Three non-degree credential opportunities

April 14, 2016

Having a digital badge, academic program certificate, or industry certification—in addition to your degree—can give you an advantage in the job market by differentiating your experience and growing your expertise.

These credentials prepare you for direct entry into an industry and provide flexibility in your career. Here’s a look at three non-degree credential opportunities for professionals, and the career value of each.

Digital badges

A digital badge is an indication of learning or achievement for experiences, events, skills, courses, or other activities gained through formal or informal settings—the criteria to earn this credential is determined by the organization issuing the badge.

This learning or achievement is recognized through a digital icon (badge) embedded with secure, verifiable data, including the badge issuer, date the badge was issued and skills achieved by earning the badge. Badge holders can post and share their independently-recognized knowledge and skills with employers, peers, and academic institutions on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media channels.

At Capella University, NSA (National Security Agency) Focus Area badges are available for students completing master’s degrees in information assurance and security, network defense and digital forensics specializations, and provided in partnership through Pearson’s Acclaim digital badging platform.

Academic certificate programs

An academic certificate program provides coursework, training, and assessment on a specialized topic for which students receive a certificate granted by their institution. These programs are open to newcomers and experts in the field and typically include 4-8 courses. There is coursework involved, ensuring individuals build critical thinking skills and demonstrate competency at the completion of the program.

Like a degree program, there are often requirements for admission. Capella offers undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate certificates in more than a dozen fields including accounting, information technology, information security, nursing, and health administration. Once the certificate program is completed, you can often apply certificate coursework toward degree programs.

Certificates earned will be listed on a resume within your education section.

Industry certifications

While an academic certificate shows you are knowledgeable in a particular subject, a professional certification verifies your real-world expertise. Professional certifications are based on criteria that are standard across an industry, and applying for certifications often requires work experience and proof of work history. Certifications may require a preparation course or courses leading to an extensive exam that determines an individual’s skill level.

Many certification programs are tied to industry-related professional organizations. Examples include the PMP®, CISSP®, and SHRM-CP®. They have ongoing requirements to maintain your certification. Most often, certification holders are expected to participate in continuing education activities to stay current.

Industry certifications will stand out on a resume or an individual’s title as a special credential, often seen as acronyms listed after an individual’s name.

Which option Is right for you?

The decision to pursue a certificate program, professional certification, or a digital badge will depend on your personal and professional goals. All three options will demonstrate a certain passion for continuing education.

  • If you are looking to provide an electronic record of your learning achievement and development, a digital badge is a good option.
  • When pursuing a professional certification, it is important to be able to combine it with skills learned in an academic setting, such as critical thinking, agility, problem solving, and communication.
  • If you want to advance or change your career and would like to update your skill set, consider pairing that professional certification with a similar academic certificate program.

Coursework completed in Capella’s online certificate programs may be applied toward select graduate degree programs. Additionally, knowledge you’ve demonstrated through professional certifications allows you to earn credit in relevant degree programs.

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