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Can I receive Academic Credit at WISR for Prior Life and Learning Experiences?

No. WISR does not simply give credit for prior life experiences.

Virtually all of our students come to WISR with a rich background of significant life experiences which have involved considerable learning. WISR gives academic credit for the additional learning that happens while a student is enrolled at WISR. However, for this reason, students sometimess do get academic credit at WISR for writing papers, or portions of papers, involving further critical reflection and analysis of previous experiences they have had. Such papers often address questions like, what are the main insights and theories that I have developed in my areas of involvement, how did I come to these insights, what are the important problems and questions to address in the future, and how can others benefit from and use what I have learned? Indeed, we actively encourage to undertake such projects for academic credit at WISR, in order to become more conscious of and better able to articulate the knowledge that one has developed in areas of expertise and experience, over the years.


How Long Does It Take to Complete a Degree at WISR?

Since WISR’s programs are individualized and self-paced, this depends a lot on each student, and his or her learning style and other involvements. Most all students at WISR are very busy adults with significant work, family and personal commitments. WISR students tend to complete studies in a timely fashion, but many choose to move at a gradual pace over a number of years.  Regardless of the pace that a student chooses to move at, they receive lots  of faculty support and guidance to help them finish as soon as possible, but WISR is not a route to a quick and “easy” degree. Here are some broad guidelines. The descriptions for each degree program list the “estimated maximum time” for each program, but these are only estimates.

It is the case with all of our degree programs, students proceed at a pace comfortable to them, and with lots of faculty support and assistance. In addition, faculty review student progress every six months, and students are expected to meet with faculty individually twice each month, and faculty are available to meet more often, when requested to do so.

How Big and Difficult are WISR Dissertations?–I‘ve Heard Such Bad Stories from People Who Have Had to do Dissertations at various institutions.

WISR students receive lots of faculty support for all their projects, including the dissertation. There is no cut-and-dried answer to the question of how many pages they are. Most dissertations at WISR are in the range of around 150 to 200 pages. Some are slightly less, and a number are quite a bit longer.

We try to help students design dissertations that will be very meaningful to them personally, and of some practical use and importance to others. We work with students to help them to design dissertations (as well as Master theses) that will build bridges to the next significant thing(s) they want to be involved in or want to accomplish. Sometimes dissertations are designed to be books or handbooks or manuals that students want to write to share their knowledge, experiences and insights with others.

We always want our students to pursue and examine several questions that are important to them (and usually to others) and to which they don’t yet have the “answers.” We also don’t expect that the dissertation will necessarily lead to definitive answers to those questions but perhaps that they will at least provide new insights or even new questions that will pertain to those questions.

Also, we help students to break their dissertation into manageable “chunks” or chapters, so that even though they may not have written such a long document before, they can do it 20 to 30 pages at a time, in a sequence that seems meaningful and manageable. We are more concerned with substance than form, and encourage and support students to write in their own voice, rather than using what a colleague of mine referred to as “academic monkey talk.”

How Long are other Papers at WISR?

Papers at WISR do vary enormously in length–some as short as two or three pages, and some as long as 70 pages (!). Most WISR courses are for 5 semester units of credit, and papers for these courses tend to be 10 to 25 pages in length (papers for MS program courses tend to be shorter than papers for doctoral level courses, for example).  In addition, students write a number of short, reflective papers on the course modules and self-assessments of their learning. Some MFT program courses are for less than 5 semester units and these papers tend to be around 10 pages in length, or sometimes shorter.  Independent study projects may sometimes be negotiated for more than 5 semester units, and these papers may be quite long 40 or more pages in length. WISR faculty have observed that oftentimes students want to write more than is required or expected, because they have a lot of say, or investigate, about the projects which are very important to them, and to their future.

We don’t want students to “pad” their papers to make them look long, but instead WISR faculty work supportively with students in giving them guidance on how they communicate their ideas, their learning process, and the substantive content with which they are engaged. We encourage students to express their own criticisms, insights and questions. Furthermore, we often ask students to make their general insights and conclusions more tangible by telling stories and giving examples that make their knowledge more real and useful to others. Faculty are able to give students suggestions that help them to do meaningful expansions of their drafts–for example, but directing them to points that could use elaboration, or specific areas that could be added, or oftentimes, by giving illustrative and supportive examples of some of their main points. Faculty work with students to help them write their papers, so that the writing process is a positive learning experience and results in papers that students can often use in their future work or community efforts.  All in all, the important thing is to make the project, and the paper, a length that grows out of each student’s purposes for what she or he wants to learn and accomplish with that project.

What Kinds of Jobs can I get with a WISR, California State-licensed degree? And, what are the risks of an unaccredited degree like this?

All prospective students should understand that WISR’s degree is unaccredited but State licensed, and that this results in risks for some prospective students but not others. For this reason, we alert all prospective students to the strengths and limitations of WISR’s State approved degree. Furthermore, as recent economic times have shown, students are advised to never believe that an academic degree will guarantee them a job, and whether or not it increases their chances for a job depends on many variables. However, over the decades, our students have been very, very successful in using their WISR degrees for employment in non-profit agencies and also in setting up their own consulting practices, and in many cases, also in pursuing occasional grants and outside funding.

In particular, we caution prospective students that in many cases, public agencies (Federal, State, and local) are not interested in receiving applications from people who hold unaccredited degrees. Specifically, a degree program that is unaccredited or a degree from an unaccredited institution is not recognized for some employment positions, including, but not limited to, positions with the State of California. We want all prospective students to know that in this area of employment, having a State licensed degree is likely to be a liability in many cases, at least.

Furthermore, in terms of doing more advanced graduate study in the future at an accredited institution, or in seeking a faculty position at an accredited college or university, there is definitely some risk, although in our experience, some of our alumni have been admitted to accredited graduate schools, and more than a few have been employed as faculty in accredited institutions. Most of our alumni so employed have held part-time positions, many of them in community colleges. Several of our PhD alumni have obtained full-time, tenure track positions in accredited universities. Other things being equal, our alumni are at a disadvantage when applying for graduate study or faculty positions in a traditional, accredited institution, partly just because “WISR” doesn’t have “big name recognition.” In our experience a lot depends on the particular attitudes of the particular faculty making decisions in a particular department, in a particular institution during a particular year. It is hard to generalize, but clearly a WISR alumnus is likely to be at a disadvantage unless he or she is being evaluated by a fairly progressive group of faculty.

We have one Master’s degree program option that is approved to meet the academic requirement for the California MFT license, as well as for the new LPCC license, and for these purposes, it has equal status with accredited degrees. Over the years, our MFT alumni have performed exceedingly well on the State MFT licensing exams, and they have usually been very successful in their professional practices. Nevertheless, those prospective students contemplating moving out of State should learn about the reciprocity laws and arrangements with California. Generally speaking, those who are interested in practicing as a counselor in another state will find that their odds of being able to do so increases dramatically if they first get the California license and then move, rather than trying to use their WISR MS degree in another state without first getting the California license. Nevertheless, a bit over 10 years ago, one of our alumni obtained her Colorado, and then her Arizona, license without first obtaining the California license. We do not know whether or not this would still be the case.

In addition to distinctive, self-defined career paths by WISR students, WISR has identified the following job classifications, using the United States Department of Labor’s Standard Occupational Classification System, at the Detailed Occupation (six-digit) level, in which WISR graduates may be gainfully employed:


25-1081 Education Teachers, Postsecondary

21-1013 Marriage and Family Therapists

21-1093 Social and Human Service Assistants

21-1099 Community and Social Service Specialists, All Other

11-9033 Education Administrators, Postsecondary

11-9039 Education Administrators, All Other

11-9151 Social and Community Service Managers

So, what do WISR students find to be the Most Valuable Benefit of pursuing a WISR degree, in terms of their Future Lives?

To a large extent, WISR’s history is indeed the stories of our students successfully building bridges to the significant things they next want to do in their lives–whether it be changing careers, pursuing advancement in one’s existing career, becoming more capable and more meaningfully engaged in one’s existing job or career niche, and/or making contributions to others and to the larger community as an unpaid expert drawing on one’ professional knowledge, skill and talents.

Our alumni have used their academic projects at WISR to network with professionals and community groups, to create new programs and even new agencies, to carve out distinctive and well-recognized specializations and consulting practices, and to obtain professional positions that carry significant and meaningful responsibilities. In sum, our alumni have generally been very, very satisfied with how well they have been able to use the combination of their WISR learning and their WISR State licensed degree to accomplish their goals, and indeed, to do more than they even aimed to do when they first enrolled at WISR. Prospective students are encouraged to ask for names and contact information for current students and alumni, so they may discuss with these WISR learners the experiences they have had.  In addition, WISR regularly surveys its students and alumni regarding their satisfaction with WISR and their experiences in finding meaningful jobs and/or in pursuing community leadership activities. The results of these studies are posted on our web page welcoming those new to WISR.WISR Collage