Employers aren’t that into non-degree credentials, analysis showed

Despite supposed interest in non-degree credentials, employers are not including them in their job descriptions, experts said at a conference.
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Despite growing interest in non-degree credentials among students, employers and higher education leaders, employers are often not including industry certifications in job descriptions, experts said during a panel discussion at South by Southwest EDU on Thursday. 

Lydia Riley, chief of staff for the University of Texas System Office of Academic Affairs, said she first noticed this disconnect after an analysis of job listings in the state found that most did not mention any non-degree credentials. Riley and the other panelists agreed that this lack of alignment is standing in the way of non-degree credentials’ potential impact on current workforce challenges. 

“There’s a lot of work to be done in this space,” Riley said during the event in Austin, Texas. “Employers are telling us they want our graduates to be both properly educated and specifically skilled. We’re delivering on that, but we’re not seeing it come full circle.”

Non-degree credentials — such as licenses, badges, certificates or professional certifications — can offer more affordable and flexible pathways to economic opportunity through higher education. They also provide opportunities for workers to nimbly add new skills to their tool belts to meet workforce demands.


The University of Texas system is embracing the notion of “credentials and degrees” as opposed to credentials versus degrees, Riley said, and now the university is more focused on “synergistically pairing industry credentials” with traditional degrees. Non-degree credentials are offered for free to all students in the university system. 

She said market research showed that psychology majors that pair data analysis skills with their degrees can increase their earnings potential by about 30%.

Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina has taken a similar approach to offering non-degree credentials, said Anthony Caison, the university’s vice president of workforce continuing education.

“We think that non-degree courses are an excellent avenue to get students back and engage in the educational process, get those skills that they need as quickly as possible, so that they can earn sustainable, living wages and help their family out,” Caison told the conference. 

Demand for non-degree courses has increased tremendously, he said, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic — nearly half of Wake Tech students aren’t seeking degrees.

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