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What is a microcredential? Here’s what you should know

An Ecampus student sits at a table wearing a bright pink shirt smiling at someone unseen across from her. She sits with a pencil in her hand over a notebook and a laptop open in front of her.

Microcredentials can serve as an efficient way to get a professional leg up on the competition. Oregon State offers a plethora of online options in a variety of topics from professionalism training to language learning and in-demand skills. And the number of offerings is growing rapidly.

This guide to microcredentials addresses your burning questions

By Carly Johansen

In this piece, we’ll cover:

A microcredential, sometimes spelled “micro credential” or “micro-credential,” is a series of courses that culminate in a digital badge from an accredited university. They let employers and your professional network know that you have proficiency in a subject area.

But, you might be wondering, “So what’s a digital badge?” Digital badges offer verified proof of competency and document specific skills you’ve gained through learning. Digital badges aren’t exclusive to microcredentials, but all students who complete a microcredential online with Oregon State University receive one.

At Oregon State, all microcredentials are delivered online by nationally ranked OSU Ecampus. Our microcredentials range from 8 to 12 credits in a variety of specialized fields, including programming fundamentals, consumer analytics, engineering mechanics and viral content creation. The majority of these offerings require zero prior education on the subject area.

The courses provide you with laser-focused education without general education in the mix. You could complete a microcredential online in as little six months — a fast way to earn a new set of skills.

Below, we’ll explore a handful of questions you might have about this in-demand educational option.

How does digital badging work?

While every institution is different, most work with a badging platform like Credly to issue your digital badge directly to you once you complete your microcredential. Credly is an industry standard for higher education. It’s secure, and authentication is required for a badge to be granted.

Most badging platforms make sure badges can’t be duplicated, and Credly makes sure that the programs you pursue are legitimate. For instance, Credly can keep your microcredential information secure using blockchain, so there’s no risk of misplacing or losing it.

How do I earn a microcredential?

While microcredentials are relatively new, the process at most institutions for earning your badge is pretty similar to how you would pursue any other coursework.

Here’s how it works at Oregon State University:

  1. Explore your options, and choose your subject area. Consider the skills you’re looking to build or hone.
  2. Apply online as a nondegree student, and explore some of our resources for nondegree students.
  3. Once admitted, enroll in classes, engage with the microcredential community resource site and start connecting with your peers.
  4. After you finish the courses that make up your microcredential, you’ll receive a notification from Credly to claim your badge. You can share via LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Facebook and more, or you can embed it on a website, résumé or send via email.

How do I use a digital badge for my career?

The badges that universities like Oregon State offer are intended to help you get ahead in your career. The skills that each microcredential covers are in demand, based on labor market data. What you learn in the courses that make up each microcredential will be relevant to your area of interest from your first day on the job. Share your badge on your résumé and in professional networking settings to showcase those skills early and often.

Current or future employers can verify your skills through Credly’s system, helping you stand out among the competition. While you and another contender for a job may have similar skills, an employer can authenticate and verify your expertise.

Some microcredentials can serve as benchmarks for your educational journey, and others signal your readiness for the next phase in your career.

How do I get my money’s worth out of a microcredential?

There are a couple of steps you should take to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck on a microcredential.

  1. First, be sure that you share it. Talk about the courses you’re taking online while you’re enrolled, and share your experience when you finish. This helps current and potential employers understand the rigor and expectations of your course of study.
  2. Consider it a way to test the waters. If you’re not sold on a full degree, try out the subject area with a microcredential, which means less of a time and financial commitment. You’ll get exclusively subject-specific courses that will help you determine if the degree is right for you.
  3. Pair it with other microcredentials. Many of these offerings are built in a way that allows them to be paired with other microcredentials. For example, you could start with Oregon State’s business of viral content creation and then add on the content development and production microcredential. Later, you could apply the credits you earned from both of these microcredentials and stack them toward a digital communication arts bachelor’s degree online.

Another example would be pairing professional readiness with retail management fundamentals and later deciding to stack them toward a bachelor’s degree in any Oregon State business bachelor’s program. This flexibility allows you to create a custom learning experience or decide later on that you want to get a full degree in a subject area you’ve come to love.

How is a microcredential different from a certificate, minor or degree?

The main difference between a microcredential and an undergraduate certificate, minor or degree is the length of time it takes to complete your studies. Microcredentials at Oregon State range from 9 to 12 quarter credits whereas a full undergraduate degree is 180 credits, a minor is generally between 27 and 30, and certificates range from 27 to 32.

When deciding between shorter programs, you should always consider your end goal. A minor is not a stand-alone offering but rather an addition to your major program of study. A certificate stands alone and covers related topics for contextualizing your learning.

The other big difference between all of these is the digital badge you earn with a microcredential. These badges are only granted for microcredentials, rather than a traditional diploma or paper certificate.

What does Oregon State currently offer online?

Oregon State offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate microcredentials online, meaning you can find the one that’s right for you and your educational and career goals. Note that microcredential courses must all be completed at OSU, so unfortunately you can’t apply transfer credits to this offering.

Where do I start?

If you’re ready to start your microcredential journey, you can apply today.

Still looking for more information? Contact Oregon State Ecampus enrollment services specialists via chat on our website, phone or email now.

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