Microcredentials, certificates, and badges are one of the fastest growing sectors of the higher education market. Despite this increase, little is known about how microcredentials are changing the graduate education landscape. In particular, the relationship between stackable microcredentials – certificates or badges that can be combined into a degree – and the master’s degree remained unclear until recently.

With support from ETS, CGS embarked on a project to explore the relationship between non-degree graduate microcredentials and the master’s degree. The project took a mixed methods approach, using focus groups, surveys, and interviews to better understand what microcredentials are and how they are intersecting with graduate degrees.


CGS held a convening of diverse stakeholders in June 2023 to discuss preliminary research findings and created a best practice principles and action agenda for creating and administering microcredentials (found in Appendix C of the report). A project report, Microcredentials and the Master’s Degree: Understanding the National Landscape to Support Learners and the Workforce, and webinar co-hosted with Credential As You Go were released in January 2024.

Key Findings

  • Post-baccalaureate credit-bearing certificates are best understood within a blended ecosystem that includes master’s degrees, instead of as alternatives to graduate degrees.
  • Many certificate programs are new and have small enrollments.
  • Departments and programs are the primary drivers of program creation.
  • Reviewing and assessing microcredential quality remains a challenge, though employers view certificates granted by colleges and universities as being of higher quality than those by other providers.
  • “Stacking” certificates into degrees is still in development at many institutions.

Download the Report

Read more, including an executive summary, case studies, and the values and principles generated as a result of the convening, in the full report.

This report is generously supported by