Stackable Credentials: A New College Trend

The traditional way of earning college credits is changing as stackable credentials are introduced to the world of education. Stackable credentials are different from your normal college courses since they are meant to be completed in a shorter amount of time and are done without a degree-seeking program. The mini-course can then be used with other mini-courses to create a degree or certificate. Going straight from high school to getting a complete degree is not feasible for many students. Some students take a few years off before taking college courses. Other students start their careers and come back to get a higher education later. Overall, stackable credentials are a great alternative to the traditional college experience and may be a great option for you!

The traditional four-year degree is not possible for all students. If you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, getting a master’s degree may not be possible either. Stacking credentials have changed the way people get higher education and everyone benefits from it. Employers can ask their employees to hone their skills by completing stackable certificates or credentials. Potentially higher-paying jobs and other career opportunities are available for adult learners who take that step to take a few classes.


What are stackable credentials?

Stackable credentials don’t require students to enroll in a program in college and allow them to take courses on their own time. Stackable credentials are an excellent option for students who can’t take on a full course load for a variety of reasons. Students will be able to complete courses in a shorter amount of time and can take as many classes as they want to. You can stack these courses to complete prerequisites for other courses to then create a degree or certificate. This type of stacking is vertical stacking. Students can also receive a variety of credentials from classes that are at the same level which is horizontal stacking. This is a great option for students who want to refresh their education on some courses for their careers. 

Why do students get stackable credentials?

Students choose stackable credentials for a variety of reasons. Some students want to advance in their careers but don’t want to go back to school full-time. They can take these quick courses to sharpen their skills to get a pay raise or promotion at work. For others, stackable credentials allow them to focus on one or two classes at a time so they can study harder and do better in those classes. Not everyone learns at the same pace, so students can take their time to build the degree they want when they don’t have to take a full course load. 

How do stackable credentials work?

Students can horizontally or vertically stack their credentials. For vertical stacking, you use classes to advance to the next level of courses and eventually build an entire degree or enough classes for a certificate. For horizontal stacking, you take a variety of courses on the same level that help you learn more about certain subjects. Horizontally stacked courses are a great option for those who are looking to advance their career because you are going into more detail in only one or two subjects. Stackable credentials allow students to build their knowledge, degree, and certifications without having to commit to getting a full degree at once. 

What are the benefits of stackable credentials?

  • You don’t have to enroll in a full-time degree-seeking program.
  • Students can take classes at their own pace instead of having to take a certain amount of classes each semester to get their degree. 
  • Employers can grow within their current careers in a shorter amount of time. 
  • Stackable credentials are super flexible and allow students to work while still taking classes. 
  • You can work towards certificates, not just degrees that can help you in your career. 
  • You learn about subjects you don’t have to commit to getting a degree in. 

Do all colleges offer stackable credentials?

Though colleges don’t offer a stackable credential program, you can usually pick a class you would like to take. As a non-degree-seeking student, you would be able to pick and choose which courses you would like to take. For some colleges, you can complete courses in as little as 6 weeks. Unfortunately, most colleges do not offer financial aid for stackable credentials since you won’t be enrolled full-time or in a degree-seeking program. Check with your college to see what financial aid they can offer you for stackable credentials. If you’re taking a course for your job, you can ask them to fund it for you. We are hoping to see more funding for stackable credentials as they become increasingly popular.  

Learning doesn’t stop

Learning doesn’t always stop after you’ve graduated from college or started your career. The advancement opportunities are enough reason to go to your local community colleges or universities and look for a course you could take. As the job market diversifies, it’s important for someone who is in the workforce to keep up with how things are changing. Whether you’re in healthcare, information technology, business administration, or human resources, there is always something new to learn every few years. 

If you’re looking to increase your knowledge in a variety of subjects, want to advance your career, or are needing a salary increase, then stackable credentials are a great option for you. These short-term certificates are a great alternative to getting another degree and offer a ton of flexibility. You’ll be able to learn at a slower pace and continue to work while you’re sharpening your skills throughout each course. Take as many stackable credentials as you would like to create a degree, certificate, or to put on your resume. You’ll be more likely to get a raise, get hired, and get promoted when you’ve shown this initiative in your career. Climb the ladder in your career path and set yourself up for success by learning and evolving in today’s job market.