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What You Need to Know About Competency Assessments

To succeed in a competency-based degree program, you need to understand how your learning will be assessed.

If you’re looking to earn a degree in a program that matches your particular learning style, you may want to consider competency-based learning.

In a competency-based degree program, you don’t have to complete a specific series of courses that require a set amount of time to complete. Instead, competency-based education allows you to master specific competencies in your field of study at whatever pace works best for you. But just because competency-based degree programs don’t require you to attend required classes doesn’t mean you aren’t expected to learn just as much (or more) than what you would in a traditional degree program.


In a competency-based program, whenever you feel you have mastered a competency, you must pass an assessment to demonstrate you’ve learned the subject. This assessment can come in a variety of forms, including tests, academic papers, and projects designed to represent the real-world work you’re likely to encounter in your field. But no matter what form your assessment takes, the goal is to demonstrate your mastery of the knowledge. Whether you pass the assessment depends on whether you meet the expectations laid out in your competency-based degree program rubric.

You do not, however, need to pass the assessment on your first try. In fact, competency-based education faculty often send initial assessments back with feedback that can help isolate areas of the competency you need to keep working on. In general, competency-based degree programs will let you take an assessment up to three times, which gives you room for the back-and-forth you may need to fully master a competency.

For many learners—particularly working professionals who are looking to advance their career—competency-based education is an excellent path to a degree. This is particularly true because many competency-based degree programs are available through online universities. By combining competency-based education with online education, you can learn at your own pace and complete your degree from home—making it possible to earn a degree while working full time. And if you can master the competencies of your degree quickly, you can earn that degree while saving time and money.

Walden University offers several degree programs in a competency-based format, including:


BS in Business Administration

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Graduate Certificate in Applied Project Management

Criminal Justice

BS in Criminal Justice

MS in Criminal Justice


BS in Early Childhood Studies

MS in Early Childhood Studies

Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Administration, Management, and Leadership


BS in Health Studies

BS in Healthcare Management

BS in Public Health

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN)

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)-Nurse Executive

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)-Nursing Education

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)-Nursing Informatics


MS in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology

MS in Psychology

Walden University is an accredited institution offering competency-based degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,