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What are microcredentials? 

As the popularity of microcredentials continues to grow, we look at what they are and what they can do for students and professionals who are considering upskilling in their chosen industry

    Grace McCabe's avatar

    Grace McCabe

    Content Writer, THE Student
    June 15 2022
    microcredentials, new skills, up skilling, reskilling


    What is a microcredential? Micro means mini or small and a credential is a qualification. These mini qualifications can help individuals learn new skills, progress in their careers or change careers entirely.

    Also known as microdegrees or nanodegrees, they are often on-demand online courses that can be completed in your own time and provide certification upon completion. They are designed to be fast, accessible and specialised. 

    One example of a microcredential may be if you are working in a computing and information technology role and you need to learn a new programming language. You may be able to take a microcredential in the specific language you need and at the end you will have certification of that new skill, which can be applied to your role. 

    These mini courses can be flexible to be studied around a career or other commitments. In comparison to an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, microcredentials are more specific to a particular topic, can be cheaper than a full degree and can be completed over a shorter time frame. Many are offered by universities, educators and industry bodies, which work together to fill a “skill gap” in their field. 

    Certification depends on where you study the microcredential. Most commonly students will receive a digital certificate which can be attached to a CV or included in a portfolio when applying to jobs. 

    How do microcredentials work? 

    Microcredentials are mainly offered by universities, business schools, colleges and further education centres. These shorter courses are often listed along with the more traditional degrees for anyone to access.  

    Professional bodies may also work with institutes or licensed organisations to offer microcredentials directly to employees. Equally, there are platforms where professionals who are well known in their industry can offer courses directly to the public for a small price and provide materials and lessons based on their own experience. 

    Depending on the course there are a few different ways to study a microcredential. Most courses are taught online and will be broken down into a series of modules. Students can then complete tasks at their own pace. Some courses are taught through in-person classes or via a hybrid approach of in-person and online material. The subject matter and assessment style will influence the type of approach offered to students. 

    It is important to note that a microcredential cannot be taken instead of a university degree.  They are instead used to supplement and develop knowledge and skills already gained.

    Why should I do a microcredential?

    As the working world becomes more competitive the demand for specific skills is increasing. However, professionals who are working full-time don’t always have the capacity to study a full degree. Microcredentials can provide a more efficient approach for employees to expand their skill set and increase their employability. 

    Microcredentials are more manageable because they can be completed in your own time and are shorter than a traditional degree. If a student then wants to cover additional skills, they can study stackable microcredentials, designed to be combined to create a comprehensive portfolio of qualifications in a subject area. 

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    What are the benefits of microcredentials? 

    Are microcredentials worth it? Over the past few years non-traditional education has become very popular, with more people studying shorter, less expensive topics that provide them with detailed skills, rather than longer courses. Companies will often offer a learning budget that can go towards a microcredential.

    The benefit of these courses is that students can learn a specific skill straight away. Individuals can then engage with further topics at any time due to the flexibility of microcredentials and can continue to advance their skills. 

    Not only is this a great way to remain relevant in your field, but it also looks impressive on your CV, showing commitment to the job and a passion to continue learning. Should an individual ever wish to make a career change, they can access microcredentials to gain new skills in a different field and approach job applications more prepared for a new industry. 

    Some examples of microcredentials

    • Agile leadership and management  
    • Business management  
    • Change management  
    • Computer programming  
    • Computing networks  
    • Design  
    • Digital photography  
    • Educational leadership  
    • Inclusive learning  
    • Mental health  
    • Mentoring and coaching  
    • Project management  
    • Social, race and gender equality  
    • Sustainable tourism  
    • Tools for climate change  
    • Transforming your organisation for sustainability  
    • Understanding infant health 

    Many other microcredentials are available in a huge range of subject areas, so be sure to do some research on the topics you would like to expand your skills in.  

    Will my microcredential be recognised by employers? 

    The short answer is most likely. The longer answer is that some career fields recognise microcredentials more than others. Although they are still a newer style of learning, they are widely recognised in sectors such as business, marketing and finance where, because of constantly changing law, customer demand and security, employees need to learn new skills on a regular basis.

    At other companies, microcredentials are seen as more advanced skills that an individual can bring to the job. They work as an asset in hand with a university education. By studying these nanodegrees, a student can show a clear interest in a specialised aspect of their career and set themselves apart from other job applicants with similar degrees. 

    Before signing up for a microcredential it is always important to check that it will be recognised by employers in your field and to read previous students’ reviews to make sure it will be worth your time and money. 

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