Connections: The Newsletter of the National Career Pathways Network

Volume 31, No. 3
Credentials of Value

Credential Transparency Bolsters the Impact of Education and Career Pathways

Scott Cheney, CEO of Credential Engine

Scott Cheney Learners and workers need as many pathways as possible to successful careers. Both Americans and the economy depend on it. But with an ever-changing and ever-growing credential landscape, learners, workers, credential providers, educators, employers, and leaders need help.

That’s because there are nearly one million different credentials available in the United States. This includes secondary diplomas, certificates, degrees, certifications, badges, professional and occupational licenses, and so on. It is also estimated that the country spends nearly $2 trillion per year on education and training from educational institutions, employers, federal grant programs, states, and the military.

With such a rich field of credentials, learners and workers should have many opportunities to acquire skills and find good jobs. But this might not be the case. Learners and workers lack the information they need to properly navigate the credential maze and take advantage of their opportunities. Similarly, leaders lack the information needed to best support and develop education and training programs properly, effectively, and efficiently. We are at a time in our country’s history where the everchanging learn-and-work landscape has made choosing an education and training program a high-stakes choice for learners and workers. People cannot afford to navigate the credential landscape haphazardly.

What is needed is credential transparency. We need to make essential information about credentials and competencies public, easily accessible and comparable, and actionable so that credentials can be better understood and pursued based on what it takes to earn them, what they represent, how they connect and stack, and the jobs they can lead to.

See the infographc Credential Transparency Illuminates Paths to a Better Future.

It all starts with aligning data between credential providers and the workforce—spanning the entire process from preschool through college and into the workplace. MDRC—a nonprofit education and social policy research organization—has highlighted the need for CTE programs to build effective data strategies that can help programs refine their approaches, identify opportunities for improvement, and demonstrate success. Credential transparency helps education and training programs do this by empowering all credential providers with the tools they need to collect, connect, and compare all types of credential data.

Credential transparency helps stakeholders easily identify how to best achieve their goals. For example, educators and credential providers can be empowered to more clearly describe the credentials they offer, their quality and value, and how they meet the needs of individuals, businesses, and the community. Learners and workers can better understand the availability, costs, time, employment outcomes, and value of the different credentials available to them so they can navigate their options more equitably.

Credential Enging logo Credential Engine is a non-profit helping to make the benefits of credential transparency a reality by working with credential providers to describe their credential data using a common language: the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL). The CTDL helps us to clearly understand what a credential means regardless of provider and facilitates comparison based on credential location, cost, employment outcomes, and so on. Credential data in CTDL are housed in the Credential Registry—a trusted, free, online, and open-access repository of credential data. To access data in the Registry, Credential Engine encourages—and works with—organizations developing education and career pathways to build applications that guide educators, counselors, and students through the process of identifying opportunities and understanding their related employment outcomes. Credential transparency can put programs in a better position to strengthen employer partnerships while also building trust and confidence in their students.

But to make this vision a reality, education, training, and CTE programs need to continue to publish their credential data into the Registry. Regardless of which step in the process you may find yourself in, Credential Engine has resources and tools to guide you along the journey. If you are interested in learning more about credential transparency, our work with CTE, or how you can get involved, please contact Credential Engine at