Research finds that non-academic providers such as apprenticeships and bootcamps now account for more than half of all credentials nationwide

Credential confusion?

Research finds that non-academic providers such as apprenticeships and bootcamps now account for more than half of all credentials offered nationwide

More than half of available credential programs generally sit outside of traditional institutions of higher educations, according to a new analysis that reveals a maze of non-degree credentials, such as digital badges, certificates, certifications, and apprenticeships.

The research comes from national nonprofit Credential Engine, which has released its fourth count of secondary and postsecondary credentials in the United States. This year’s Count of U.S. Postsecondary and Secondary Credentials report identified 1,076,358 credentials, from specialized certificates to bachelors degrees to PhDs.

The report demonstrates the nation’s need to dramatically improve transparency in the credential marketplace to promote economic growth and individual mobility.

The credentials span four broad types of credential providers:

  • Post-Secondary Educational Institutions— 350,412 degrees and certificates
  • Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Providers—13,014 course completion certificates, micro-credentials, and online degrees from foreign universities
  • Non-academic providers—656,505 badges, course completion certificates, licenses, certifications, and apprenticeships
  • Secondary Schools—56,179 diplomas from public and private secondary schools, alternative certificates from secondary schools, and high school equivalency diplomas

“Today’s education and training landscape is vast, complex and only continues to grow. That presents both massive opportunities – and profound risks – for individuals deciding where to spend their educational time and money,” said Scott Cheney, CEO of Credential Engine. “This work is all about transparency. Transparency for individuals trying to make sense of that market, employers trying to understand and quantify skills, and policymakers working to invest in the development of pathways to economic mobility.”

The increased accounting of the total number of credentials reflects an improved methodology, better data and increased participation from governors who are actively supporting Credential Engine’s work to document the number of credentials issues within their states.

“A reliable and transparent understanding of credentials is absolutely essential to build an equitable, inclusive state economy that is responsive to the needs of an increasingly diverse population,” said Eleni Papadakis, executive director, Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. “In Washington, we view building a shared credential language as critical to eliminating the skills mismatch often experienced by our employers. Credential transparency is about better data integration across our education and workforce data systems – and putting powerful information in the hands of learners.”

Since its founding in 2016, Credential Engine has launched partnerships with 29 states and regions, and across 2 regional consortia. The organization’s work is advanced by expert advisory groups which draw from academics, employers and think tanks focused on education technology, equity, quality assurance, and occupational licenses.

“Investing in credential transparency is important to help people understand the various education and training pathways that lead to economic mobility,” said Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley, chair of the Credential Engine board and president of the Higher Learning Commission. “As the credential landscape continues to evolve, Credential Engine is committed to  ensuring the education, workforce, and economic development needs of states and communities are being met.”

This press release originally appeared online.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Laura Ascione