Stack credentials and reach your degree
November 16, 2020
Credentials are the awards, certificates, and degrees you can earn as a student at our five Alamo Colleges. As you begin to explore your educational options, you might come across the term stackable credential. A stackable credential means they can build upon one another—in other words, you can earn a smaller award and apply those credits to a larger credential later. Stackable credentials provide you with the flexibility to start small and level up depending on your career goals and financial resources.
It is important to understand the various types of awards, certificates, and degrees offered by our Alamo Colleges and to know how each credential builds upon another so you can make informed decisions about your education. Below are the types of credentials you can earn, listed in order of the least number of credit hours to the most number of credit hours.
Occupational Skills Award
Credit hours: 9–14
An Occupational Skills Award (OSA) is ideal if you need to quickly learn a set of skills for entry into the workforce or develop skills for your current role. Depending on the OSA you select, you can expect to take 3–5 courses, which can be completed in two semesters. An OSA can be applied to a certificate or degree, depending on the program. It is advisable to consult your College’s catalog to determine which courses may be applied to a degree.
Enhanced Skills Certificate
Credit hours: ~19
An Enhanced Skills Certificate (ESC), like an OSA, is a sequence of select courses that focus on developing specific skills in your future or current field. Depending on the ESC you choose, you will need to complete an average of 6 courses that qualify. An ESC can be applied to a certificate or degree, depending on the program.
Level 1 Certificate
Credit hours: 15–42
A Level 1 Certificate (CL1) includes a series of specific courses that you can complete to demonstrate mastery of skill in a designated field. You can complete a CL1 in fewer credits than are required for an associate degree and then apply the certificate to a degree in a similar field. To earn a CL1, you will need to complete 5–14 courses that qualify. Certain industry-based certificates have expiration periods, so make sure you understand the recertification requirements—if any—of your chosen certificate.
Level 2 Certificate
Credit hours: 42–51
A Level 2 Certificate (CL2) also includes a series of specific courses that students can complete to demonstrate mastery of skill in a designated field. Both Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates can be applied to an associate degree. Students can complete a CL2 in fewer hours than an associate degree. To earn a CL2, you will need to complete 14–17 courses that qualify. Certain industry-based certificates have expiration periods, so make sure you understand the recertification requirements—if any—of your chosen certificate.
Credit hours: 60
An associate degree can be earned with the intent to apply earned credits to a four-year college or utilized for job entry. Associate degrees require about 20 courses, which equals about two years of college attendance if you attend full-time. The Alamo Colleges offer several Associate of Applied Science degrees online intended to help you compete for a job as you approach graduation.
While earning an associate degree is ideal if you want to transfer to a four-year institution, keep in mind that transferring your associate credits requires advance planning. It is in your best interest to follow our Transfer Advising Guides, the information about which is detailed below.
Transfer Advising Guides
Transfer Advising Guides (TAGs) themselves are not a credential. Rather, they are guides you can follow that guarantee specific four-year institutions will accept your unique program credits when you transfer. TAGs are designed to save you time and money, so make sure you visit Start here, finish there for a list of the available fully online TAGs.
Where do I start?
- If you want to quickly acquire a new set of skills, consider an Occupational Skills Award or an Enhanced Skills Certificate.
- If you are looking to apply to entry-level positions or enhance your current skills, consider a Level 1 or Level 2 Certificate.
- If you plan to transfer to a four-year institution for your bachelor’s degree, consider earning an associate degree. Make sure to follow a TAG for an efficient transfer experience.
- Remember that stackable credentials require pre-planning and assistance from your advisor since not every credential stacks into another. For instance, a certificate in Logistics Management will not stack into a Marketing Management AAS because they are two very different fields. Save time and money by planning ahead!
The diversity of academic pathways offered at our Alamo Colleges provide flexibility and freedom to help you design an academic path that fits your needs. If you’d like to learn more, contact an Enrollment Coach today!
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