Embedding Industry Certifications into Bachelor’s Degrees: New Framework Now Available


new framework to support the development and scaling of certification-degree pathways has been published today by Workcred – an affiliate of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA). This collaborative, nationwide initiative that culminated in the development of the framework was made possible by a grant from Lumina Foundation.

The framework supports the development and scaling of certification-degree pathways, accessible to and used by all students. Specifically, the framework identifies examples, opportunities, benefits, and challenges associated with integrating industry certifications into bachelor’s degrees. The framework can be used by certification bodies and universities to test different strategies and practices to better align certification and degree programs.

With the objective of improving student success and employability outcomes, and to inform the development of the framework, universities and certification bodies from across the U.S. participated in convenings to discuss opportunities and solutions to barriers of embedding certifications into bachelor’s degree programs. The series of convenings specifically explored opportunities in the growing fields of healthcare, cybersecurity, manufacturing, and the liberal arts.

"The goal of our effort is to unlock opportunities for students to earn multiple credentials that have value in the labor market,” said Workcred executive director Roy Swift. "The opportunity to collaborate across different parts of universities—both degree and professional and continuing education departments—and among accredited certification bodies gives us confidence that participants were able to learn from each other to optimize practices."

Embedding or aligning certifications and bachelor’s degrees offers numerous benefits for students, certification bodies, universities, and employers. Certification-degree pathways provide students with a broad-based education and industry-specific skills that hiring managers seek in new hires. “The opportunities credential-degree pathways provide are incredibly important for all types of students and particularly relevant for adult learners as they may need to upskill or reskill into new roles. Having an industry-valued credential as well as a degree can increase job opportunities and lead to better pay for students,” Julie Uranis, UPCEA’s vice president of online and strategic initiatives.

“Credential-degree pathways provide opportunities for certification bodies, as these pathways can increase awareness and attainment of certifications as well as articulate how certifications relate to a variety of career and credential pathways,” emphasized Karen Elzey, Workcred associate executive director. “Further, colleges and universities can improve their responsiveness to the needs in their regions, recruiting new students by developing more opportunities to count certifications for academic credit towards a bachelor’s degree, and differentiating their programs from other higher education programs.”

“Building labor-market relevant credentials into degree programs can be an important strategy to reduce inequities and improve social and economic mobility,” said Shari Garmise, executive director of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities. “Those labor-market credentials improve labor market outcomes by certifying skill attainment which may help eliminate implicit bias in the hiring process, enable students to assume industry-related jobs during college, and, as part of the curriculum, would be covered by financial aid, allowing access and benefits to historically minoritized populations.”

Credentials provide employers with information on what an individual knows and is able to do. They can also detail the specific competencies a candidate possesses in addition to the broad-based education they have completed.

“Public research universities are committed to improving the workforce outcomes of their students and to addressing the workforce needs of local economies. This approach can ensure students that their credentials will have value to the labor market, and it can ensure employers that graduates have the skills required to perform in the workplace,” stressed Sheila Martin, vice president for economic development and community engagement at APLU.

Access the report, "Embedding Industry Certifications with Bachelor's Degrees.” If after viewing the framework you have any feedback on the content of the report, examples of a certification-degree pathway, or ideas on how to shape future phases of this work, please let us know.


About Workcred

Formed in 2014, Workcred is an affiliate of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Its mission is to strengthen workforce quality by improving the credentialing system, ensuring its ongoing relevance, and preparing employers, workers, educators, and governments to use it effectively. Workcred's vision is a labor market that relies on the relevance, quality, and value of workforce credentials for opportunities, growth, and development.

About APLU

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 246 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 5.0 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $49.3 billion in university-based research.

About USU

The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) is a president-led organization committed to enhancing urban university engagement to increase prosperity and opportunity in the nation’s cities and to tackling key urban challenges. The Coalition includes public urban research universities representing all U.S. geographic regions. The USU agenda focuses on creating a competitive workforce, building strong communities, and improving the health of a diverse population. The USU has partnered with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) to establish an Office of Urban Initiatives, housed at APLU, to jointly lead an urban agenda for the nation’s public universities.


The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) is the leading membership organization for professional, continuing, and online education. For more than 100 years, UPCEA has served the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. UPCEA was founded in 1915 and offers its members innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications. UPCEA advances leadership in professional, continuing, and online education by: enhancing quality and standards, furthering awareness, data collection, sharing scholarship and news, promoting excellence, and collaborating with partners. UPCEA has more than 400 member institutions, corporations, and affiliates. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA also builds greater awareness of the vital link between contemporary learners and public policy issues.

About Lumina Foundation

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. The foundation envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.