Earning a high-value credential starts by knowing what’s out there

The journey for Texans to launch careers with good salaries, long-term opportunities and high-demand skills increasingly begins by earning specialized degrees or certificates after high school.

In the rapidly changing, post-COVID economy, six of every 10 jobs now require applicants to have post-secondary credentials. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, credentials refer to an evolving array of degrees, workforce-aligned certifications, licenses, badges and apprenticeships. And that number is expected to grow even larger as Texas approaches it bicentennial in 2036.

That path to success sounds easy enough: earn a credential and get a good job.

But for so many reasons, it’s never that simple. And the challenges start with a couple of basic questions that many Texans face in the job market — what credentials, exactly, are available, and how can I learn about them?

Thankfully, public and private sector leaders are finally starting to address those questions. We recognize that we can — and we must — help members of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce figure out what they can study and where they can enroll to earn the credentials that will change their professional lives.

Providing that information is a daunting task.

Texas is estimated to have over 24,000 different credentials.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been in school, you may think of some obvious ones: degrees in welding, physical therapy, accounting, teaching, law or business. Those are all great careers. But the opportunities now go far beyond them.

Today’s credentials are increasingly specialized, targeted and focused on growing areas in the economy like healthcare, data, energy — traditional and renewable — and information technology.

It might have been tough in the “old days” to sift through hundreds of pages of college course catalogs and figure out what classes to take in a semester. But it’s even tougher today to understand the many areas, disciplines, and credentials available for study.

Texans, for instance, have the opportunity to become a CyberSec First Responder, a Certified Internet of Things Security Practitioner or an Informatics Nurse Specialist. They can take the Ethical Emerging Technologist Exam. Or they can earn a Google career certificate, which are now available for up to 10,000 Texas university students in fields like data analytics, e-commerce, digital marketing, and user experience (UX) design.

These are all very real credentials that offer very real jobs, which can both support Texas families and drive the Texas economy.

That’s why the Legislature last year passed a law that requires our state education and workforce agencies to build a credential library.

It includes data about the credentials being offered by all public state institutions or state education and training programs.

This month, Texas 2036 launched a complementary dashboard that compiles information about credentials offered by private companies, small and large. We’ve partnered with national nonprofit Credential Engine to develop this first-of-its-kind database in Texas to house data from multiple sources across the state and nation for public access.

Whether Texans are just starting their careers or seeking new opportunities mid-career, they already face enough obstacles. It can be hard to pay for tuition, balance home and work life, and respond to unexpected financial crises. These students and workers don’t need the extra obstacle of struggling to figure out what credentials are even available.

By developing the new credential databases, Texas is setting a national blueprint to incorporate industry-led innovations into education. 

By leveraging public-private partnerships and strong data, Texas is supporting students across all regions and stages of their careers so they develop modern and high-demand skills that match the needs of employers.

And by easily offering this information publicly, Texas is building a talented workforce and securing the economic future for our families, businesses and the entire state.