Key Initiative

Graduate-Level Microcredentials and Workforce Needs

In July 2022, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) launched an 18-month project to clarify the types of credentials offered by postsecondary institutions; explore the relationship between those credentials and the master’s degree; and assess how those credentials are valued by employers. This work is being supported by a grant from ETS.

Requiring fewer credit hours than a degree, microcredentials—certificates, badges and other types of short-term, for-credit educational offerings—are increasing rapidly, but little is known about how or if they are changing the graduate education landscape. Because some microcredentials are “stackable”— eligible for cumulative credit resulting in a master’s degree—they may also provide students with a low stakes pathway into master’s degree programs.

Microcredentials typically involve a shorter time-commitment and cost for students, may offer more specialized training in a particular field or some expertise that is specific to a student’s career goals, and/or may help provide an additional layer of flexibility to graduate students who are juggling many priorities in their academic journeys. However, more information is needed on the extent to which investments in these programs pays off. For example, to what extent do employers understand and value microcredentials, and what is the relative return on investment for microcredentials and degree programs, particularly at the master’s level?

A panel of thought leaders from CGS member institutions, employers, and non-profit organizations is guiding the project. CGS is also holding focus groups on high-priority issues central to postbaccalaureate microcredentialing to inform surveys of graduate program directors and employers. A concluding convening in 2023 will release guidance on definitions of microcredentials as well as a framework for how programs might develop non-degree certificates and include them in their post-baccalaureate credential portfolios.

Partners:  Council of Graduate Schools, ETS, participating CGS members institutions

Link to Resources: Microcredentials – CGS (


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