A credential is a documented award by a responsible and authorized body that has determined that an individual has achieved specific learning outcomes relative to a given standard. Credential in this context is an umbrella term that includes degrees, diplomas, licenses, certificates, badges, and professional/industry certifications.

In the 21st Century, learners are utilizing a mix of credentials to showcase their skills and knowledge to employers and educators alike. Some credentials are connected, others are stackable but all hold value in the economy for learners, institutions, and workforce. With an increasingly diverse learner population, learning organizations, policymakers, and the workforce must be able to understand and support and verify a wide variety of credentials in order to fill the demands for hiring and continuing education.

Alternative credentials are educational credentials other than full degrees that have labor market value. Examples include industry certification, licensures, and certificates. More recent innovations such as microcredentials or digital badges also fall within this category.

A graduate mortar board and certificate of graduation sitting decoratively on grass.