By DeVry University
These days, a college degree isn’t always enough. Between employers looking for workers with the right skillsets and the need for workers to continue evolving their skills — along with breakthroughs in technology that affect tech, retail and healthcare — today’s workers need to adopt lifelong learning strategies to keep up.
In addition, growing student loan debts and the time crunch of working while attending school have sent many students in search of a different educational path: stackable credentials. Here’s the 411 on six things you should know about stackable credentials and what they could do for you.
They Offer Flexibility
Some students use stackable credentials — a series of supplemental certificates and college coursework — to design their own curricula. Graduates might add stackable credentials en route to their degrees to extend their skillsets and build their résumés. They can explore several different subjects to gain a broader range of skills, and they might continue stacking their credentials to obtain a degree.
They May Offer a Competitive Edge
Not only can learners use stackable credentials alone or as part of a larger educational program, but they can also help millennials stay competitive. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, most workers today realize that developing new skills and receiving ongoing training throughout their working years are two essential ways to keep up with workplace changes.
They’re a Win for Millennials
For millennials, using stackable credentials is almost a natural progression. As Michelle Bradford, National Faculty Chair at DeVry University notes, “Millennials like to progress rapidly and are digital natives. Technology has been a part of their entire lives, so having the opportunity to achieve a marketable level of skills in a technological field is a win/win.”
There Are Different Ways to Stack Them
Another win/win is the flexibility of stacking credentials in different ways to suit differing goals and aspirations. There are three main ways to stack credentials:
Vertical: Think of this like traditional stacking. Each level builds upon the previous one, ultimately leading to a next-level degree.
Horizontal: This type of stacking is all about subject matter and building expertise. Many people working in technology use this framework to build a strong foundation of certifications in different professional subcategories across their fields.
Value Added: This stacking method allows learners to add specific skills or expertise to their existing degrees to prepare them for a specific job.
Stackable Credentials Could Be a Faster Track to the Workforce
No matter how they’re stacking their credentials, more millennials are using them to design unique career paths. Many students want to avoid student loan debt, while others simply want to get to work faster. Enter stackable credentials.
“I would say it is one way to market themselves with a focus on their passion or career goal,” Bradford says.
“Students like the short-term credential. Students can complete a certificate or associate’s degree in 10–20 months depending on course load, which provides the foundation of knowledge to put on their résumés.”
The Credits Often Transfer to Next-Level Degrees
This is particularly important for students interested in the vertical stacking framework. It’s also notable for anyone looking for more flexibility in their schooling. Perhaps right now they want to add a skill or two. Down the road, that same student might want to pursue a degree.
It comes down to each student’s goals. One person might be the architect of their own education, foregoing a traditional degree in favor of a strong portfolio of skills. Another might use stackable credentials to work toward a degree, while yet another person might use stackable credentials to add marketable skills to their existing education.
Bradford notes that “DeVry’s stackable programs stand out because our certificates allow students to transfer credits earned to a next-level degree at DeVry in the same field.”