When You Don’t Need It All at Once: How Stackable Credentials Support Lifelong Learning and Career Progression
By Karen Ferguson - November 26th, 2018
In today’s competitive, fast-paced, and increasingly automated environment, lifelong learning is more important than ever. Not long ago, a bachelor’s degree was perceived as the “golden ticket” to a living wage and long-term career progression. The Master of Business Administration, or similar master’s degree, served as the pathway to senior-level management and executive leadership roles in many organizations.
Things aren’t so simple anymore. Career paths aren’t linear models with one entry point and a ladder to the top. Technology, the gig economy, and our diverse global landscape have turned historically straightforward career pathways into career webs. There are now more opportunities to enter the workforce without a degree, and more options to move laterally and across functional areas within a given field.
This changing landscape of work can make choosing an educational path challenging. While a bachelor’s degree is still considered a minimum requirement for many jobs — with reports suggesting that 65 percent of all jobs in 2020 will require more than a high school education — many entry-level and technology positions can be attained through industry certifications and undergraduate certificates.
Similarly, moving into senior management doesn’t always require a full master’s degree. In fact, post-baccalaureate certificates and other short courses in data analytics, digital marketing, or leadership can be very effective tools for career progression.
This is where “stackables” come in. Stackable credentials provide opportunities to earn the credentials needed to gain entry, or a promotion, in a given field. The benefit of earning a stackable credential is that it doesn’t go away – or expire. When students are ready to stack their certificate into a degree program, their credits will still count when they are ready to achieve that next milestone.
For example, a student who is already working in the Information Technology field and possesses the CompTIA A+ certification can stack that certification for credit toward CSU-Global’s 18 credit undergraduate certificate in Networking. This reduces the credit requirements, time to completion, and cost of that certificate while supporting further career progression.
Then, in a few months or a few years, when that student is looking for more promotion potential, s/he can return to CSU-Global to earn a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. By using the credits earned from any applicable industry certifications, the networking certificate, and prior learning, s/he can further reduce cost and time to completion.
This stackable approach to lifelong learning honors students’ need to pursue an education that supports both short- and long-term personal, professional, and financial goals.
Dr. Karen Ferguson serves as Provost and VP of Strategic Development at CSU-Global Campus. Prior to this position, Karen held a number of faculty and senior administrative positions in non-traditional higher education. Karen earned her Ph.D. from the University of Louisville after serving 12 years in the military. A non-traditional student herself, Karen is dedicated to ensuring access to a quality education for students of all backgrounds and academic ability.