Skip to content Skip to Live Chat


Learning at WGU: Different by Design

We Call It Competency-Based Education. Grads Call It the Best Way to Learn

WGU pioneered career-relevant, competency-based education. We remain the only institution offering competency-based degrees at scale, creating a model other colleges and universities are increasingly striving to replicate.

What is competency-based education? Simply put, it measures skills and learning rather than time spent in a classroom. Students earn competency units (the equivalent of credit hours) when they demonstrate their skills through completing assessments. So rather than advancing only when the semester or term ends, you can progress through courses as soon as you’ve proved you’ve mastered the material.

If a student can learn faster, spend more time on schoolwork, or lean on knowledge they already have from previous work or school experience, they can accelerate through their courses. This innovative approach to skills-based education gives power to the learner, allowing them to use their skills as currency to prove their capabilities to potential employers.

In addition, WGU is dedicated to developing the foundation for a skills-based future where learners and employers can find each other and connect through a shared language of verified skills. This commitment within WGU and to the broader Open Skills Network (OSN) community furthers our dedication to progressing a skills-based ecosystem beyond our institutional mission. There is also the Journal of Competency-Based Education (JCBE) that is published by Western Governors University and John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

For Institutions and Policymakers

Dive deeper into competency-based education—and perhaps learn to implement a CBE program of your own.

Reimagine the Path to Your Degree at WGU

Student Flexibility

Competency-based education at WGU puts the student in the driver's seat of their education.

  • Efficient: Education pathways are focused on learning, not seat time. Students are able to spend time on areas where they need more understanding and accelerate where they already have knowledge.
  • Flexible: Study happens whenever and wherever it works best for students. WGU learning resources are available anywhere internet access is.
  • Individualized: Every student is different. At WGU, we believe the learning experience should be built around students.
  • Supportive: Students have a whole team of navigators along for the ride—faculty, staff, even fellow students.


Low, flat-rate tuition and the opportunity to accelerate programs allow students to have more control of total costs.

  • Low tuition: Our commitment to helping students graduate with less debt starts with low tuition—about half the average cost of other online institutions.*
  • Flat rate: WGU’s flat-rate tuition links time and cost. This is central to how competency-based education can save students money: By speeding up programs, students can graduate faster with less costs.

*WGU average annual bachelor’s tuition rates are 48% lower than the national average, compared to national rates reported by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems in 2022. WGU average rate does not include rates for WGU Bachelor of Science, Nursing Prelicensure program.


WGU is about real-world results—providing students an impressive return on their investment.

  • Return on Investment: Our special model of online learning is designed for the working adult, and our commitment to keep costs down means better ROI for our graduates.
  • Competencies: The hallmark of competency-based education are the competencies—the clearly defined skills and knowledge that students will master. Our competency-based approach is widely recognized by employers because it’s an approach used by most corporations as the basis for promotions and advancement.
  • Mastery: A degree from WGU tells employers that our grads are proven experts and will be invaluable additions to their teams. After all, they earned their degrees by proving they've mastered the competencies that employers are looking for in an employee.

Joel Bianci

Graduate in teaching

"Half of what I learned from my master’s at WGU is a model for my classroom: tailoring curriculum for each student, checking in with them while giving them freedom, reducing structure, and giving room for kids to learn how they learn best.”

Lisa Turnbull

Graduate in IT

"The WGU model allowed me to thrive. I needed a competency-based program that allowed me to use my experience. I needed flexibility to allow me to be a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a Girl Scout leader. I needed affordability because I had a family and could not add another bill.”

Bradley Hall

Graduate in business

"There are a few things that WGU offers that other programs don't, and one is the competency-based format—the mastery, to make sure that you learn the skills before you move on to something else. Traditional schools don't offer that. You simply go to class and you get what they're working on that week and if you don't get it, too bad, we're all moving on. Many key concepts are lost with that."

Education is attainable.

WGU is the top choice for busy, value-focused adults who need a degree to reach their career goals.

The WGU Experience

Student Obsessed

WGU faculty members have one goal in mind: student success. Guidance and instruction are always just a call or email away.

Personalized Learning Plan

The journey toward subject mastery is made up of a series of courses, with flexibility built in. Pre-assessments help students determine their level of competency. As they move into coursework, they can focus effort where they need it, using online resources available 24/7.

Prove Understanding

WGU measures learning, not time, so each course culminates in an assessment—a test, paper, project, or presentation that allows students to prove what they know. Students control when they take assessments—as soon as they are ready, any time of day!

Real-World Application

Health and nursing programs have field experience. Teaching programs have demonstration teaching. All other programs have a real-world capstone project. Each experience will test student abilities and build their confidence.

Forever a Night Owl

Continued support after graduation includes many opportunities for professional development and enrichment, career support, and networking. WGU Night Owls may be independent learners, but they also become highly engaged in our active alumni community through apps, groups, and events.