How to Earn College Credit Online in 2023

Posted on February 16, 2023

Posted on February 16, 2023

If you want to accelerate your learning experience and earn college credits, online learning is a great option. Many programs offer courses to gain college credits toward your degree, helping you finish your program faster and save money in the process.

Whether you’re in school and looking to earn college credit online, or you’re considering pursuing online schooling as an option, here are some ways to earn college credit online in 2023 and beyond – plus some tips to get started!

College Credit Online Courses and Options 

There are many ways to earn college credits at a faster pace and prepare for your future degree path.

AP Courses

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school and passing the AP exam is the traditional way for students to earn college credits toward a future degree program. These courses are also available online, helping you prepare for your AP exams and get a head start on your college path.

Several focus areas are available, including art history, biology, chemistry, calculus, music theory, psychology, and English language and composition. A high school coordinator or guidance counselor can help you find the appropriate courses and register for the exams through the College Board

Accelerated Online Courses

If you want to earn college credits online quickly, you can take an accelerated online class instead of spending 16 weeks in a classroom. Accelerated college classes are often available for online degrees and have a compressed schedule, so you can fit more credits into your academic year.

Registering for accelerated courses is similar to registering for traditional or online courses, but they may have differing start dates that could impact your total credits and your financial aid eligibility. Our policy and guide is to always speak to your advisor or school registrar to see if accelerated courses are appropriate for you.


The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a way to earn college credit for the information you already know, at a fraction of the cost of a full course. Like AP, CLEP offers credit by examination to get three or more credits at qualifying educational institutions.

The College Board offers 24 exams on topics like chemistry, psychology, marketing, human growth and development, macroeconomics, business law, American government, and sociology.

The exams cover the topics that would be included in introductory courses on a college level, and there are over 2,000 testing locations. There are also online resources to prepare for the CLEP exam and exams with remote proctoring if you don’t have a convenient location near you. Military service members are eligible to take the CLEP exams at no cost, complete with free prep books.

Before you take CLEP exams, however, make sure the college or university where you’re enrolled or planning to apply to accepts credit for CLEP exams. Your institution’s website or the registrar’s office should offer information on CLEP exam credits. 


Similar to CLEP, the Defense Subject Standardized Test (DSST) offers credits that are widely accepted across many educational institutions. There are numerous choices, including finances, public speaking, and astronomy, and testing centers across the country.

You can practice for the test using online resources, and you may take up to three full-length tests online. But as with the CLEP, be sure to check with your registrar’s office to ensure the credits transfer to your degree program.


Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is a versatile credit that you can earn for work or life experiences and on-the-job training that’s similar to what you would gain in the classroom. For example, a stay-at-home mom may have transferable skills in management and organization that would count as credit toward a college degree.

Always check if your college or university awards credit for prior learning, how much CPL you’re eligible for, and whether you can submit your materials online. Most schools allow around 15 hours, but some offer as many as 30 credits.

Your advisor will offer guidance for your CPL portfolio, which requires you to write about your life experiences and the competencies you’ve gained from them. It’s important to demonstrate how you’ve covered the material that you’d get from a course. Earning CPL is hard work, but it’s worth it for the credits you can earn.

Individual Online College Courses 

Whether you want to earn college credits online, want to see if online courses are right for you, or you have a demanding schedule, taking individual online courses can help you earn college credits without long-term commitment – and at a lower cost.

Depending on the institution you choose, college credits can be transferred to a degree program at a college or university. For example, platforms like Sophia Learning offer self-paced gen ed courses that transfer to partner colleges. Be sure to check with your school’s registrar to ensure your course credits will transfer.

GRE Subject Tests

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Subject Tests assess your understanding of chemistry, physics, mathematics, or psychology. These exams may be part of an admissions process for a graduate program or for fellowship applications. 

You can register for GRE Subject Tests online or through the mail. There are testing periods in September, October, and April, and you must take the test in person. Each candidate for the test receives practice content to prepare.

University Challenge Exams

If you’re familiar with a subject, you can “test out” of a course by passing a university challenge exam. Though not all universities and colleges allow challenge exams, online or otherwise, some offer them for general education studies like arts and humanities, health sciences, legal studies, math, and sciences.

These tests are pass/fail. If you fail, you can retake it after a certain period of time, but you’ll have to pay the exam fee again. Check with your college or university to see if challenge exams are available and learn how to register. 

Start Your College Degree Path with Online Credits

Online learning is a rewarding way to continue your education and get your degree. If you want to accelerate the process, you can take online courses with Sophia Learning that are built to transfer toward your degree. Start a free trial today to see if our online learning platform can help you reach your education goals in 2023!

Category: Higher Education

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