DataPoints: The growth of credentials


The number of credentials being offered continues to increase, surpassing 1 million (1,076,358, to be exact), according to a new report. That’s 10% more than the nonprofit Credential Engine counted last year. The swath of credentials includes degrees, certificates, diplomas, micro-credentials, badges, course completion certificates, licenses and apprenticeships and others.

And the credentials are being offered by a growing number and types of organizations, from higher education institutions, secondary schools, online providers and non-academic providers, such as business and industry and for-profit groups. The new Credential Engine report identifies 59,692 different credential providers.

Having a wide selection of types of credentials and providers is beneficial to better connect employers with qualified employers, but the sheer volume, variety, accompanying jargon and varying processes for credential advancement and attainment can be confusing.

Workforce development advocates, representatives from business and industry, and other stakeholders have for years tried to simplify the process for employers, employees and prospective employees — proposing ideas from workforce “wallets” to “learning and employment records” — but they haven’t yet been able to create significant momentum.

Meanwhile, more providers are offering credentials, including employers that are desperate for skilled workers. Large companies, especially in the technology industry, such as Google and Intel, are beefing up training and increasingly teaming with organizations such as community colleges.

More than half (656,505) of the 1 million-plus credentials identified in the report are offered by nonacademic providers. The two largest credential categories within this provider type are online course completion certificates and digital badges, offering 177,292 and 430,272 credentials, respectively.

Credential Engine’s recommendations for future research include better understanding these large credential categories, “which remain opaque given the difficulty in attaining detailed information on what these digital credentials represent to participating providers and learners,” its report says.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.