Stackable Credentials: Can They Equate to a Bachelor’s Degree?


“Bachelor’s Degree Required”

It’s likely you’ve seen those three words on a job application many times before. While it does provide a fast way for companies to “weed out” a percentage of applicants, many organizations are recognizing that requiring a college degree might eliminate people who actually have the skills they’re looking for…even if they don’t have a 4-year degree. Mandating a degree from their prospective employees also severely limits their opportunities to hire diverse teams, as noted by economist Byron Auguste:

"If you arbitrarily say that a job needs to have a bachelor's degree, you are screening out over 70% of African-Americans. You're screening out about 80% of Latino-Latina workers, and you're screening out over 80% of rural Americans of all races. And you're doing that before any skills are assessed."

But how do you hire people who have the right skills without asking them for their Bachelor’s degree? The answer is stackable credentials, which can provide marketable skills and certifications without the time and investment required for a traditional 4-year degree. 


What Are Stackable Credentials?

Stackable credentials are any courses or certifications that you can gather to help you move forward in your career. These learning opportunities fill the gap between jobs that need a lower level of education and those that truly require a Bachelor’s degree, which could also potentially require licensure. Stackable credentials also address the fact that required skills and technology change frequently, and these programs are providing learners with an efficient way to keep their skills updated.

The diversity of stackable credentials helps them to compliment, and in some cases replace, other higher education opportunities. For students who already have a degree, stackable credentials can amplify their skills and qualifications. But if someone doesn’t have a Bachelor’s degree, can they use stackable credentials to get hired faster?

In some cases, yes! Wired shares the experiences of students who are gathering credentials for in-demand topics like tech support, cloud technologies, and data analytics. These programs are providing the skills and training they need, and the resume credentials to go with them, to land great jobs. But how do these skills benefit employers, and how might they impact higher education?


How Stackable Credentials Benefit Learners, Higher Ed, and Employers

Stackable credentials benefit learners, help employers, and complement higher education. The benefit for everyone is the ability to get ahead, whether you’re doing it on your own, as part of training a professional team, or as a higher ed group looking to provide the latest and greatest skills for their students. 

Benefits of stackable credential programs include:

  • Providing specific skills and competencies to fill gaps in a personal resume, a professional team, or a degree program.
  • Allowing learners to gather value with every course completed, rather than the “all or nothing” approach of a 2- or 4-year degree program.
  • Deliver a faster and higher return on investment for individuals and organizations who are paying for training to address immediate skills needs.
  • Illustrate clear skills and topics on resumes, in professional development courses, and in course descriptions.
  • Make learning more flexible, allowing full-time employees or degree-seeking students to efficiently add credentials to their current workload.

Stacking credentials isn’t just for hard skills, either. Individuals and teams can also benefit from programs that target soft skills. Programs like LeaderU provide certificates in these highly marketable skill areas, with the credentials that learners need to be successful in competitive job markets. According to Forbes, some of the soft skills to prioritize are:

  • Emotional Intelligence. You need to be able to understand yourself as well as the people who you work with. This awareness is one of the biggest factors in creating and maintaining a positive work environment.
  • Leadership Skills. Employers want people who will be self-motivated, bring a positive influence, and know when to delegate effectively. 
  • Diversity and Inclusion. This doesn’t just mean hiring a diverse group, it means that your workplace culture is inclusive and values the contributions of everyone. 
  • Critical Thinking. The best employees see challenges as opportunities, not obstacles. Creative problem-solving, especially under pressure, is definitely a learned skill.
  • Adaptability. Handling change and uncertainty well can be difficult, but the ability to adapt to situations quickly and gracefully will preserve team culture and productivity. 

Stackable credentials offer students the opportunity to fill skill gaps, learn emerging technologies, expand their leadership skills, and anything else that they’re interested in! Whether learners work independently, with a team, or as part of a higher education program, each stackable credential is meaningful, quantifiable, and contributes to their professional success. 


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