Why We Say “Career-Advancing” Instead of “High-Stakes” Credentials at Accredible

Danny King
February 1, 2022
Estimated read time: 5 minutes
Table of Contents

The term “high-stakes'' is used frequently in education to describe high-level qualifications such as diplomas, degrees, and masters certificates. These types of credentials are used to an individual’s benefit, to begin or progress in their preferred career. The problem with this term is that it doesn’t accurately capture the many modern learning opportunities available in today’s developing world of education. We live in the exciting age of data and information, where marketers can target an individual based on where they live, what they like, and even based on their family planning. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this data could be harnessed to connect credentials to career progression?

Why “career-advancing” and not “high-stakes”?

The term “high-stakes” can feel exclusionary. The use of the term “high-stakes” suggests that anything deemed “non high-stakes” is in fact “low-stakes” or even “no-stakes”. This is a poor representation of the efforts students put into gaining their certification and the value they place on it. “Medium-stakes” is another infrequently used term but also fails to consider the value of the learning path to the student. 

This creates an unconscious bias towards other avenues into career-development such as micro-credentials, training courses, and apprenticeships that aren’t considered “high-stakes”. Even though these avenues are often cheaper, less time-consuming, targeted to specific skills, and more accessible to learners of all ages and abilities. 

Education and career-advancement have grown increasingly complex over the last decade. Careers in ‘Marketing’ are a good example of this. Previously an individual would have gained a degree in ‘Marketing’ and become a ‘Marketer’. In modern day marketing careers, roles have greatly segmented and now professionals are described as ‘Content Marketers’, ‘Social Media Managers’, and ‘SEO Specialists’. The route to these roles are often targeted, career-advancing education choices that traditionally would not have been labelled as high-stakes, yet lead to genuine career advancement. 

That’s not to say that traditional education is outdated or devalued. It is and will remain a key part of career advancement and for many specialized roles it is a necessary stepping stone in the chosen career path. But it is no longer the only solution for beginning or advancing in a career.

We live in a world of information with the available data to start mapping credentials to career progression. This gives us the ability to communicate to individuals which credentials can improve their lives and careers. “High-stakes” testing doesn’t guarantee a specific outcome, and often leaves learners guessing about where to go next. We are in reach of a solution that gives professionals confidence in pursuing personal and professional development. Regardless of where they are in their career, their lives, where they live, and where we are in the economic cycle - we want to advise with certainty that the chosen credential will lead to career advancement. 

Why is “high-stakes” a controversial term?

Higher education certifications and their routes to achievement are often referred to as “high-stakes credentials” and “high-stakes testing”. The term is considered a source of controversy due to the increased delivery of “high-stakes testing” to school-age students and use in determining teacher accountability. There have been instances of teachers artificially inflating the outcomes of their students to prevent testing results reflecting on their teaching ability or impacting their student evaluation scores. 

The term “high-stakes” originates from gambling, in which a “stake” is the collateral (cash or goods) at risk from the outcome of a bet or a wager. The use of the term “high-stakes” describes the potential for loss and is often used for high-value stakes. 

In “high-stakes testing” students that don’t meet the passing mark have the opportunity to receive further study. Often learners can re-sit the test at a later time or make up marks in other aspects of the course. Although it is not a nice feeling to fail a test - it is not the end of opportunity for the student. The term “high-stakes” incorrectly suggests this, which leads students that require additional study to internalize this outcome as a punishment. 

The value of the learning path

The value of a credential should be determined by the student pursuing it, rather than the value placed on the credential by society. If a student needs to take a supporting course alongside their main topic of study that doesn’t influence their overall achievement - should it still be described as “high-stakes”? In this instance, it would only be considered of value to the student pursuing that supporting topic as their main area of study. 

An example of this is the social weighting placed on degrees delivered in areas of STEM vs Arts. To an Arts student, their exam is a stepping stone into their career and requires a comparative amount of input and effort as a student studying in STEM. Yet, society often deems a Creative degree as less than a STEM degree. Social weighting should have no power to influence the value of a credential. It should be the student that determines how valuable their chosen path of learning is to their needs.

The world is full of different educational approaches and everyone has a preferred method of learning. Some learners can sit tests with no problem but many find the exam process stressful. This leads to professional stagnation of individuals that wish to change their career but feel blocked by the expectation of “high-stakes testing”. 

Reframing the terminology

To combat the social stigma associated with “high-stakes credentials” the wording should be reframed to “career-advancing”. This terminology better describes the various pathways for career development and further education. “Career-advancing credentials” as a descriptive term helps to:

  • Remove the stress associated with the risk of “high-stakes”
  • Enable individuals to determine the value of their own learning paths
  • Empower professionals to seek upskill or reskill opportunities
  • Improve navigation through the complexity of modern career choices

The modern world of work and education is constantly changing and professionals are finding it harder to find the right path to follow. Traditional education still closely follows the structure of staying in one career for the majority of one’s working life. Evidence shows however, that the number of jobs and careers an individual has during their working life is increasing. Alongside the number of new professions that are being created each year. 

In a collection of 2021 job statistics by Zippia, it was reported that:

Describing credentials as “career-advancing” makes it easier for people considering a career change or wishing to improve their promotion prospects to find relevant opportunities. They have a better understanding of the routes to certain career goals. It also helps professionals find training and education that works around their current lifestyle and is available within their budget. 

In Summary

Our vision at Accredible is to help everyone understand the opportunities available to better their personal and professional selves. We achieve this by improving the accessibility and visibility of career-advancing credentials throughout the world’s industries and markets. Our goal is to harness the power of data to connect professionals to the credentials that ensure career advancement. 

Grow the reach of your training program, learning pathway, and career-advancing credentials with Accredible. Request a platform demo today and learn how we can support the digital transformation of your organization with our digital credential management software

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