Moving from a Degree-Centric Postsecondary System to an Incremental Credentialing System: What Happens to Learners’ Financing Options?

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Embedding and Aligning Certifications with Academic Programs

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Embedding and Aligning Certifications with Academic Programs

Examples

Aviation Maintenance Technology Program

Lake Area Technical College in South Dakota has a 20-month Aviation Maintenance Technology Program that embeds two certifications: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airframe Certification after the first year, and the FAA Powerplant Certification after the second year. In addition, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree by taking general education courses. By completing all the requirements of the program, a student earns three credentials: a degree and two certifications.

Network Systems Technology Pathways

For individuals interested in the operation of computer networks, Broward College offers the Network Systems Technology – Network Administration Associate in Science degree. The degree is designed as a career pathway that includes three technical certificates: Information Technology Support Specialist; Network Infrastructure; and Network Server Administration. Learners can take each certificate as a stand-alone credential(s) or earn them as part of the degree program. The curriculum is aligned with the competencies required in several certification exams as well. As a result, upon completion of the degree program, learners have earned several certificates and a degree, and are prepared to earn the CompTIA A+; CompTIA Network+CompTIA Security+; CCNA; AWS Cloud PractitionerAWS Cloud Solutions ArchitectCompTIA Project+; and (ISC)2 Systems Security Certified Practitioner certifications if desired.

Mechatronics Engineering

To address workforce needs in robotics and automated systems, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) formed a partnership with Siemens to enable students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in mechatronics engineering and a Level 3 Siemens international Mechatronics certification upon graduating. To become a partner institution of the Siemens Mechatronics Systems Certification Program (SMSCP), MTSU had to meet several requirements. It had to have at least two Siemens-certified SMCP instructors, offer hands-on mechatronics training system on-site, and integrate the systems approach and SMSCP course content into the degree program (Siemens, 2022). Throughout the partnership, Siemens provides technical assistance, best practices, and instructor courses. This ensures that faculty receive the support they need and that the SMSCP course content is properly incorporated into the academic curriculum.

Project Management Programs to Meet Specialized Accreditor Standards

Accredited institutions of higher education that wish to ensure the quality of project management and related degree programs at the bachelor’s, postgraduate, and doctoral levels can apply to be accredited through the PMI Global Accreditation Center (GAC), a specialized accreditor. Programs interested in pursuing accreditation must submit a letter of intent, conduct a self-assessment report, and undergo a site visit from GAC.

One benefit of a PMI-GAC accredited programs is that they award students credit toward the experience requirements needed for PMI certifications. This decreases the time students need before taking the certification exam. Examples of programs that are PMI-GAC accredited include:

  •  George Washington University, School of Business, Department of Decision Sciences can enroll in a Master of Science in Project Management.
  •  Colorado State University Global, School of Management and Innovation, Bachelor of Science Project Management.
  •  University of Maryland, A.J. Clark School of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering with a major in project management.

Managing Veterinary Medicine Practices

Demand for veterinary technologists and technicians is projected to grow by 20 percent between 2021 and 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. St. Petersburg College in Florida has developed a career pathway to help meet this demand. Once students complete either a Veterinary Technology Associate in Science degree or a Veterinary Technology Bachelor of Applied Science degree, they are eligible to enroll in the college’s Veterinary Practice Management Certificate program. To complete the program, students must take eight courses in personnel, accounting and finance, marketing, legal requirements, and budgeting and planning. The program curriculum fulfills the education requirements for the Certified Veterinary Practice Manager certification offered by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA). In addition to the education requirements, individuals must be actively employed as a practice manager for at least three years (within the last seven years), have taken 48 hours of continuing education courses or seminars in management, and submit four letters of recommendation to sit for the certification exam.

Meeting the Demand for Phlebotomists

Moraine Valley Community College offers a Phlebotomy Technician certificate program that prepares students to become entry-level phlebotomy professionals, an occupation that is projected to grow by 10 percent between 2021 and 2031. The certificate program involves a combination of coursework and clinicals and can be completed in two semesters. The program outcomes have been developed based on the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Upon completion of the certificate program, students are eligible to sit for any national phlebotomy certification exam. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification offers the Phlebotomy Technician (PBT). Moraine Valley students have a three-year average pass rate of 96 percent on the PBT certification exam. The state of Illinois does not require phlebotomists to hold a certification, but many employers still require it.

Credentialing in Advanced Manufacturing

At the campus of Ohio University in Lancaster, students interested in a career as a skilled technician or engineering technologist can earn an Associate in Applied Science degree with a major in engineering technology. In addition to the academic curriculum that includes hands-on learning through lab experiences, students can earn the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) Certified Production Technician (CPT)® 4.0 certification and the FANUC Certified Robot Operator certifications (FCR-O1 and FCR-O2), which are embedded in the curriculum.

By earning the MSSC CPT, students demonstrate their skills and knowledge in safety, quality practices and measurement, manufacturing processes and production, and maintenance awareness The FCR-O1 certification exam assesses skills and knowledge in areas such as basic robot programming, simulation, basic robot operations, robot systems and components, and robot safety. By combining an associate degree with two industry certifications, students gain the knowledge and skills they need for a career in advanced manufacturing.

Aligning safety curriculum with industry needs

U.S. colleges and universities with academic degree programs in safety, health, and/or environmental science can apply to become a Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) Qualified Academic Program (QAP). Academic programs must meet BCSP standards and submit a list of courses and syllabi to BCSP. BCSP reviews the degree curriculum to determine if there is a substantial match with the Associate Safety Professional® (ASP®) exam blueprint. Learners who graduate from a BCSP QAP are eligible to apply for a Graduate Safety Practitioner® (GSP®) designation, which positions them to earn other safety certifications and pursue various career pathways.

For those who want to become a BCSP Certified Safety Professional (CSP®), holding a GSP allows them to meet one of the CSP eligibility requirements of holding a BCSP-qualified credential, waiving the need to pass the ASP exam that is required for the CSP. GSP holders also automatically meet the experience requirement for the Safety Trained Supervisor® (STS®) and Safety Trained Supervisor Construction® (STSC®) certifications and are immediately eligible to apply for either of those two certification exams.

From 2016 to 2023, the number of college and university programs that have earned the QAP designation has increased from 13 to 112 (K. Golding, personal communication, June 2, 2023). Examples of programs that have achieved this designation include Indiana State University’s Bachelor of Science in Safety Management and Columbia Southern University’s Online Bachelor and Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health.

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