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Credential Engine Counts More than 738,000 Unique Credentials in the U.S.

A recent report from nonprofit Credential Engine estimated that the number of credentials offered in the U.S. totals more than 738,000. That includes high school diplomas, postsecondary degrees and certificates, registered apprenticeships, certifications, licenses, alternative degree programs and skills training "bootcamps," the organization said. Interestingly, nearly half of those credentials — about 315,000 — are provided by non-academic organizations, such as employers, associations and other training providers.

The report counted credentials across four types of education:

  • Postsecondary educational institutions (370,020 credentials);
  • Non-academic organizations (315,0567, the largest numbers of which are digital badges and online course completion certificates);
  • Massive open online course providers (7,132, primarily course completion certificates); and
  • Public and private secondary schools (46,209).

This latest count more than doubles the number of unique credentials found in a preliminary report published by Credential Engine in April 2018. The reason for the increase, the organization said, is that for the first time, the new count was able to include "sizable portions of the credential ecosystem — badges and certificates — that were not able to be counted in our first report."

"This new estimate gives us a much clearer picture of the vast credential landscape — but it also suggests that we need far better tools and information to navigate the daunting number of credentials available today," commented Scott Cheney, executive director of Credential Engine, in a statement. "Critical information, such as costs and outcomes that reveal the relative value, must be more transparent in order to make good on the promise and potential of educational investments."

Since 2016, Credential Engine has worked to establish and manage the Credential Registry, a cloud-based library of information on all types of credentials, designed to enable a transparent credential marketplace. The nonprofit ended its credential count report with an exhortation to participate in the Credential Registry, encourage the open sharing of credential data, and expand adoption of a common language for describing credentials.

"The number of both traditional and non-degree credentials is exploding, but as programs proliferate, it becomes more difficult to acquire information about the precise skills and abilities they develop, the pathways they support, and their impact on employment and earnings outcomes. At the same time, today's economy is in constant flux, bringing changing demands for skills and credentials," the report noted. "To keep up with these changing landscapes, there emerges an obvious need for and value of a common credential description language and a Credential Registry that is updated in real time to ensure that everyone can make informed decisions about education and career pathways. Credential providers, policymakers, employers, and regulatory agencies all have an important role to play in making this a reality."

The full report is freely available on the Credential Engine site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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