Dr. Jenni Murphy envisions a California where every credential counts and she’s working with UPCEA to make it happen.

Dr. Murphy, Dean of Sacramento State’s College of Continuing Education and Founder of ProjectAttain!, joins 15 other senior campus leaders charged with driving non-degree credential strategy and key thought leaders from nonprofit organizations actively contributing to the development of an alternative credential space.

Through its Council on Credential Innovation (CCI), UPCEA focuses on leveraging the strategic potential of non-degree credentials and non-credit education and training to transform institutions of higher education as well as the talent marketplace.

Non-degree and alternative credentials don’t receive the same attention given associate and bachelor’s degrees, but they continue to grow in popularity and necessity. Between 2010 and 2020, five million national job openings required a post-secondary vocational certificate.

“While diplomas and degrees remain durable and credible, certificates, micro-credentials, and digital badges signal specific competencies, certification, and sometimes licensure,” says Murphy. “They are typically shorter programs, less expensive, and more closely aligned with employer needs and industry standards. As we strive to recover from a pandemic, these credentials can and should serve as an important part of reskilling and upskilling efforts.”

The emerging credential landscape, with its varied definitions, providers, and outcomes is still a work in progress, but it also represents a key growth area for colleges and universities, a practical educational pathway for adult learners, and can indicate the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve in today’s workforce.

When it comes to economic incentives, individuals who pursue postsecondary certifications beyond a diploma or degree see a significant return on investment.

  • High school dropouts who hold a certificate are 19.4% more likely to be employed and earn 19.59% more than high school graduates without one.
  • High school graduates with a certificate are 26.03% more likely to be employed and earn 10.15% more than high school graduates with only a diploma.
  • Those with some college but no degree who hold a certificate are 2.51% more likely to be employed and earn 16.49% more than high school graduates without one.

“As more industries and institutions move into credentialing, we’re still in somewhat uncharted territory,” explains Murphy. “Through the research, standards, terminology, and analysis of platforms like CCI, we can help ensure that adult learners aren’t exploited through a lack of quality, accountability, and consistency that can creep up in any emerging market. The programs need to be creative and responsive to workforce while still upholding the mission and reputation of the colleges, universities, and workplaces that offer them. This work is imperative to establishing and promoting long-lasting value for credentials and certificates.”

Infographic by UPCEA.