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Skills Pay the Bills: The Benefits of Certificates and Micro-credentials

Employers are increasingly applying a skills-based approach when it comes to hiring. In recent years, companies have been placing a greater value on job-specific skills in job postings rather than just educational attainment and degree completion—a trend accelerated by the pandemic. In a recent Forbes article on The Rise of Skills-Based Hiring, Opportunity@Work founder Byron Auguste said, “Instead of ‘screening out’ by pedigree, smart employers are increasingly ‘screening-in’ talent for performance and potential.” This new approach opens the door to a wider, more diverse pool of candidates and gives learners or would-be applicants more educational opportunities to advance their career.

What are Skilled Credentials?

Skilled credentials allow you to demonstrate skills you’ve learned in a particular field or topic. They are acquired through various modes of education, including certificate programs, boot camps, MOOCs, workforce training, community college, internships or apprenticeships, and on-the-job training. These credentials are usually accompanied by certificates or badges, demonstrating to employers practical knowledge and skills earned.

Benefits of Skilled Credentials

  • Cost-effective
  • Aligns with career- and industry-specific skills
  • Fast time to completion
  • Flexible learning opportunities
  • Stackable skills and certifications can offer substantial upward mobility

Skilled credentials can be a valuable addition to your résumé. On top of a degree you may already have under your belt, skilled credentials can help you complete workplace requirements, get a promotion or make a career change. Depending on your career goals, a certificate can be a strong alternative to a master’s degree, or in some cases, provide a good jumping off point for pursuing an advanced degree down the road.

These types of credentials are on the rise. According to Credential Engine, the number of unique credentials in the United States almost tripled from 334,114 in 2018 to more than 967,700 in 2020. Skilled credentials give career changers, working professionals, those re-entering the workforce and others for whom a four-year degree is not feasible an opportunity to build their skill set or develop new skills through more affordable, flexible means.

Skilled Credentials By the Numbers

According to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report on Making Alternative Credentials Work:

  • 72% of U.S. workers agree that alternative credentials are an affordable way to gain the skills or experience necessary to enter a new job.
  • 77% agree that having a job-relevant alternative credential increases or would increase their chances of being hired for a job.
  • 68% who currently hold an alternative credential believe earning it has helped them progress in their careers.
  • A majority of all employer groups—88% of executives, 76% of supervisors and 78% of HR—view employees with alternative credentials more favorably when considering promotions or completing succession planning activities.

Earn Your Credentials at UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education (CPE)

It is very likely that you will have many careers throughout your lifetime, and as the lifelong learning division of UC Davis, CPE is here to help you gain immediate skills for employment now and well into the future. We offer a variety of learning opportunities that blend the distinctive academic expertise of UC Davis with practical training that immediately improves capability and job performance. You can conveniently upskill or reskill and obtain the credentials you need to advance your career or launch a new one. 


If you’re considering arming yourself with skilled credentials but are unsure of where or how to get started, we can help. Reach out to one of our enrollment coaches and they can walk you through your options. Email today!

  • Academic and Non-credit Professional Certificates: Choose from online and in-person certificates in more than 10 areas of study, many of which will help you achieve your industry-recognized certification
  • Badge Programs: Earn skills badges, metaskill badges or a certificate badge in several fields including business and leadership, brewing and IT – and share your achievement from your LinkedIn profile!
  • Boot Camps: Learn in-demand skills in coding, data analytics, cybersecurity, digital marketing and UX/UI
  • Self-paced Courses and Specializations on Coursera: Build new skills and determine your own learning schedule through this global online learning platform

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