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2CPR Group is here to help guide your organization through the world of credentials, certifications, licenses, degrees and more. Below are the different types of credentials and the definitions from the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE)

This information was originally published by the ACTE. Download the PDF version at:


An education- and work-related credential can be defined as a verification of an individual’s qualification or competence issued by a third party with the relevant authority to issue such credentials (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). The term credential encompasses educational certificates, degrees, certifications, and government-issued licenses.


High-quality credentials are recognized by multiple employers across an industry. To help better identify and prioritize such credentials, ACTE proposes the following uniform definition of “industry-recognized” be implemented across federal legislation when referencing credentials. The term ‘‘industry-recognized,’’ used with respect to a credential, means a credential that— A. is sought or accepted by employers within the industry or sector involved as a recognized, preferred, or required credential for recruitment, screening, hiring, retention or advancement purposes; and, B. where appropriate, is endorsed by a nationally recognized trade association or organization representing a significant part of the industry or sector.


Certificates are awarded upon the successful completion of a brief course of study, usually one year or less but at times longer, primarily in public or private two-year institutions of higher education, university extension programs or nondegree granting postsecondary institutions like area career and technical education schools. Upon completion of a course of study, a certificate does not require any further action to retain.


Certifications indicate mastery of or competency in specific knowledge, skills or processes that can be measured against a set of accepted standards. These are not tied to a specific educational program, but are typically awarded through assessment and validation of skills in cooperation with a business, trade association or other industry group. After attaining a certification, individuals often must meet ongoing requirements to maintain the currency of the certification.


A badge is a visual representation of an accomplishment, achievement or skill acquisition—more granular than a formal degree, but helps to make incremental learning more visible. (from Educause)


A license is legal permission, typically granted by a government agency, to allow an individual to perform certain regulated tasks or occupations. Upon receipt of a license, ongoing requirements may be necessary to maintain the license.


An academic degree is an award or title conferred upon an individual for the completion of a program or courses of study over multiple years at postsecondary education institutions.

This information was originally published by the ACTE. Download the PDF version at:


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