How to Transfer College Credits

Credit transferability is one of the biggest concerns of many students who consider getting a degree from an online college or university. Often, students who were forced to leave school for whatever reason, and are going back to finish their degree, want to use the credits they have already earned to minimize the cost and time commitment of their return to college. Most online colleges are amenable to this plan, though the number of transferred credits that a school will accept depends on when they were earned and from which school, as well as which program the credits will be applied to. The process can be somewhat complex, but the following advice should help you get the most mileage out of your previously earned credits. A recent study determined that college as an investment has a higher rate of return than many other long-term investments, and squeezing the most out of each credit can help you make sure that you get the most out of the time and money you put in.

How Many College Credits Can Students Transfer?

The number of credits you can transfer will depend on the number of credits the program you’re applying to comprises. Master of Science in Nursing programs can include between 30-60 credit hours, and most online colleges don’t like to accept more than half of a program’s total credit hours in transfer, so you’ll probably only be allowed to keep 15-30 credit hours from former educational pursuits.

Credit transferability also depends on the nature of the credits. Advanced English literature credits might not count for much in an MSN program, whereas anatomy and physiology credits or any courses in biology are likely to be applicable, and therefore transferable.

Credit For Work Experience

Some colleges also award credit hours for previous work experience. This is especially true of colleges that train medical support staff, such as physician’s assistant programs or nursing programs. If you have prior experience working in a field related to the degree you’re applying for, make sure to ask the school whether they can offer you any credit for the work you’ve already done and knowledge you’ve already acquired.

Work experience can also help you from a financial standpoint. Many employers offer continuing education stipends to their employees, especially in health care, and there are scholarships and grants available to people who have shown dedication and exceptional ability in many fields, including nursing. If you can get credit hours for your work experience, and get your employer to help pay for the courses you do take, you’ll be leveraging your current career to benefit the future you.

Supplies You’ll Need to Transfer Credits Efficiently

Most colleges won’t accept transferred credits unless you can prove that the education you got was equivalent to the requirements of the new school. They will likely ask for documentation of your past education in the form of:

  • Transcripts: Your former schools must acknowledge that you completed the courses in question and were awarded credits for them.
  • Course descriptions: Classes that have the same or similar names don’t always share the same content. A detailed course description from your former college may be required to assure the new school that the credits you’re trying to transfer are applicable.
  • Test scores: Transferring some sorts of college credit, especially credits you got for taking advanced classes in high school, may involve taking a test to prove that you gleaned the necessary knowledge from the course.

Degrees vs. Diplomas, Licenses, and Certificates

A high percentage of students who seek online courses are doing so to benefit their career in some way, and often this means earning a diploma, license, or certificate that qualifies them to work in a particular role. Transferring credits into a certificate program may be more difficult, because often they are teaching toward a specific test or set of requirements established by the government or a professional standards board.

BSN to MSN candidates should have an easier time transferring credits, but the only credits likely to be accepted are 100 or 200 level core requirements like introductory biology, chemistry, and pharmacology. More advanced classes usually have to be taken at the school that will issue your degree.

Dual Degree and Accelerated Programs for Nurses

Even if your past credits can’t be applied to a nursing degree from the online colleges you are applying to, they might count toward another degree that you could earn concurrently. Earning a double major is a popular choice for highly motivated students with interests in many fields. While any two degrees can be pursued concurrently if you’re willing to put in the time and money, a few degrees that can be leveraged to benefit a nursing career include:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): For nurses who want to take on leadership roles, rise into upper management, or even open their own practices eventually, having some educational background in business can be a great investment.
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA): Nurses who are interested in working for the government or a public institution, and who want to interact with the healthcare system on a policy level, should consider combining an MPA with their MSN.
  • Master of Social Work (MSW): Social work and nursing are two areas of work and study that appeal to people with a strong sense of social justice and empathy. If you like to help people, promote equality, and generally do good in the world, both of these degrees can help get you jobs where you do just that.

How Much Money Will Transfer Credits Save You?

College credits are expensive. They can cost anywhere from $300-$1,000, and even above that at top tier schools. By transferring credits from previous educational institutions you’ve attended, you are basically preventing yourself from paying twice for the same knowledge or training.

The fact that most colleges won’t accept more than half a degree’s worth of credit from another institution doesn’t affect most students. Having that many credits under your belt without having earned a degree isn’t common. The way to calculate how much of your college bill can be offset via credit transfers is by finding out how much an individual credit hour costs at that college, and multiplying that number by the number of credits you can negotiate with that college to transfer. Even if you have a relatively low number of transferrable credits, if each one costs $500 at the new school, you’ll be taking a serious chunk out of your costs.

Choosing a College Based on Credit Transferability

The costs of higher education can be so high that it is tempting to choose the college that charges the least, or will let you transfer the most credits. This isn’t the best way to pick your school. While expense is a huge factor in choosing a school, the quality of the education and the reputation of the school will have a stronger effect on your eventual ability to get better jobs and earn more money with which to pay off your student loans.

Accreditation and Credit Transfer

Accredited colleges are the only ones worth attending, and they will not accept credit transfers from non-accredited schools. It is impossible to overstate the importance of accreditation in the realm of higher education. Many students express concern that their bosses or friends will not recognize the legitimacy of their degree if it comes from an online school. There are many online schools that offer high-quality, reasonably priced education and issue legitimate degrees, and every single one of them has to prove itself by applying for accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission or another accrediting agency that has the approval of the U.S. Secretary of Education.

How to Research Accreditation Status and Credit Transfer Policy

The quickest way to find out about the accreditation status and credit transfer options for any school you apply to is to contact the school directly. Their website or one of their academic advisors should be able to tell you quickly how many of your previous credits will transfer, as well as which agency accredits the institution, and how long they have been accredited. Accreditation must be renewed five years after it is first achieved, and every 10 years after that, so knowing how often a school has renewed its accreditation, and whether its accreditation has been continuous, or has been revoked and renewed, is one factor by which you can gauge the school’s quality.

The links below all lead to accredited schools that offer high quality BSN to MSN programs. Asking the school to send you some more information or application materials can be the first step on your journey toward a better education and hopefully a more rewarding and lucrative career.

Find an online Nursing degree

Find the BSN to MSN program that’s right for you by filling out this short form below: