Woman working on laptop
Students & YouthTips & Training

How to choose a micro-credential to reach your career goals

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Micro-credentials are becoming increasingly popular for workers and jobseekers to access relevant, low-cost career skills training. Offered by numerous Canadian colleges and universities and private training providers, micro-credentials consist of short-duration and focused post-secondary education programs that result in rapid workplace competency development.

Most micro-credentials are completed on a part-time basis and are often delivered virtually in an asynchronous format, providing maximum flexibility for learners. They are especially popular with jobseekers who want to develop new skills to advance in their careers and students looking to supplement their full-time studies. Micro-credentials being offered right now in Canada cover a multitude of industries and vocational fields.

However, not all micro-credential programs are created equally. If you or your client are looking at enrolling in a micro-credential program, here are some questions to consider.

1. Does the micro-credential program focus on a specific, practical and in-demand skill?

Micro-credentials should not be thought of as just a shorter, “mini version” of a degree or diploma. The most useful micro-credentials are designed from the ground up to impart a specific and practical skill currently needed in industry. Learners should determine if micro-credential providers actively consult employers to identify up-to-date, in-demand and relevant workplace skills.

Providers often engage with employers through industry advisory committees. Learners should look at micro-credential websites and marketing materials to determine if and to what extent providers consult with employers when developing and delivering their micro-credentials. If this information is not readily available, it is worth asking the provider.

2. Is the micro-credential geared toward your industry of choice?

Not only should a good micro-credential impart practical and in-demand skills, but ideally, it should also be geared toward a specific industry. This will be reflected in how the program is taught, and the kinds of assignments learners are asked to complete during their studies. Look for micro-credential providers that work with specific industries to ensure their programming aligns with the needs of those industries. When a micro-credential is geared toward a specific industry, learners will gain not only practical skills but also industry-specific domain knowledge that can help them gain further expertise and accelerate their careers. In this way, any applied final or capstone projects will be directly relevant to their industry of choice.

3. Does the micro-credential include an applied final or capstone project?

Micro-credentials that require an applied final or capstone project provide learners with the opportunity to develop a specific career-relevant deliverable – a tangible and industry-relevant example of their work that can be used in job interviews, listed on a resume, or added to a LinkedIn or GitHub profile. The final project or capstone also acts as a form of validation, which can be of more value than a simple letter grade or a test score when an employer evaluates a job candidate.

4. Does the micro-credential offer embedded career support for learners?

While still uncommon, some micro-credential providers, such as colleges and universities, offer career support services (e.g. job search assistance, career coaching, resume review and mock job interviews) to learners enrolled in micro-credential programs. The most progressive micro-credential providers may even offer work-integrated learning (WIL) programs, such as practicums and internships that complement their micro-credential program offerings.

5. Does the micro-credential “stack” or “ladder” into further education?

For learners who want to pursue further education after completing their micro-credential, it’s important to choose a program that allows them to stack their micro-credential toward more advanced micro-credentials that require prerequisites. Some micro-credential programs can also count as academic credit toward a college diploma or university degree program by way of academic “laddering.”

The ability to stack and ladder micro-credentials is especially useful for learners from equity-seeking communities that have historically struggled to access the Canadian higher education system. A micro-credential program that allows stacking and laddering can significantly catalyze further studies. However, for individuals who already have a college diploma or university degree and who do not intend to pursue further studies, stacking and laddering micro-credentials may be less relevant.

Ultimately, the right micro-credential program is the one that fits a specific learner’s job search or career development needs. A micro-credential that is a great fit may not exhibit all of the attributes listed above, but micro-credentials that speak to these attributes will provide enhanced value to learners. Answering these questions can offer a way to filter through a crowded marketplace of disparate micro-credentials available in Canada and help people choose the best ones for their specific needs.

Erik Henningsmoen is a research and policy analyst with the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). He is the co-author of ICTC’s recent report, Accelerating Canada’s Workforce: Micro-Credentialing in the Digital Economy (https://ictc-ctic.ca/reports/accelerating-canadas-workforce).
Erik Henningsmoen is a research and policy analyst with the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). He is the co-author of ICTC’s recent report, Accelerating Canada’s Workforce: Micro-Credentialing in the Digital Economy (https://ictc-ctic.ca/reports/accelerating-canadas-workforce).
Latest Posts
  • Woman working on laptop