Main image of article Best Micro-Credentials to Boost Your Tech Career

If you have arrived at a point in your career where you need to acquire new or additional skills to keep moving forward, earning some micro-credentials is potentially a great way to increase your expertise and marketability without investing a lot of time and money.

What is a micro-credential? It’s a short-form course that allows students to learn specialized skills and knowledge in a brief period of time. Offered by universities, associations, technology vendors and major tech companies mostly through online learning platforms, micro-credentials provide a pathway to adjacent job opportunities or promotions. Plus, they are designed to be stackable, meaning you can combine several micro-credentials into a broader, cohesive set of qualifications for a new role or specialty.

Best of all, 72 percent of employers say they are more likely to hire a candidate who has earned a micro-credential, according to a survey by Coursera.

However, with over 2,500 micro-credentials to choose from, finding courses that will best meet your needs can be challenging. Here’s a look at some key things to consider when selecting a micro-credential and some of the best courses for boosting your tech career and salary.

Defining the Selection Criteria

Figuring out what skills you need to achieve your goal, and whether they need to be verified or recognized by industry or professional associations, is the first step in selecting a micro-credentialing program or course.

For instance, if you need “skill currency” to take the next step in your career, look for a course taught by instructors from Google, IBM, Microsoft, Meta or other large tech companies, advised Marni Baker Stein, chief content officer for Coursera. If you need more formal education to advance, look for courses that also provide credit toward a degree in computer science, or professional certifications from CompTIA or Google.

The best micro-credentials and micro-certifications clearly define ROI for stakeholders, explained Robert Bajor, expert and founder of the Micro-credential Multiverse.

To ensure ROI, select micro-credentials with clearly written statements about learning objectives, outcomes, applied skills and demonstrated competencies. Then, make sure those statements are supported by labor market data.

On the other hand, if you’re simply looking to add complementary skills to your well-stocked toolbox or want to learn things that seem interesting, having your skills assessed and certified at the end of a course or earning college credit may not be essential.

Top Data Analytics and Big Data Micro-Credentials

As with previous years, mastering data-related skills translated into sizable paychecks, according to data collected for the 2023 edition of the Dice Tech Salary Report. These micro-credentialing programs can help you get started:

Top Cybersecurity Micro-Credentials

Cybersecurity architects and engineers have experienced 7.7 percent salary growth since 2021. However, even if you don’t want to specialize, understanding cybersecurity fundamentals and how to apply them can help you perform at a higher level and ascend into management:

Top Cloud Micro-Credentials

Tech professionals who can help organizations craft cloud infrastructure, as well as migrate and manage data storage and applications in the cloud, are worth their weight in gold. Programming languages such as Golang dominate the micro-credential scene, along with cloud and virtualization skills such as PAAS, Amazon Route 53 and Kubernetes:

Top Product Management Micro-Credentials

Professional product managers are a hot commodity, and that demand is reflected in the salary, which grew the most of any role (15.6 percent) from 2021 to 2022. Best of all, you can transition into product management from almost any position once you master a handful of hard skills and fundamentals:

Top Soft Skills Micro-Credentials

Technology professionals who advance into management (or other high-paying engineering or architecture roles) usually have superior “soft skills” such as communication, leadership and teamwork abilities. Even better, “soft skills” generally have a longer "shelf life" than technical skills:

In summary, short term mini-courses leading to micro-credentials provide tech workers with flexible access to the “currency” for success in a skills-based economy. During the job-hunting process, possessing micro-credentials can also help you stand out in a crowded field of applicants.