Industry-Recognized Credentials Guide

Connecting students to opportunities to earn industry-recognized credentials puts them on a path to success after high school. Students who earn industry-recognized credentials are poised to directly enter the workplace or go on to two-year or four-year colleges. Industry-recognized credentials are an innovative approach to truly recognize and account for a student’s hard work in becoming career ready. Possessing an industry-recognized credential not only helps a student prove competency and capability in a given field, but also demonstrates to the community and employers that the student is knowledgeable, properly trained and equipped to carry out his or her duties. For many students, earning an industry-recognized credential can be an important step toward qualifying for high school graduation.

The following information is provided as a reference to define the term industry-recognized credential, provide eligibility requirements for adding new industry-recognized credentials to the Ohio Department of Education’s list and specify school guidelines for reporting qualifying industry-recognized credentials.

Defining Industry-Recognized Credential

The U.S. Department of Labor defines credential as a verification of an individual’s qualification or competence issued by a third party with the relevant authority to issue such credentials. Such authorities include business, trade association or other industry group assessments that measure technical competency and validate knowledge and skills in a specific industry. It also includes licenses, or legal permission to engage in particular types of work, typically issued by a government agency.

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, the term industry-recognized credential means a credential that is sought or accepted by multiple employers within the industry or sector involved. The credential is accepted, preferred or required for screening, hiring, retention or advancement purposes and may include credentials from vendors of certain products. Where appropriate, an industry-recognized credential is endorsed by a nationally recognized trade association or organization representing a significant part of the industry or sector.

Types of Industry-Recognized Credentials

Education- and work-related credentials are important milestones for many career pathways. Businesses in virtually every industry are struggling to find qualified workers who have the academic, technical and professional skills to consistently excel and succeed in the workplace. Industry-recognized credentials are valuable to employers because they help them determine the skill or education level of job applicants without having to perform an assessment.

There are many different types of industry-recognized credentials offered or awarded by various types of organizations. The Department’s approved list of industry-recognized credentials encompasses the following types of credentials:

  • Occupational Licenses are typically awarded by state government agencies and often are required for a specific position.
  • Certifications indicate mastery of or competency in specific knowledge, skills or processes that can be measured against a set of accepted industry standards. These are not tied to a specific education program but are typically awarded through assessment and validation of skills in cooperation with a business, trade association or other industry group. After attaining a certification, individuals often must meet ongoing requirements to maintain the certification.
  • Certificates are earned by individuals who successfully complete a training, course or series of courses. Skill certificates are issued for specific skill sets or competencies within one or more industries or occupations and may be credentials that are:
    • Desirable but are not required.
    • Part of the hiring criteria but are not associated with any critical job tasks.
    • Certificates of attendance or participation for training.

The value of the industry-recognized credential is based on employer demand and/or state regulations provided in statute.

Eligibility for the Approved List of Industry-Recognized Credentials

To be successful in earning an industry-recognized credential, students often develop a set of skills through independent learning, classroom instruction or hands-on experiences. Credentials serve as verification that a student has achieved a baseline level of competency in his or her chosen subject area. Students benefit from learning job-specific skills that can be used to verify mastery and educational attainment.

The following are minimum criteria for a credential to be eligible for addition to the Department’s list of industry-recognized credentials. These criteria alone do not guarantee that a credential will be added. To be considered for the Department’s list, credentials must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The credential must be recognized by multiple Ohio employers within the industry sector and used by employers when considering an applicant’s qualifications to perform job duties for an open position.
  • The credential must be connected to a job on Ohio’s Top Jobs List. Under the direction of Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted, the State of Ohio prioritizes both Ohio's economy and the health and well-being of Ohioans through Ohio's Top Jobs List. Ohio's Top Jobs List includes both In-Demand Jobs and Critical Jobs.
  • The credential must be issued by a third party with appropriate authority to issue such a credential. The third party may partner with an industry/occupational certifying organization, training provider or organization that has received accreditation from an accrediting agency.

The Department, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, conducts an application and review process for credentials submitted to be included on the Department’s list. Community stakeholders, including schools, parents, students and businesses may submit credentials for consideration by completing an application.

School Reporting for Multiple-Vendor Industry-Recognized Credentials

For students and schools to receive benefits and recognition from the Department, schools must report qualifying industry-recognized credentials earned by students to the Education Management Information System. The Education Management Information System is a statewide data collection system for Ohio's primary and secondary education community that gathers student data including demographic information, attendance, course information, financial information and test results.

Certain industry-recognized credentials on the Department’s list of approved credentials are available from multiple vendors. For these credentials, an educating entity (for example, a school or district) may select any reputable vendor to award the credential. If the approved industry credential is provided by multiple vendors, the credential may be reported if it meets all of the following criteria:

  • A credential must be issued by a third party with authoritative power.
    • If a “train-the-trainer” instruction model is used, instructors must receive certified (proof-of-training required) train-the-trainer instruction and be given authority by a third party to issue credentials on behalf of that third party. Proof-of-instruction and third-party authority must be on file with the school.
    • A secondary education institution cannot issue an industry-recognized credential without third-party validation.
  • The certification process must include an assessment, written and/or demonstration of skill attainment, that provides evidence of a student’s qualification or competence in the given subject.
  • The credential program and assessment are administered in accordance with the certifying third-party policy and procedures.
If there are concerns or questions about whether a chosen vendor is eligible to deliver or administer a specific credential, please reach out to the industry credential review team via email at

Last Modified: 3/26/2024 7:16:49 PM