They’ve been billed “the new way to learn” and “an alternative path to job success.”

Micro-credentials – also known as digital badges, nano degrees and micro-certifications – are becoming increasingly popular in education as a way to boost your resume, acquire new skills or ladder into a master’s degree.

Whatever you call them, the University of Lethbridge is taking the trend seriously, offering graduate-level certificates that provide the foundation students need to succeed in a competitive job market.

“There’s not one definition of micro-credentials,” says Dr. Carla Carnaghan, director of the Dhillon School of Business Graduate Programs.

“It ranges from workshops and courses all the way up to what the University of Lethbridge offers, which is a recognized credential that falls within the provincial government’s provincial framework as a graduate certificate,” she says.

“There’s so much confusion in the market about just what a micro-credential is. For us, it’s worth emphasizing that it is indeed part of the School of Graduate Studies. This is not a continuing education program or a diploma. You do get a parchment at the end of it, not just a digital badge of completion.”

The University of Lethbridge offers four graduate certificates: Health Services Management, Advanced Clinical Study of Addiction, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Public Health Program and Policy Planning and Evaluation.

Carnaghan says graduate certificates differ from master’s programs in that they’re completed a little more quickly and have less of a course load – 15 credit hours over 20 months part time versus 36 credit hours over 24 months part time for the Master of Health Service Management (MHSM).

“The graduate certificate is a lighter course load every month, so if you’re a busy professional and would love to upgrade your education, even two courses a term might be a little too much for you, especially if you have a young family or parents to look after.”

Try Before You Buy

In addition to the flexibility the certificate offers, Carnaghan says it also provides an excellent testing ground for students unable or unwilling to commit to a more demanding master’s program.

“It’s almost like a try before you buy.”

That’s because you can put credits earned from the graduate certificate toward a master’s degree, or even apply to transfer part-way through if you decide to want to pursue the master’s program instead.

“The graduate certificate of Health Services Management ladders to the MHSM. You successfully complete the additional course work and you come out with a masters,” says Carnaghan, adding that credits earned during the certificate need to be applied within a few years of completion in order to ladder to the master’s program.

To qualify for the Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management, prospective students require a bachelor’s degree, a minimum 3.0 grade point average, and some work experience. Alternatively, those who have completed the Bachelor of Management/Bachelor of Health Sciences combined degree and achieved a minimum 3.0 grade point average will also be eligible for admission.

If you’re interested in levelling-up your education, check out the University of Lethbridge’s Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management as a stand-alone program or a step in the right direction toward a MHSM.

The Master of Health Services Management (MHSM) is a cohort-based, part-time program that is offered at the University of Lethbridge’s Calgary campus. It is jointly offered by the Dhillon School of Business and the Faculty of Health Sciences.