The world of qualifications is constantly changing and the popular question now is: Which is better? Getting a Skill or a Traditional University Degree? There once was a time when, for anyone to embark on a successful journey, they had go to a prestigious University, earn themselves a degree, use it to get a high paying job and they are set for life.

Nowadays, the picture isn’t quite straight forward, but as you’ll see, this is good news and what’s disrupting it is the phenomenon that goes by many names, but opens up all kinds of opportunities: “nano degrees” , “Digital Badges”. In simpler terms, these are bite size chunks of education that a narrower in focus than the University Degree, but if you can choose once, they can give you the skills and certificate that can help you get the job you’re looking for, or they can make the difference to put your own business on the way to success.

In this article, we will try to answer a few questions about micro credentials:

“Which sector are they most common in?” “How useful are they?” “What’s the time and cost involved” “Are they really going to replace University degrees?”

 

“Why are Micro Credential Taking off?”

1) Money

One of factors driving Micro credentials are the skyrocketing costs of University Degrees.

In the USA, the price of getting a University education has risen by 24%. You can get a Micro Credential for as low as $10 and backed with a good portfolio, employers are gad to take you onboard. Computer Programming Nano degrees offered by Udacity will cost a base rate of $400 and these one could actually put your resume to the top of the pile., compare to the cost of a University Degree, there’s no denying, they’re a bargain.

For people wanting to upgrade their skills, this can only be good news. Micro credentials remove the huge barrier to upgrading your skills and your employability. This explains why they are taking off in developing Countries where there is a growing demand for qualified workers but large financial barriers for studying at a University.

2) Skills

A lot of people are graduating from Universities with what looks like a good degree. When they get employed, they lack the skills that are needed. A survey showed that 96% Academic Officers from top universities believe that they are successfully preparing students for the workplace but when business leaders where asked the same question, only 11% agreed. This points to the fact that super expensive Universities are not giving students the skills they need, and this explains why many companies are now getting in on the Micro Credentials boom by creating their own course which are available to the public and which they can put on their resumes.

Below is a list of Micro credentials offered by some organisations for free:

IMS Badge prgrammes
Microsoft Degrees
Googles Courses

Tech Companies are leading the way with Micro Credentials and there’s a good reason for this

3) The Fast Pace in the change in Technology

Lets say you studied Computer Programming at a University and in your studies you learn how to program Windows, at it actually prepared you well for your job. Then one day, your company doesn’t need you to program Windows anymore, you need to program Android for Apps. You’ve got the right background, you just don’t know how to program Android. This is going to need some retraining. You don’t want to go through another University course  for it. This is where Micro Credential fit perfectly.

You can do it in your own time as you’re working over what ever time frame you choose, and the cost and time are going to be a fraction of taking another degree.  With the world of work changing faster than before, this is what more and more people are doing mid career, not just in tech but in a wide number of fields like business management, healthcare and Education and many more.

 4) The length of time compared to University Degrees.

A standard Bachelors degree takes 3 or 4 years to complete. Micro credentials vary a lot but a typical one might last about 10 weeks. Some are shorter and there are those which take a year or more.

They might have a narrower focus than a University Degree but this is often good news. A well made Micro Credential is tailored to real life work experience needs, which can really make your resume shine when a future employer receives it.

5) Sectors where Micro Credentials are most common ?

Tech is top of the list, with the likes of Microsoft, Google and IBM and Amazon now providing courses artificial intelligence, programming and data analysis.

Business is also popular, shortly behind them are healthcare and advanced manufacturing. You can also find accrecited courses in real estate, design, creative writing, marketing and teaching courses.

There are those that help you improve at a hobby and help you to make money form it, like organic vegetable gardening, or DJ’ing.

 

Micro Credentials can help you at all stages of your career. They are already lowering the barrier of entry for people who are not on the job market yet, or for those who want to retrain for a career change. You’ll still need to put the work in and show determination for it to work. It’s just that they take awayt he cost and time in doing a University degree. Even if one Micro Credential doesn’t imply less time spent studying than a traditional degree, determined education hackers often stack them.

Over a period in time they’ll do several courses and in some fields, having a range of well chosen Micro Credentials that complement each other can be equally impressive, or in some cases more impressive than a traditional degree.

6) Can you do any job with a Micro Credential ?

Truth be told, micro Credentials do have their limits. Some jobs that have more set paths into their careers like doctors, Dentists, or Lawyers and getting into these fields will require a University degree.

Other desirable jobs like working in a multinational corporation, traditionally, for well paid jobs at a multinational level candidates have needed to have a University Degree. The logic behind this is having gone through what it takes to get a degree shows determination, organisational skills and indicates a higher calibre. To be honest, in most multinational, this still applies although there are signs this is changing and you may have already guessed, it’s tech giants that a re paving the way.

Google, Amazon, Apple and IBM don’t require a degree for their shortlists for well paid jobs and this comes as no surprise because it’t the tech field has shown that degrees don’t often prepare you for the job but Micro Credentials can.

7) How well regarded are Micro Credentials ?

If you’re aiming to take a Micro Credential to put on your resume, this is where you need to be careful. There’s a lot of variation on how much weight they’ll carry. There are those which are done in partnership with a corporations or Universities which can really give your career a boost. Then there are others that might have words like “Degree” or “Masters”, but don’t be fooled, they won’t necessarily bag you your dream job. Let’s take 2 online providers with similar names but don’t proved the same level of accreditation: Udacity and Udemy

Udacity has partnered with Google, through them you can take courses in IT which have been written by industry leaders including former CEO’s. They will cost an average $400 and will usually take several weeks.

8) They’ll give you mentoring and you’ll do the project work to get the final certificate.

Udemy offers courses in a much wider range of subjects like business, health, fitness, marketing and design. Their courses often cost around $10 and can be done in a day or 2. Course writers are not closely vetted, which means in theory they could be written by anybody and while they do provide certificates, to get them you generally just need to watch the videos and answer a few multiple choice questions.

You don’t need to be a recruitment expert to know that Udacity Courses are going to be better respected the Udemy ones. Please don’t get us wrong, we’re not criticizing Udemy courses, some of them can actually be a great starting point for a new field of work or getting better at a hobby. All we’re saying is that just because a course has a certificate, doesn’t mean that employers are going to take it seriously, and of course, do your research before selecting a course.

9) Are Micro Credentials Going To Replace The Traditional Degree ?

For the time being, it’s unlikely that they will replace University Degrees but in some sectors like Tech, they could. There are signs this is starting to happen already, but in other areas though, they are more likely to be complimentary. If your goal is to become a Doctor or a Lawyer, you won’t be able to skip the University study part.

Conclusion

Thanks to Micro Credentials, all kinds of opportunities are opening up for people who can’t afford a University degree or just don’t want to commit to one.