Verifying Academic and Professional Credentials

There are a number of reasons you might want to learn more about academic and professional credentials as a female business owner or entrepreneur. You could want to learn more about how your own credentials will be verified or viewed from the perspective of a client or an employer. You could also be vetting business partners or possible new employees, which also makes understanding these credentials important. 

A lot of educational and professional credentials are public records, so you can do a free name search and find them. 

Not all are, however, and some aren’t necessarily easy to find. 

Below is a guide to what to know about credentials and how to verify them if you need to. 

The Basics of Credentials

When you hear the term credential, it typically refers to qualifications, which can be academic or educational. Credentials could include, for example, degree programs someone completes. Credentials can also be occupational qualifications, like work experience or professional certificates. 

Educational credentials include a college diploma or bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate, Ph.D., and professional school degree. A professional school degree includes medicine, teaching, or law, as examples. 

Professional credentials can include licenses, professional association memberships, apprenticeships, or trade certificates. 

The Growing Complexity of Educational Credentials

In the past decade or so, educational credentials have become increasingly complex and difficult to navigate if you’re verifying them. Employers struggle, even as most do require post-secondary training. 

A lot of hiring managers and business leaders say they get resumes with credentials they’ve never heard of. For that reason, sometimes, it can be better when hiring someone to ask what they learned rather than relying on credentials alone. 

There’s even a fear that some credentials aren’t real. 

There are more certification programs available every year, but some employers say that unless it’s a degree, they can’t at face value accept a certification since they don’t know how rigorous the training is or even what it’s meant to signify. 

According to the nonprofit Credential Engine, there are around a million education credentials, including certificates, licenses, badges, industry certifications, and apprenticeships. 

This number has gone up since the pandemic as more people sought out additional education and training. 

Around 80% of jobs do require at least some training or education beyond high school, but many business leaders worry that colleges are throwing anything out there to be profitable and calling it a badge or certificate. 

Some have called the growing number of credentials the wild west because there’s not currently a set of standards or system to help employers define quality or measure it. That doesn’t mean the education and training credentials aren’t valid, but it just becomes hard to discern what is and what might not be.  

Employers have to be critical, and they’re going to have to take their time to verify these credentials. 

Around one-fourth of adults in America have nondegree credentials, but advocates of these programs say they encourage equity. Consumers can get jobs without spending time and money on college degrees they don’t really need. 

Credential Engine is currently working to build a registry of credentials. The hope of the organization is that, along with eventually listing them all. They’ll also define whether they’re accredited, how long they take to earn, and the types of jobs the skills are suited to. 

There is also a growing industry of evaluators who focus on credentials, assessing their quality for hiring managers and universities. 

Credentials vs. Certification

We tend to use the terms credential and certification interchangeably, but there are some differences.

A credential is meant to be something issued by a third party. The third party should have authoritative power, and their issuance shows the qualifications or competence of someone with regard to a given subject. 

A certification is a formal process that validates qualifications on a subject. An individual earns their certification by showing they are qualified to perform a task or do a job. 

Certificate programs are a form of educational program. At the end of a certificate program, participants get a certificate of completion instead of an educational degree. 

How Can You Verify Professional Credentials?

Because there’s not currently a system in place, it can take some work to verify someone’s professional credentials. You first will use the information that a person gives you to do a search of their name online. This will start to point you in the right direction as far as verifying they are who they say they are. 

You can’t rely only on the documentation from an applicant alone. 

Once you’ve done the general background research, you might consider verifying someone through a third party, or you can get in touch with the organization or company they say has issued the credential. You’ll have to ensure that if you’re doing a formal background screening for purposes of employment, you or the third-party service you’re using is compliant with the stipulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

How Can You Check Someone’s Educational Background?

It can be a little simpler to verify someone’s educational background. You can run a background check that will show you the dates someone attended a school. An education background check should also include proof of attendance. 

It’s important to verify education because research shows that almost 80% of job applicants have lied on their resumes or would consider doing so. 

Doing an educational background screening and also generally verifying someone’s information not only helps you hire the right people qualified to do the job at hand but also protects you from liability if you’re a business owner. 

Most education background checks will go back as far as needed, and in some cases, these checks also show honors earned and GPA. 

An education background check doesn’t usually verify licenses or professional credentials. You’d have to verify those in other ways, like those listed above. 

Finally, to check someone’s educational background, you need their full name, the name and address of the institution where they got their degree, dates attended, title and field of their degree and the applicant has to give you a signed authorization release.