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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

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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