Maneuvering the credential maze: 967,734 and counting

A conversation with Scott Cheney, CEO, Credential Engine

With so many people out of work and looking for a job, it’s understandable that jobseekers are looking for an edge in the hiring process, something that will signal to potential employers the value they bring to the job. And that’s lead to the post-secondary education market being flooded with credentials—at least 967,734 and counting, according to a new report from the nonprofit Credential Engine.

A credential can take on many different forms. Scott Cheney is the CEO of Credential Engine. In today’s Work in Progress podcast, we discuss what defines a credential and why transparency from the credential providers is important.

What is a Credential?

“What we mean by a credential is anything that is intended to help a person tell somebody else what they’re able to do, what they’ve learned, what they’ve been trained to do. It’s anything from a high school diploma, a certificate or a certification, a badge—that’s increasingly popular—degrees of every type, licenses,” says Cheney. “So, those things that you would earn at the end of your education and training that you want to be able to show people (to show) this is what I’m capable of.”

Credential Engine breaks down the credentials into 16 detailed categories across four types of credential providers, as detailed in the report:

  • Postsecondary educational institutions – 359,713 degrees and certificates
  • Massive open online course (MOOC) providers – 9,390 course completion certificates, micro-credentials, and online degrees from foreign universities
  • Non-academic providers– 549,712 badges, course completion certificates, licenses, certifications, and apprenticeships
  • Secondary schools – 48,919 diplomas from public and private secondary schools

Why Do We Need Transparency?

Credential Engine’s report doesn’t put a value judgement on each of the credentials. Instead, the nonprofit calls for the organizations and institutions to be transparent about what you will get out of the credential—the skill it represents, how much it will cost you, and your potential career earnings from it.

“It’s not for us to make the determination of which credentials are good and bad, but we want to make sure all of that information is collected and shared openly, because…what is valuable to a worker in Central Washington might be different than what’s valuable to a worker in Seattle,” Cheney tells me.

“Credential transparency empowers everyone looking for education and training options with the data they need to make a well-informed decision, enables employers to better evaluate the value of a credential’s ability to meet business needs, and allow organizations that service students, workers, employers and other stakeholders to provide clearer information about the value of various credentials,” according to the the nonprofit.

These are the Questions You Should to Ask Yourself

Cheney adds, “we want to make sure that we give everyone that information so they can make the best decisions given their conditions and their circumstances and their opportunities. We want to make sure that that information is made transparent and comparable so that others can then help make those determinations of what’s best for them.”

He suggests you ask yourself these questions:

“What do you earn and what are the employment rates? Does a credential actually help you move onto another opportunity, or is it a dead end? What are the pathways and transfer opportunities of that information? Do you have a return on investment?”

Credential Registry

“We work with organizations that are direct-to-consumer, whether that consumer is an employer or an educator or a student who are then taking that information and putting it in the hands of their users. It’s really about making sure that we’re putting the data in the formats that are most useful in modern web based tools,” Cheney explains.

Again, you will have to make a determination yourself on which—if any—credential is right for you and your career aspirations. But if you’re looking for a list of credentials options, check out the Credential Registry.

This online library “collects, maintains, and connects information on all types of credentials, from diplomas to apprenticeships and from licenses to PhDs. Here you can explore competencies, learning outcomes, up-to-date market values, and career pathways and reference data on modern credential attainment and quality assurance at schools, professional associations, certification organizations, military, and more,” according to Credential Engine.

You can download and listen to the podcast from this page, or find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Download the transcript for this Work in Progress podcast here.

Episode 169: Scott Cheney, CEO, Credential Engine
Host: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan LynchMelissa Panzer, and Ramona Schindelheim
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts