New Report Examines How U.S. Workers and Employers View Alternative Credentials

May 23, 2022

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Title: The Rise of Alternative Credentials in Hiring

Source: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

U.S. workers and employers increasingly recognize the value of alternative credentials, according to a new report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The authors define alternative credentials as “any credential, micro-credential, industry or professional certification, acknowledgment of apprenticeship (registered or nonregistered), or badging that indicates one’s competencies and skills within a particular field,” other than traditional education degrees or required occupational licenses.

This research surveyed samples of 500 U.S. executives, 1,200 supervisors, 1,129 HR professionals, and 1,525 U.S. workers.

Nearly half of the workers surveyed (45 percent) reported having some form of an alternative credential. The most common type was training certificates (52 percent), followed by course completion certificates (48 percent) and the industry or professional certifications (38 percent). The most important factor for selecting alternative credentials was the type of skill learned (42 percent), followed by the cost (37 percent), length of time to get the credentials (33 percent), the reputation of the provider (31 percent), and whether having an exam (24 percent).

The majority of the employer groups surveyed  (executives, supervisors, and HR professionals) agreed that alternative credentials are valuable for employee development and that people who hold alternative credentials bring value to the workplace. Among the findings:

  • Executives were more likely to have a positive view on the alternative credential holders’ credibility and better performance, while HR professionals were less sure about their better performance.
  • The employer groups still placed a higher value on work experience and traditional degrees than on alternative credentials. When ranking the relative importance of various factors in hiring decisions, alternative credentials were ranked sixth by executives, tenth by supervisors, and eleventh by HR professionals.
  • When compared to traditional degrees, a majority of the employer groups considered certain alternative credentials comparable to associate degrees, but fewer considered them to be equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.
  • In terms of work experience, most in the employer groups agreed that alternative credentials could be equivalent to one or two years of work experience, but they were less sure about its comparability to three years of work experience.
  • The employer groups also reported concerns, including inconsistent quality among alternative credentials and unclear outcomes of the programs.

To read the report, click here.

—Ji Hye “Jane” Kim

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