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Credentials: Measuring Skills in Today’s Workforce

LeAnn Wilson

Executive Director, Association for Career and Technical Education

When we go to the doctor, retain a lawyer or travel by air, we expect the person treating, representing or flying us to have had some standard level of knowledge and skills in their respective field. The same holds true for mechanics who work on our cars, IT technicians who work on our computers, chefs who prepare our food, architects who design our homes, and many other careers. But how do we know whether a given professional has acquired the necessary knowledge and skills?

The Importance of Credentials

Credentials are the way in which employers and consumers verify an individual’s qualifications in a given field. Credentials can be certificates awarded by educational institutions (typically in programs that take less than two years to complete), as well as degrees at the associate, bachelor, master and doctorate levels. Industry and trade associations are also in the credentialing business, and offer certifications to demonstrate skill mastery and competencies, typically through some combination of training, assessment and continuing education. State agencies also award licenses to recognize skill attainment. 

While there are some large players in the credential space, there is no single body that unilaterally creates, approves and disseminates credentials. To see how wide-ranging the credential landscape is, you can explore the nearly 5,500 credentials listed on This online registry represents just a fraction of the credentials available.

As technology continues to create new jobs in virtually every sector of the economy, credentials should have one thing in common: they should be based on rigorous, high-quality standards and real-world experiential learning developed in close consultation between educational institutions and industry. 

Career and Technical Education (CTE)

Career and technical education (CTE) is at the forefront of this industry-education collaboration. High-quality CTE programs are active in their outreach to the employer community to ensure that programs meet current and future workforce needs. Partner businesses help CTE programs identify and/or develop assessments and credentials that verify student competencies in a particular career area. This close collaboration enables CTE programs to excel at developing the future workforce while preparing students for success in further education and careers.

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