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Embedded and Stackable Credentials: An Innovative Approach to Learning

By DeVry University

March 31, 2021

5 min read

What if we told you there was an effective way to build on your credentials while pursuing your degree?


Whether you’re a lifelong learner, looking to launch your career or simply want to gain knowledge in a new topic area, there are a number of education paths you might consider. Let’s look at how embedded and stackable credentials in higher education may benefit you as you pursue your academic goals.

What are Stackable Credentials?

The U.S. Department of Labor defines a stackable credential as “part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications and help them move along a career pathway or up a career ladder. The best way to understand stackable credentials is to view them as individual milestones that you enroll in – and complete – one-by-one along your education journey.

With stackable credentials, you start at the beginning. This typically means enrolling in an undergraduate certificate program. Once you complete your certificate, you can then move on to your next-level goal. Oftentimes that next step is an associate degree. Then ultimately a bachelor’s. With each new qualifying program you enroll in, all or most of your previous program’s credit hours will typically apply toward your new degree. This process of stacking credentials allows you to tackle one education milestone at a time while making the most of the qualifying credit hours you’ve already earned.

What are Embedded Credentials?

An embedded credential is a certificate or degree earned on your way to a higher-level degree. It can be a smart way to build your resume as you advance through different points in your education.

To earn embedded credentials, you start by enrolling in the highest-level degree program you wish to pursue at the time. Let’s, for example, say that’s a bachelor’s degree. The curriculum may require you to complete a set of core courses as a first step to learning the basics. Once you successfully complete them, you may qualify to earn an undergraduate certificate. As you continue your studies, you’ll eventually satisfy enough requirements for an associate degree – all while simply moving along the path toward your bachelor’s. This is an example of a certificate and associate degree being embedded within the bachelor’s degree program.

Embedded vs. Stackable Credentials

You can pursue your educational aspirations whether you choose to embed or stack your credentials. Simply decide if it benefits you to start with a higher-level degree and earn credentials as part of a single program (embedded) or earn your credentials one at a time through individual programs (stackable).

Embedded Credentials:


Enroll once, in the higher-level degree program (i.e. a bachelor’s).

How Credentials are Earned

Shorter-length credentials (i.e. an undergraduate certificate and associate degree) are earned automatically once you’ve completed the required coursework.


  • Only enroll once.

  • Earn credentials along the way, simply by completing your required coursework.

  • Curriculum keeps you on track towards achieving your goals.

Embedded Credentials:


Enroll in each program individually, starting with the shortest program (i.e. an undergraduate certificate).

How Credentials are Earned

You graduate upon completion of your coursework. If you choose to pursue a higher-level degree, you can apply qualifying credits to your new program.


  • Earn certificates and degrees at your own pace. Enroll in each program when you are ready.

  • Get credit for the qualifying hard work you’ve already completed.

  • Smaller time and financial commitment upfront.

Embedding Your Credentials at DeVry

At DeVry University, our embedded degree programs allow you to demonstrate new skills and understanding at every step of your education. We currently offer embedded credentials for students interested in select programs in Information Technology.

Here’s an example of how embedded credentials work in one of our specialized IT programs:

  1. Take required Tech Core courses and specialized networking courses along with a math and career prep course to earn your undergraduate certificate in Networking Essentials.

  2. Midway through your program, satisfy the credits and knowledge needed to earn an associate degree in Information Technology and Networking.

  3. Successfully complete your remaining courses to earn your bachelor’s degree.

In this way, you are able to earn three credentials within one degree program. You can build your resume at every step, adding to your skillset as an information technology professional while you are still a student.

Stacking Your Credentials at DeVry

Several of our undergraduate and graduate programs are designed to stack, so that you can earn credentials while following a specific career pathway. Stackable credentials allow you to grow at your own pace, adding new learning experiences over time.

One of our most popular stackable degree programs is in Health Information Management. The stackable approach works like this:

  1. Almost all of the courses you complete for your certificate will apply to your Associate in Health Information Technology when you are ready to enroll and take the next step.1

  2. Once you earn your associate degree, you can enroll and apply your qualifying credits to our Bachelor’s in Technical Management with a Health Information Management specialization.

Customize Your Education to Your Needs and Goals

Whether you choose a program with an embedded or stackable credentials approach, you can have the opportunity to advance your education in the way that works best for your individual needs.

Your decision may be different if you are full-time student right out of high school, a working professional who attends classes part time or a career changer who wants to try something new. We support all of our students equally and champion your biggest dreams for the future.

With DeVry, you can:

  • Start classes when you’re ready – new sessions begin every 8 weeks.

  • Complete up to 12 courses per year when you take two classes per session.

  • Benefit from student resources, online tutoring and one-on-one interactions with your professors.

  • Collaborate with students from across the country to build your personal and professional network.

  • Access dedicated academic representatives and a complete student support team.

Are Embedded or Stackable Credentials Right for You?

Let us help you find a program and learning approach that fits your life. Contact us today 

1At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credit will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.

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