Embedding Certifications Into Bachelor’s Degrees

Green image for embedding certifications into bachelor's degrees, the certification-free pathway project from Workcred.

There is a lack of understanding in the workforce of the different types of credentials and how they can work together to improve student success and employability outcomes. Certifications can be used to enhance a college education with specific skills needed by employers, resulting in students earning a certification while pursuing their degree or earning a certification at the end of their degree program, achieving a more comprehensive education. Certifications within degrees may also increase students’ chances for summer employment and work-based learning experiences during the academic year, as well as lead to promotions and wage increases prior to, or as students complete, their degree. Degree programs can further provide security to students when combined with earning a certification that is valued in the labor market, and provide bachelor’s degree students with an opportunity to demonstrate and apply what they have learned in their academic programs.

To this end, Workcred — in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) — brought together representatives of universities and certification bodies from across the U.S. to identify opportunities and solutions to barriers of embedding certifications into bachelor’s degree programs. This collaborative, nationwide initiative that culminated in the development of a framework in support of developing and scaling certification-degree pathways was made possible by a grant from Lumina Foundation.

Certification-Degree Pathways Framework

The framework outlines the elements associated with integrating industry certifications into bachelor’s degrees, leading to the development of a successful certification-degree pathway. The framework can be used by certification bodies and universities to test different strategies and practices to better align certification and degree programs. The framework is designed to be accessible to and used by all students — especially those historically underserved. Each pathway would incorporate the individual elements identified in the framework:

  • obtaining and sustaining leadership buy-in,
  • creating a common language,
  • aligning certification exam competencies and academic course and program learning outcomes,
  • determining the appropriate fit for a certification within an academic program,
  • allocating resources, and
  • identifying how credentials will be shared with external audiences such employers.

Access the full report, “Embedding Industry Certifications with Bachelor’s Degrees.”

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