woman looking at a tablet computer, and she is reaching toward a document shown on the screen; the document looks like a scroll that shows a seal is if she has earned a certificate Photo by: iStock/SvetaZi

Alternative Credentials on the Rise

A recent poll from the MBA Roundtable shows that a growing number of graduate business schools offer certificates, badges, and microcredentials.

Alternative credentials are a required strategy for today’s business schools. That’s according to 71 percent of the respondents surveyed for a new report from the MBA Roundtable, a global association of business schools dedicated to advancing graduate management education. The report sought to discover what alternative credentials graduate business schools are offering and how they are using these credentials in their curricula. The poll, which took place in March, gathered responses from 112 deans, directors, and faculty at 85 schools.

Not only do a majority of respondents agree or strongly agree that alternative credentials are a required strategy today, 64 percent currently provide alternative credentials. Ninety-one percent of those schools offer certificates, 15 percent offer badges, and 13 percent offer microcredentials.

The most common alternative credentials found at graduate business schools today are in the fields of data analytics (63 percent), leadership (46 percent), entrepreneurship (38 percent), finance (29 percent), supply chain management (29 percent), and marketing (26 percent).

Why are more schools turning to alternative credentials? Seventy-four percent say it is to meet market demand, while 71 percent want to provide lifelong learning opportunities. Other compelling reasons are to remain competitive (68 percent), to have another option for marketing and recruitment (68 percent), and to generate revenue (58 percent). Some schools also offer alternative credentials as a way to fill empty seats in degree program courses, although that reason varies widely by type of institution. Forty percent of private schools take this approach, while only 19 percent of public schools do.

At the moment, public institutions (70 percent) are more likely than private nonprofits (48 percent) to offer alternative credentials. But 42 percent of private institutions plan to provide them within the next 24 months, meaning that nine out of 10 private schools will soon offer this option. Overall, 28 percent of the graduate business schools that do not currently offer alternative credentials plan to do so within the next two years, further expanding the reach of this educational pathway.