What is Stacking?
In simple terms, the framework of “stacking” means building your future one step at a time. According to the Department of Labor, stackable credentials are “part of a sequence of credentials accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualification to help them move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to potentially different and higher paying jobs.”
Here’s a good way to look at the stacking approach to training and education from Wired magazine. To paraphrase, first you get an industry-recognized credential in a skill you need (this can happen as early as high school), then another, and another. Each of these can quickly pay off by helping to get a job, raise, or promotion. Over time, they can add up to an associate or bachelor’s degree or allow you to broaden your skillset and expertise leading to new opportunities.
Bottom line: stacking is one way to create a completely personalized pathway to a future you find financially rewarding and that suits your interests.
SOURCES: Wired magazine, DeVry University, Institute for Credentialing Experience
Approaches to Stacking
- Traditional/Progressive Stacking
○ A linear pathway where a student first earns a short-term credential and then continues their education by pursuing a higher-level credential (e.g., earning a certificate followed by earning an associate and/or bachelor’s degree).
- Independent Stacking
○ A person may decide they don’t necessarily want and/or need a traditional degree so they earn multiple credentials that support and move forward their career but don’t lead to a degree.
- Supplemental/Value-Added Stacking
○ An individual can add specific skills or expertise to a degree they already have, often preparing for a specific job.
Types of Stacking
When thinking about stacking credentials, there are different approaches to building your skills and knowledge:
- Vertical Stacking is when you earn additional credentials that further your expertise in a specific area.
- Horizontal Stacking is when you earn additional credentials that broaden your skills and knowledge across several topics.
SOURCE: Higher Learning Advocates
More Stacking Insights
The value of stackable credentials for advancing employee growth (InStride, 2021)
The Overlooked Value Of Certificates And Associate’s Degrees (Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2020)
Stackable Credentials Backgrounder (Higher Learning Advocates, 2020)
6 Months to a Good Paying Job? Short-Term Credentials Try to Fill Void (Detroit Free Press, 2020)
5 Things You Should Know About Stackable Credentials (Linkedin, 2018)
Career Pathways: Ignite Session Presenters Share Their Credentialing Journeys (Institute for Credentialing Excellence, 2021)
Making Credentials Matter (Inside Higher Ed, 2016)
Credentials Matter: A National Landscape of High School Student Credential Attainment Compared to Workforce Demand (Burning Glass Technologies, 2020)