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Why professional certifications for teachers in K-12 education are becoming the norm

March 1, 2018

The need for education and professional credentials today is very different from what it was just fifty years ago, when what you needed to get a good job was a high school diploma. That diploma provided a meal ticket that enabled a worker to get a good job that supported a family, paid the mortgage, bought a car, and provided a two-week family vacation each year. At that time, only 5% of American adults earned a bachelor’s degree, while 52% held a high school diploma. Over the years, high paying jobs in manufacturing disappeared. To get the good jobs, you needed a bachelor’s. By 1990, nearly 10% of adult Americans had a bachelor’s, and the pay gap between what they earned and what high school grads earned grew dramatically. The college degree replaced the high school diploma as a basic meal ticket.

The trend continues, pushed by global competition and the increased complexity of technology products, healthcare, education and processes. Jobs that offer good pay increasingly require students to go beyond the bachelor’s. Today, 40% of the American population has a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, but that may not be enough. To be competitive in the job market, to have the nice lifestyle that could be achieved with a bachelor’s in the 1990s, increasingly it helps to have a master’s degree. Today, more than 9% of adults hold a master’s degree, roughly the equivalent of the portion of Americans who held a bachelor’s in 1990. The master’s degree appears to be replacing the bachelor’s as a basic meal ticket.

Getting more credentials is how the game is played. No one familiar with the needs of the workplace seriously believes that these credentials are necessary to do much of the work that gets done in America, but they have become a differentiator. For example, when filling a position for a special education teacher, if you see one candidate with a bachelor’s degree and another with a master’s, the latter has an advantage because of the additional credential.

Employer preference for credentials now decides who gets the job even among master’s degree holders. If job-seekers can show they have augmented their education beyond the master’s or beyond their colleagues, this gives them an advantage. Today, among non-degree credentials, professional certifications are hot. For example, in education, getting a good job in one of the better school districts may require both a master’s degree and certification as a CAS (Certified Autism Specialist). 1 in 68 children in the classroom are diagnosed with Autism and school districts are willing to pay top dollar for teachers who have Autism training.

Certifications such as the CAS require substantial prep work on the part of the certificant. They don’t guarantee that job applicants will do an excellent job as an educator, but they demonstrate that they have mastered the body of knowledge excellent teachers possess.
The fixation on credentials doesn’t end here. Digital badges are another popular item. In education, they take the form of micro-credentials. If you take a three-day course on Scrum, you may be awarded a Scrum badge, or a two-day course on supply chain management might earn you a SCM badge. As with more robust certifications, badges can differentiate between job applicants.

At the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), we recognize that competition for quality jobs in premier school districts is brutal and that people seeking them need to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Certainly, earning an academic degree is important, whether it is an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree. However, we offer several premier certification programs that help educators differentiate themselves from their competition and give them more confidence when working with students who have cognitive disorders such as Autism, ADHD and others. The courses are delivered by experts, with 65% holding a doctoral degree and the remainder holding a master’s degree. All our programs are delivered online, which allows them to be self-paced and flexible. If course material is exceptionally challenging, students can take their time to master its content without feeling pressure to perform at too fast of a pace. By the same token, if a student finds course material to be something they are comfortable with, they can move through it more quickly.

At IBCCES, we recognize that the job market at premier school districts is tight, and candidates who demonstrate professional capabilities through a certification such as a Certified Autism Specialist stand out from the competition.