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Digital badges can help you stand out from the crowd – here’s how to get them

By Brian Fairbanks

At a glance

  • Digital badges are a great visual way of displaying your skillset.
  • They can boost your brand’s visibility and credibility.
  • Micro-credentials are another term you might see more frequently nowadays.
  • University of Phoenix offers badges for a number of degree programs, including MBA and nursing emergency preparedness.

What are digital badges?

Digital badges are a great way to showcase your skills visually and can be a smart move for current students or jobseekers. The ability to tell your skills story is a powerful one that can boost the credibility of your personal brand.

Plus, with employers seeking candidates who have real-world experience, it can be important to be able to show evidence of your achievements succinctly. With all of these ends in mind, earning digital credentials through a badge program may be an excellent starting place.

Digital badges are, of course, based on physical badges, much like the ones you may have earned in a scouting program when you were young.

"A digital badge is a validated indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in many learning environments," says the Participate blog. "Digital badges offer a simple way to recognize online learning. Think of a digital badge as not only a line on your resume noting a particular skill or competency, but also visual evidence documenting how that skill was obtained."

In fact, a 2020 study on non-degree credentials found that 70 percent of college graduates with both an associate degree and a non-degree credential said their education made them an attractive job candidate, compared to 43 percent of associate degree holders without a nondegree credential.

Digital badging is becoming so increasingly common, that the number of organizations issuing non-degree credentials shot up by 83 percent during the COVID-19 global pandemic!

Why should I try to get a digital badge or digital badges?

"Badges provide a way for students to validate and document skills they are achieving in their coursework, skills that can be immediately shared with potential employers, current employers, colleagues and through social media," writes Mary Elizabeth Smith, Learning Innovation Strategist with the University of Phoenix.

"The badge(s) help students tell their skills story," she adds. "The badge, with its robust meta-data, is a vehicle that students can use to articulate their skills and how they were evidenced."

A digital badge will have your name, of course, as well as that of the badge itself ("Leadership," for example), plus the accredited name of the university or wherever you achieved the badge, a URL to either the badge itself or a page with all of your badges earned from that university, and other key details such as the date you earned the full credential.

Therefore, micro-credentials can help prove, rather than merely suggest that you are qualified or have completed a training (compared to noting your skills on a resume, which cannot prove anything through that piece of paper.)

How do digital badges help you in your career?

Because they have to sift through so many candidates, recruiters, hiring managers and employers often skim resumes quickly, or they just look at the headers and dates on each page. How does anyone stand out in this kind of situation, especially against a slew of candidates that may have several years’ more experience than you?

One way to get that extra career boost may be to complete a competency-based digital badge program, which can highlight your skills, such as in software or SEO.

Smith adds that, based on badges an applicant has acquired, employers may:

  • See the data/validation behind the badge, indicating that the applicant has completed some real-world projects
  • Feel that badge holders have an enhanced professional identity
  • Note skills that may be crucial data points for them— badges provide transparency into those skills
  • Identify who has in-demand skills within their organization
  • Realize the person has made a great investment in remaining up to date in their field(s)
  • Determine that prospective talent and their skillset is aligned with job openings

How to get digital badges

A digital badge is typically earned through a digital source, such as an online workshop, training program, course/class, or as part of a university education like ones offered by the University of Phoenix.

"To receive a badge in the MBA, the student must successfully complete the aligned assignment," at UOPX, says Smith. "To receive a badge for Emergency Preparedness [for instance], the student must successfully complete two courses and the aligned assignments.

"Once students have met the criteria above, they are alerted that the badge is ready for them to claim and then share," Smith concludes.

"Digital badges are quickly becoming an appropriate, easy and efficient way for educators, community groups and other professional organizations to exhibit and reward participants for skills obtained in professional development or formal and informal learning," write Rebecca Shields & Ritesh Chugh, and are earned through one of four types of competency-based education programs, notes Shanmon Wilson on Medium:

  • Membership: through a competitive sports-based offering, such as playing on a baseball team or in a bowling league
  • Competency-based: the most commonly used, typically earned through a university or other program, in which a student earns a new skill or strengthens an existing one (such as in information technology, human resources, or business administration)
  • Internship: an intern, having completed a company’s and/or a school’s program for interns, can often earn a badge recognizing their new skill development and readiness to work in a certain field (business administration, communications, etc.)
  • Achievement: Differs slightly but crucially from a competency-based program— an achievement badge may be earned through an outside agency or body in your field (for example, winning an annual award from an actors’ union for achievement through a theatrical performance or lifetime of acting)

What’s the difference between digital badges and micro-credentials or certificates?


You may have heard the term "micro-credential" before. It’s basically the same thing, although with a caveat.

A certificate, for starters, denotes that a student has completed an education program or course, while a badge doesn’t necessarily refer to a course and appears in a more visually appealing form, geared to help you stand out when employers are skimming your credentials.

micro-credential is similar to a mini certification, suggests Guroo. "They are usually digital, short, and relatively low-cost courses that have a specific focus on demonstrating proficiency in a particular skill." The site notes that students can earn these types of credentials through online courses, self-directed video modules, or by taking a straightforward skills test without prep or further training.

After students complete a course or achieve a certain, pre-established degree of proficiency in that specific skill, the institute will email, text, or otherwise deliver the official digital badge to their account.

Unlike paper certificates or other materials, "badges can be shared on social media, added to email signatures, displayed on resumes, and added to digital badge wallets like Credly and OpenBadges," Guroo explains. Plus, they look good on LinkedIn profiles and other digital resumé pages!

Do employers care about micro-credentials and digital badges?

Nearly two-thirds of high-level employers (CEOs, execs, etc.) said they believe that, going forward, American workers will need to be "lifelong learners" and, writes University World News on their blog, "will demand more credential attainment from job seekers and higher levels of education…"

Students who earn badges can do the following with each:

  • Share to social networking sites, such as LinkedIn.
  • Share to the ZipRecruiter job board.
  • Send to your current employer using the email or link-sharing option.
  • Download and print as a certificate.

How do I earn a digital badge?

As University World News noted, "the higher education sector worldwide has seen a much greater focus on employability and skills development" in recent years. At the University of Phoenix, an online-focused school, a digital badging pilot program for nursing and MBA degrees is underway, with plans to implement badging across additional degrees based on pilot results.

This is a timely initiative as studies show skills-based hiring is on the rise, with most HR leaders (64%) believing that the need for continuous lifelong learning will demand higher levels of education and more credentials.

Digital badges at University of Phoenix

In today’s competitive job market, skills matter as much as your degree, which is why the University of Phoenix is piloting a badge program aligned to in-demand skills for select courses, allowing students the opportunity to acquire career-relevant knowledge sought after by employers. Plus, those digital credentials can be added to a LinkedIn profile or other resume site to allow you to stand out to employees — potentially before college graduation.

The online university joined forces with Credly to give students this potentially crucial boost into the working world. (Credly is a digital credentialing platform that specializes in identifying and highlighting valuable skills and abilities in people.)

After successfully earning a badge, which can be done in a matter of weeks or months, students will receive an email from Credly with instructions on how to claim it. Digital badge earners can then share the badge on social networking sites, such as LinkedIn and the ZipRecruiter job board, allowing them to be digitally discoverable by their skillset through keyword searches. And, since badges are stored in Credly accounts, students can also send them to current employers, add them to their resumé and print them out as certificates.

"There are two pilot [badges at the University of Phoenix]," says Smith. "One pilot is testing the application of badges throughout a skills-aligned program. The second pilot is tied to specific content presented in several courses." They are:

  1. Nursing – Emergency Preparedness badge
  2. MBA – Skills Badges

According to Smith, the program’s main objective is to "provide students with a tangible way to receive and perceive the value of their investment in a degree or certificate through skills demonstration in a course."

Learn more about University of Phoenix’s badging program here.

How do I add a badge I’ve earned to my LinkedIn resumé/profile?

First, see if the email you received notifying you of the badge achievement has a link to a page with "Add to LinkedIn" profile on it. Before you click on that button or link, make sure you are signed in to your LinkedIn account on the same browser.

Secondly, assuming that doesn’t work or there’s no link, follow the steps on this page.

How do I add a badge to my resumé on another site or offline?

To add your badge to another type of resume (other than LinkedIn), you may need to download the badge as an image file and then copy-paste it into your, say, Microsoft Word resume or another app that’s "hosting" your resume. More details on this process can be found here.


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