For those checking credentials, the job keeps getting harder

April 17, 2018

Today, in the United States, there is a massive marketplace for credentials—certificates from secondary and postsecondary educational institutions that are cited on resumes and in bios.

In fact, in a report released on April 5, the nonprofit organization, Credential Engine, pegged the number at 334,114 credentials—and checking them would be a tough challenge for any human resources professional or fact-checker to tackle.

There are traditional credentials, such as high school diplomas and college degrees. But there also has been an explosion of non-traditional micro-credentials, such as nanodegrees.

Executive director Scott Cheney notes, “Our report confirms what many intuitively know—the scale and complexity of the marketplace of credentials is vast and variation across types makes it challenging for most to understand and evaluate options.”

Researchers from the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and the George Washington Institute of Public Policy together with Credential Engine took on the massive task of determining how many credentials there are and defining them by type.

.Prospective students must determine which educational pathway works best for them and will lead them to a well-paying job. In an increasingly complex job market, the necessity of a credential is more significant as repetitive low-skilled work becomes automated.

The goal of Credential Engine is to provide them, educators and policymakers more transparency for these career-defining decisions. The report, Counting U.S. Secondary and Postsecondary Credentials, found that the majority of credentials—280,910 or 84.3%—are provided by Title IV institutions like colleges and universities.

Registered apprenticeship programs, boot camps and online alternative degree providers like Coursera and edX. represent a fast-growing sector of lower-cost educational options and are joining a crowded marketplace.

For a list of the types and numbers of credential-counting programs in the United States, click here.

The researchers acknowledge that their current count probably is incomplete, due to unreliable data for credentials offered by non-Title IV institutions, unregistered apprenticeships and digital badge issuers. Cheney said in a statement that Credential Engine will investigate new data sources and revise its findings on an annual basis.

“Shedding more light on these credentials will make it easier for students, workers, and veterans to make informed choices, easier for employers to find good candidates, and easier for program managers and policymakers to know which credentials are part of best practices and lead to the best outcomes,” Cheney said.

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