• Micro-credentials offer professionals the opportunity to extend their education and acquire the skills that will help them get the jobs they want in a competitive job market.
  • In the increasingly unbundled world of college education, MicroMasters have emerged as the ‘AP Classes’ for Graduate Degrees.

MicroMasters – the AP Classes of Graduate Degree Programs

In his keynote speech at the 2015 NEASC Conference, Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, asked, “Is the future of education unbundled?” This was the first of many ideas Mr. Agarwal has offered  on the unbundling of the components of traditional degree programs, and foreshadowed the announcement to come.

 A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, the higher edi-verse blew up about the edX MicroMasters announcement. Exciting words like “revolution” and “breakthroughs” were hurled about as enthusiastically as those in the 2016 presidential debates (albeit less colorfully).

What is a MicroMasters? In a nutshell, it’s master’s degree-level classes, hand-selected by students, that can be strung together to form the credits, or academic currency, which can then be applied towards a traditional master’s degree program.



Is this a Master’s Degree? No, but it can help you get one. MicroMasters is a bit like an Advanced Placement (AP) class. AP courses began as a way for students to stand out on their college applications. The purpose of these classes and tests is for students to earn college credit while in high school. They are a means to help students prepare for a competitive college entry market.

MicroMasters benefits the learner in two ways, similar to AP classes:

1.) Professionals, employees and job-seekers can earn credit from a prestigious institution that can be applied towards a traditional master’s degree and,

2.) They get salary-boosting gravitas for knowledge that can be placed on a resume or LinkedIn, and become more marketable as their credentials will attract the notice of employers.

“I think the MicroMasters is a big next step in the evolution of education,” said Mr. Agarwal, in an interview with The Hechinger Report last month.

Hyperbole aside, the MicroMasters concept is a milestone. Or a trailhead. Why? Because unlike most MOOCs, the MicroMasters’ program provides a curated pathway to the ultimate destination: a real master’s degree from an institution that has agreed to accept the credits.


What is Driving The Need? Long Term Employment Viability

The master’s degree business is booming. And with good reason. In the 2016 Georgetown University report America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots, one of the findings is that out of 11.6 million jobs created in the post-recession economy, 11.5 of these went to workers who possessed some form of college education. 3.8 Million of these jobs went to graduate degree holders.

“Higher education is becoming less affordable to many in the bottom 60 per cent just at a time when higher education is more necessary than ever before to succeed in the modern economy.”

Robert Reich, Former United States Secretary of Labor


According to the Georgetown University’s 2013 report: Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, 65% of all jobs will require post-secondary education. Many of these jobs in STEM, Healthcare require degrees beyond a Bachelor’s Degree.

Despite the crowded market for online learning, the MicroMasters represent a new breed of credential that can help anyone get closer to the most relevant jobs.

Many professionals considering an investment in education are going to find these very attractive. The opportunity to gain professional development – in some cases, at a fraction of the cost, in order to get a leg up in their career – or even to start a new one. Students can apply to prestigious and reputable institutions to get the education requirements and highly coveted skills that employers are demanding.

Eligibility and Student Cost Accessibility and affordability will have additional appeal to the busy and cost-conscious. The MicroMasters program has no eligibility requirements, and is available to anyone wanting to learn via the edX platform. Students can try it out for free, and for $1,000, can earn a verified certification of completion of the courses offered through this program.

Next page: Online Masters: But Will Students Go For It?