Google Career Certificates Challenge the College Degree

Google Career Certificates Challenge the College Degree
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By Anne Dennon

Published on April 12, 2021

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Four-year college degrees can be time-consuming and costly. And while a college education may help students develop valuable soft skills like critical thinking and creative problem-solving, many employers believe college graduates lack real-world skills.

A number of colleges, particularly liberal arts colleges, have seen a downturn in applications and enrollment because students don't trust that work will be waiting for them on the other side. According to a recent survey, half of American teenagers question the value of traditional college and would be open to alternative education paths.

According to a recent survey, half of American teenagers question the value of traditional college and would be open to alternative education paths.

Some colleges have attempted to adapt to new job market demands by adding shorter, career-focused programs, allowing students to pursue vocational credentials in areas like craft brewing and cybersecurity alongside a traditional four-year degree.

Tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM have also begun to offer nondegree training programs through online education platforms like Coursera and edX.

Are Certificates Equal to College Degrees?

If you're looking to join the tech industry, a career certificate may unlock the same doors as a four-year degree.

Last year, Google launched new certificate programs in areas like data analytics and UX design. According to Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs at Google, "In our own hiring, we will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles."

Career certificates can also be earned on a shorter, more flexible timeline, for about the cost of a single semester's worth of college textbooks. Students in Google's certificate programs are free to learn at their own pace. At $49 per month, a student who wrapped up a program in six months would pay just under $300 in total.

Google Career Certificate Options

IT Support Data Analytics Project Management UX Design Android Development

Typically, certificates are cheaper than college degrees, while the earning potential of a college degree is higher. That may not be the case, though, when it comes to tech certificates, as the tech industry pays relatively high salaries, even for entry-level roles.

Many certificate programs also promise a smoother, more supported transition from training to work. Historically, colleges have not focused on helping graduates find jobs, and many college grads are underemployed. With career certificate programs like Google's, professional support is baked into the program.

Graduates of Google's certification programs gain access to resume workshops, career coaching, mock interviews, and a partnership network with employers who have committed to hiring Google graduates. Bank of America, Intel, Hulu, and Snap Inc. will all consider Google Career Certificate-holders for entry-level tech positions.

Explore More Online Certificate Programs

What Career Certificates Mean for Higher Education

Many small liberal arts colleges are folding due to added pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional degree programs in areas like English and history have been hemorrhaging students at universities nationwide since the 2008 financial crisis.

Now, in the midst of another economic downswing, prospective students are seeking clear career trajectories.

Career certificates can help individuals quickly learn the skills necessary to enter high-paying, high-growth fields. Many believe these job-training solutions may help accelerate economic recovery in a post-pandemic world.

Many believe career certificate programs may help accelerate economic recovery in a post-pandemic world.

Competition and collaboration between tech companies and colleges promise to reform higher education, but the outcome may not be as drastic as we think.

When massive open online courses (MOOCs) burst onto the scene in 2012, many imagined postsecondary education would change forever. Instead, MOOCs have largely complemented, rather than replaced, degree programs.

Similarly, career certificates from Google and other tech giants may end up serving as additional credentialing on top of bachelor's degrees.

Feature Image: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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