Catalyzing career success through sub-degree credentials

June 2024

Across the United States, postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) is experiencing a sharp rise in investment and innovation, driven largely by skilled labor shortages in key industries and demand for more affordable opportunities within higher education.

Many two- and four-year colleges and universities are looking to innovate new offerings for postsecondary CTE, including sub-degree credentialing programs–programs that provide students with the opportunity to earn at least one industry-recognized credential below the bachelor’s degree level. These programs prepare students to enter the workforce or pursue higher education in industries experiencing labor shortages, benefiting both students and employers.

Our report, “Catalyzing career success through sub-degree credentials,” outlines a slate of effective practices for sub-degree credentialing programs and recommends strategies to overcome common challenges these programs face. Using lessons learned from the Industry Corps program at Wentworth Institute of Technology, this report highlights key considerations for higher education institutions looking to expand postsecondary CTE programming.

Effective practices detailed in the report include:

  1. Reduce barriers to entry for program participation and empower students from diverse backgrounds.
  2. Engage industry partners in program design, execution, and improvement.
  3. Facilitate students’ career exploration and offer flexible on- and off-ramps through stackable credentials.
  4. Build a strong community within the program and facilitate students’ sense of belonging at the university. 
  5. Offer robust supports for students, including individualized advising and mentorship from program staff.
  6. Provide students with general career skill-building sessions and ample hands-on learning experiences.