By Denison Edge




However, we do not live in the Middle Ages anymore—we are driving cars to work, primarily working on computers, and much more. All things that a medieval scholar would have no concept of, let alone working knowledge of.

While a liberal arts education can be life-shaping, in modern society, there are certain skill gaps that exist between a liberal arts education and the skill requirements of the modern workforce, as Denison University president Adam Weinberg points out. Today’s college students often have to make the choice between what might be an enriching and fulfilling education, such as studying English or Philosophy, or gaining the practical skills needed for today’s workforce. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. A liberal arts education does the bulk of the work in preparing someone for sustained success over the course of their career. It just takes a little extra push to launch seamlessly into a career after college. This is where credential programs come in. Credentials can range from short workshops to extended courses, such as Denison Edge courses in personal finance, marketing, analytics, and more. In fact, there are “1,076,358 unique credentials available across the country,” according to the newest Counting Credentials report from Credential Engine.

Upskilling with credentials while in college is one of the best things a student can do to increase their chances of getting hired straight or soon after graduation. As Laurie Kamerer, now the AVP of The Knowlton Center for Career Exploration, tells Columbus CEO, “The refrain has been pretty common amongst most [employers], which is, we love liberal arts students because they have great communication skills and are good at critical thinking.” It’s those “last-mile” skills that can be a hang-up. New employees either have to be trained in those areas upon employment, or they can come in fully equipped with the necessary skills from a relevant credential program. Even if an employer is willing to train new hires in hard skills like Microsoft Excel or SEO optimization, an applicant is much more hireable if these skills are already on their resume from a credible institution.

That brings us to the next point—where should college students be getting their credentials from? Non-academic providers make up the majority of credential options nationwide, however, your mileage may vary. There is no universal governing body that makes sure credential programs are up to snuff. Some, like Google’s Career Certificates, are widely acknowledged as credible, and in Google’s case, are even accepted for college credit. However, most credential programs worth your time are either offered by a college or university or are affiliated with one.

It’s not just Denison Edge that recognizes the need to upskill students, recent graduates and working professionals for the modern workforce. Due to the rapidly shifting job market,“Many technical skills have a half-life of fewer than three years, which means that learners from all educational backgrounds will need to invest in education throughout their careers to keep their skills fresh.” As the job market continues to evolve quickly, especially with the large transition to remote work in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, skills learned at the beginning of one’s college education may not be as relevant as they were back then. As new technology impacts or disrupts industry trends, the needs within those industries change. Credential programs, in conjunction with a credible institution, are the most efficient ways to make sure that the long-term success with your liberal arts degree is able to meet the short-term, hard skill requirements of today’s job market.

So, should you run off and sign up for the most relevant, sure-to-get-me-a-job credential program out there? Yes and no. It’s important to balance the practicality of a credential program with your passions and interests. No matter how much you learn about Microsoft Excel or SEO optimization, you won’t be very effective at it if you have no interest or time to complete the course.However, credential programs can also be a way of exploring new interests and rounding out your professional skill sets. Even though we don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore, there’s plenty of work to be done.