Part 1 – What Are They? 

By Sally Sutton 

The New Mainers Resource Center at Portland Adult Education works with New Mainers who come to the U.S. with college degrees and years of experience. Most people want to know if their college degrees will be recognized as they look for jobs, apply to schools, or seek licensing in their professions.  

Will a degree be recognized? The answer is it depends. This is Part 1 of a two-part series that tries to answer that question. Part 1 explains what a credential evaluation is, and Part 2 will discuss when an evaluation needs to be done. 

Determining the U.S. equivalent of a degree is a complicated and expensive process that depends on someone’s educational and professional background, the country where the education took place, and whether there is access to transcripts and diplomas. 

It also depends on the purpose of the evaluation and who is requesting the evaluation of the degree – whether it is an employer, a school, or a professional licensing agency. 

What information is provided in an evaluation report? 

There are different types of evaluations. In most cases, people are asked to provide a course-by-course evaluation, which generally include information about the school attended, dates attended, the length of the program, courses taken, grades, the U.S. equivalent of the grades for each course, the number of credits, and the grade point average. If the degree is found to be equivalent to a U.S. degree, the evaluation will say, for example, something like,“U.S. Educational Equivalent – bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from a regionally accredited college or university in the U.S.” This means that this degree should be deemed equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Southern Maine. If a degree is not found to be equivalent to a U.S. degree, the report might say something like, “You have the equivalent of 3 years of study from a U.S. regionally accredited college or university.”     

Where do I have a credential evaluation done? 

Different companies do evaluations. Whoever is asking for the evaluation of a degree – whether it is a school, employer, or licensing agency – will say which company to use to do the evaluation. This information is usually posted on the organization’s website. Depending on how accessible the school documents are, the choice of evaluation company can make a big difference. Some companies require that documents or verification of attendance be sent directly from the school. Some companies could require that original documents be sent to them. If documents need to be translated into English, the application will also need to provide translations or find a company that provides both translation and evaluation services. Depending on the country where the schooling took place, some companies require that another company verify attendance at that school.  

Some evaluation companies are members of the National Association of Credential Evaluator Services (NACES, Most schools and employers will accept an evaluation done by one of the companies that belong to this group. Some professions have their own agencies to do evaluations. Each evaluation company has fees and different requirements for how transcripts and diplomas need to be submitted.  

What if I can’t access my documents? 

For many New Mainers, particularly those who are here as asylum seekers or refugees, the process of getting school documents can be very hard, expensive, lengthy, or for some, impossible. Because of this difficulty, before beginning the process of having an evaluation done, try to answer the following questions: Why am I having it done? Who wants the evaluation report? How do they want the report done? Can they be flexible? Do I have or can I get all of the documents needed for the evaluation, and can I submit them in the required way? 

Unfortunately, for some people, the challenge of accessing school transcripts and diplomas may be impossible to overcome. However, understanding when a credential evaluation is necessary and what is required for that evaluation will lead to being able to make better decisions about existing options, and about pursuing another path when necessary. 


Part 2 of this series will discuss: When is a credential evaluation necessary? 


Sally Sutton, MAPPA, MSSW, Program Coordinator, New Mainers Resource Center, Portland Adult Education, [email protected], (207) 874-8155