Badges Reflect Employable Skills

In a previous post, I discussed the economic value of various college degrees. I provided a response to the question, “How much can I earn with a degree in…?” Students will benefit from a professional degree with a strong liberal-arts general education, or a humanities degree with a professional minor. But, now I want to flip the perspective. From the employer’s perspective the question is, “How much can I earn if I hire a college graduate like you?” A college degree opens the door, but demonstrating that you have employable skills, whether they be soft-skills or technical, is key to landing a job.

The economic reality of the labor market in the for-profit world is that wage income is related to a person’s ability to produce goods and/or services an employer can sell for a profit. The more efficient you are, the more valuable you will be to an employer.  A degree signals that an applicant has accomplished the academic requirements of a major, has participated in the culture of the college, and developed a network of relationships. In many cases a degree will accompany an internship in a graduate’s field of interest. For some professions, a degree is a requirement for taking a licensing exam—such as the CPA exam for accountants or RN boards for nurses.

One emerging trend is for employers to increase their assurance that new hires have the skills indicated on their resumes. Digital badges provide such evidence. They are earned by demonstrating a specific skill or attribute. Think of digital badges as mini credentials that can be displayed on one’s LinkedIn account or a digital portfolio that provide evidence of employable skills or accomplishments.

Digital badges are achievements verified through credible organizations, trade associations or accredited schools. They are awarded upon demonstrating specific skills. In the ebook, Game Changers: Education and Information Technologies, the authors present a case study for how Mozilla is advancing the cause of using open-badges as an alternative to or supplement for traditional degrees. Badges are earned and awarded when individuals demonstrate their competency in a particular task or skill.

For instance, if you apply for job that requires skills in Photoshop, PowerPoint, and grant writing, you can apply for a badge by testing your competency (or providing evidence that is peer-reviewed) at organizations such as Smarter or and some colleges. Once they are obtained, you can display badges on your LinkedIn account. An employer can click on the badge and discover the credentialing organization to verify its credibility.

Upon graduation, the traditional transcript lists the degree conferred, courses taught, and grades earned; however, forward-thinking schools are also including digital badges as symbols documenting specific competencies or experiences that contribute to your productivity. Think of them as microcredentials that enhance your employability.

Along with your degree, you can enhance the way you market your employable skills by earning and displaying digital badges. Doing so can be part of a commitment to lifelong learning and continuous enhancement of your productivity. Employers will then have more information indicating the specific types of skills and experiences that will make you a competitive candidate.