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How You'll Learn at WGU


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


Here at WGU, student success is our focus. That's why we have pioneered a unique learning model that allows you to be in the driver's seat of your education. We want you to utilize your past knowledge, capitalize on your experience, and follow the best process for your own learning. That's why we developed 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.

This competency-based approach is core to our student focus and our goal to become the University of You—a university that is dedicated to delivering what YOU need to succeed. With 24/7 access to online learning resources to engage with on your schedule, you can embark on a learning journey tailored exactly to your own knowledge—focusing on areas where you need more help and moving quickly through areas you already know or understand. In addition, faculty members are here to provide personalized, one-on-one learning support.

Competency-Based Education, Explained

Competency-based education means that students progress through courses as soon as they can prove they’ve mastered the material, rather than advancing only when the semester or term ends. If you can learn faster, spend more time on schoolwork, or lean on knowledge you already have from previous work or school experience, you can accelerate through your courses.

"WGU provided exactly the experience I needed to make getting my degree a reality. As a full-time worker, there are plenty of excuses that you can lean on to avoid going back to school. I did it for years. WGU changed all that. Three things stand out: flexibility, competencies, and support. Flexibility is everywhere at WGU. You can approach the courses however you like. Read the book, watch videos, join live discussion sessions, you name it. Choose your path. That reduces some of the challenge inherent in formal education. It's easy to see how each course contributes to the real-world thanks to competency-based courses. No more rote memorization and vague assignments. There's a clear sense of purpose to everything."

WGU Graduate

How It Works

Discover exactly how competency-based education works for your degree program and what steps you will follow to complete your courses.

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.

Our Graduates Explain It Best

Bradley Hall, 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."

Lisa Turnbull, 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.”

Joel Bianci, 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.”

Frequently Asked Questions about Competency-Based Education

Competency units or CUs are basically the same as a credit-hour in a traditional college. Because we measure competency instead of time in–class, we call them competency units rather than credits. Each WGU course is approximately 2–4 CUs and you need approximately 120 CUs to graduate with your undergraduate degree, 30-36 CUs for your graduate degree.

Nope! At WGU we charge tuition per six-month term, no matter how many courses and competency-units you complete during that time. 

Education Is Attainable

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