Build Your Certification Program with Stackable Credentials


Build Your Certification Program with Stackable Credentials

Kate Slagoski Kahoa, M.Ed


In a world where job postings are plentiful, but qualified workers are hard to find, businesses are looking for creative ways to meet their hiring needs. In the certification space, a potential solution may be right in front of you: stackable credentials.

At PSI we define these as certifications that can be earned by completing components over a set period. Completion of each component of the program is stacked to indicate progress toward earning the certification and provides the candidate something to show as proof of their progress, whether it is a digital badge and/or a certificate. Just like traditional credentials, stackable ones support professional development, but take it one step further to show cumulative proof of progress toward earning a certification, allowing candidates to demonstrate their knowledge over time and at their own pace.

Stackable credentials help to meet the demands of a changing professional environment and job market by giving employees the freedom to learn more about specific areas that can then be combined to fulfill job market and knowledge needs. This can be the answer to addressing the current pain of the skills gap that has developed in so many different industries. Allowing employees to be flexible in both completion time and subject matter demonstrates an organization’s commitment to their professional development, especially in today’s world.

What are the benefits of a stackable credentials program?

1. Provides greater options and flexibility

Employees have the ability to decide what they want to specialize in and have a greater stake in their professional development and goals.

2. Caters to different career levels

Stackable credentials create room for growth for all employees regardless of their level within the business, from entry-level through advanced practitioners.

3. Addresses new and growing skills within professions

As new knowledge and skills are offered within positions, employees are provided with opportunities for growth and further development.

4. Establishes career and certification ladders

Stackable credentials create a path to earn qualifications that build upon one another, allowing employees to hone their skills and expand their knowledge.

Is this approach right for your program?

A shift to stackable credentialing does not need to be intimidating; many current certifications will fit within a stackable model. To begin, create a concept map that outlines how the stackable credentials will complement your overall organizational goals. Think of eligibility criteria and how to update your current models to address more of your needs. Involve your subject matter experts to ensure that you’re accurately capturing the knowledge needed to be successful in the role(s) in which you’re considering implementing the stackable model.

Here are some further considerations before moving forward with stackable credentials:

Candidate population
  • Does it suit your test takers and the way in which they prefer to work and earn their professional development?
  • How does this make you more recognizable in the industry and grow your brand?
  • With regard to marketing, how do you sell it in your field? Keep in mind that you may need to market what a stackable credential is first followed by the credential itself.
Industry Impact
  • Does it fulfill an industry need and is there a labor market value to employers and regulators?
  • How do you tell your desired audience that these new credentials exist?
  • How do you determine cost?
    • What is the initial cost for development and is it worth the upfront investment?
    • What will the ongoing maintenance expenses look like?
  • Is it financially sustainable for the organization?
  • Does it provide value to the candidates?
    • What does it cost them to earn?
    • What will they get in return?
Organizational Resources/Impact
  • Staff – Do you have the staff to handle the workload to keep everything on schedule and moving forward?
  • Systems – Can your database handle the anticipated volume of applications and associated documentation?

Stackable credentials allow for businesses and individuals alike to evolve with the ever-changing job market. Adapting current credentials to fit the stackable model is more attainable than you might think and greatly extends the reach of services. We recently spoke with Kim Cohen, Senior Director of Credentialing at ISACA and Johnna Gueorguieva, Chief Credentialing and Research Officer with the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) to discuss stackable credentials – watch the webinar on demand below.