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Credential Evaluations: Everything You Need to Know

Every year, universities in the U.S. receive thousands upon thousands of applications from international students interested in studying abroad. Having such a wide array of applicants meant that the U.S. had to figure out a way to fairly evaluate academic credentials from all over the world. The solution to this came to be “credential evaluation,” which is now a necessary part of applying to most schools within the U.S. for international students.

To learn more about what credential evaluations are and how you can get one for your own academic records, keep on reading!

Related: Guide for international students to studying in the U.S.A.

What is a credential evaluation?

Great question! Credential evaluations assess how academic or skill-related credentials earned outside the U.S. compare to those earned in the U.S (or Canada). Admissions counselors determine whether international students’ degrees or other credentials earned abroad meet a university’s enrollment standards. In addition, credential evaluations evaluate the credentials of skilled workers looking for employment abroad. In all cases, credential evaluations help you receive recognition for your academic or work-related certificates and degrees. 

The process of evaluating credentials first requires individuals to send one’s degrees or certificates to the credential evaluation agency. Once there, the documents go through expert analysis. This information determines the American or Canadian equivalent of your degree, depending on the locations of the universities or employers you’re applying to. Once you receive the completed evaluation, you will be able to provide it to whichever universities or institutions wish to see it. While there are a few institutions in the U.S. and Canada which may choose to evaluate foreign credentials themselves, this is quite uncommon. Thus, we would highly recommend checking whether your prospective universities or employers require them or not. If they do, also consider checking if each institution has a preferred credential evaluation service or organization. 

We’ll get more into picking a credential evaluation servicer later, though. For now, let’s look at costs!

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The cost of undergoing a credential evaluation depends on (1) what third-party organization you use and (2) the type of evaluation you purchase. This is because how in-depth your evaluation is, how many courses or transcripts you have assessed, processing time, and a variety of other factors can add to the price of an evaluation. With that said, we can still give you some general price ranges! Typically, a “basic” or less thorough evaluation will cost anywhere between $70 and $150. On the other hand, a more intensive evaluation normally costs between $150 and $350. 

We hope this gives you a good idea of how much you might want to set aside for a credential evaluation. Just bear in mind that the total fee will also depend on whether your evaluation is for academic, employment, visa-related, or other purposes. Due to this wide variety of prices (and depth of evaluations), we’d definitely recommend looking into a few service providers before you finally settle on one that’s right for you. Luckily, we’ve done some of the research for you. So, let’s go over our tips for choosing credential evaluation servicers!

Choosing a credential evaluation provider

If you discover that you need to get a credential evaluation (and that your institution does not do it themselves), you’ll need to find a third-party organization to do it for you. Luckily, the internet has made this process quite simple. However, it’s best that we first go over some basics of credential evaluation servicers. Let’s get into it!

Typically, credential evaluations are conducted by third-party organizations who analyze your academic and professional transcripts in addition to degrees and certificates earned in your home country. While there are no official government body monitoring providers, most reliable ones are affiliated with certified boards or associations. Among these certified organizations include the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) and the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE). If possible, we recommend searching for a provider who is associated with one or more of these selective associations. 

Though, how should you go about finding these servicers? Great question! One good place to look is on the websites of such credential evaluation associations, as they will typically have a list of credential evaluators affiliated with them on their website. Alternatively, you can also simply enter “credential evaluation services” on any search engine and some good options should pop up.

From our own research, some of the most commonly used evaluators include:

However, check out “Approved credential evaluation agencies” for a slightly lengthier list of some of the many credential evaluation service providers out there. 

Questions to ask when choosing a credential evaluation provider

Before we move onto the types of credential evaluations available, here are some questions you should ask to help narrow down and choose the right credential evaluation provider for you.

And that’s it! Knowing the answers to these questions should help find you the perfect credential evaluation agency for you. Before we send you off, we’ll go over the types of credential evaluations so you know what you’re looking for.

Also see: Filling out the FAFSA for international students

Types of credential evaluations

Generally, credential evaluators offer three types of evaluations. These include course by course, educational, and professional work experience evaluations. Let’s go over each one to help you determine which will work best for you. 

1. Course by course credential evaluation

First off is the course by course credential evaluation! This type of evaluation involves identifying, evaluating, and providing a U.S./Canadian equivalent for each diploma or certificate submitted to an agency. Such reports will include a description of your courses, credit hours, grades, degrees, and your overall academic performance in terms of the U.S.’s (or your host country’s) educational system. For those applying to schools in the U.S. specifically, you can expect to see your academic history “translated” into semester credits and a GPA on a 4.0 scale. 

While this type of report is primarily used by international students applying to U.S. universities, it may also be used for professional licensing or certification matters. If you plan on receiving a course by course credential evaluation, be prepared to submit original or certified copies of your transcripts. Typically, these can be ordered directly from your former schools who can send them to the evaluation agencies themselves. Any transcripts you choose to send should include what subjects you’ve studied, the credit hours you earned, and the grade you received for each class. Depending on your agency, you may need additional documents to complete this type of evaluation.

2. Educational credential evaluation

Sometimes called the “document by document” credential evaluation, this option lists the previous institutions one has attended and credentials they have earned. It also states their U.S. (or host country’s) equivalent degrees (like a bachelor’s, master’s, etc.). 

This type of evaluation is most often for employment and immigration matters, or when applying to universities without the expectation of transferring credits. If you sense that you will need to request an educational credential evaluation at any point, be ready to submit original or certified copies of all academic documentation. This may include diplomas, certificates, and transcripts – with English translations if necessary. Some agencies may require more or less documentation – but they will let you know if that’s the case.

3. Professional work experience evaluation

Last up is the professional work experience evaluation! These reports assess an individual’s work and academic history in order to determine whether one has met Bachelor’s degree equivalency. This type of evaluation is mainly for immigration purposes. Commonly, immigrants applying for a H-1B visa will get a professional work experience evaluation done.

If you’re looking to request a professional work experience evaluation soon, we would recommend preparing original or certified copies of all your academic documentation. This includes diplomas, certificates, and transcripts (with English translations), and a detailed resume with your previous jobs and their descriptions. If you sense that you’ll need help writing your resume, there’s no need to worry! Many credential evaluation providers offer professional resume writing services that will help you craft a perfect resume. If possible, we would also recommend gathering reference letters from your previous employers. Just bear in mind that some agencies may require more documentation, while some will require less. Either way, they’ll let you know.

With that, we’re done! We hope you now have a better understanding of what credential evaluations are and how they can help you begin this new phase of your life. Bon voyage!

Frequently asked questions 

Is credential evaluation universally recognized?

Unfortunately, receiving a credential evaluation from an agency does not mean recognition by all universities or teaching institutions out there. This is due to a variety of factors, one being that the process differs from country to country. For this reason, it is very important that you inform your credential evaluation agency both (1) what country you’re from and (2) what country the university you will be studying at is in. Doing so will help them figure out whether they’ll be able to service you and through what process they should evaluate your documents. 

Besides this, credential evaluation isn’t universally recognized. Some nations simply have their own evaluation systems for foreign documents and transcripts. In some regions, the universities themselves will evaluate your degree. We thus recommend doing thorough research to determine whether a credential evaluation will be necessary in your case. If so, we also recommend exploring a variety of credential evaluation servicers to figure out which will be the best for you.