,