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7 Examples of Credentialism

Credentialism is reliance or overreliance on academic or other formal qualifications. The following are illustrative examples.

Social Status

In many cases, education is motivated by a desire for social status. For example, a professional who seeks a part-time MBA from a prestigious university who is not motivated by a desire to learn but rather by the desire to be associated with high status institutions.

Interchangeable Parts

Interchangeable parts is the standardization of parts for machines. This may seem obvious now but was one of the innovations that sparked the industrial revolution. Industrial firms viewed labor much the same way and public K-12 education has long been designed to create standard laborers for this system. Credentialism is the knowledge economy's version of labor standardization whereby degrees are a baseline requirement and many professions have additional certifications that indicate a worker will fit as a standard part in an organizational machine.


Mediocrity is an uninspiring state where an individual seeks only comfort, convenience and safety. By definition, the mediocre aren't passionate about their jobs but highly value job security. This makes credentialism attractive as a means to improve job security using the safe and familiar process of education or training.

Low Value Degrees

Credentialism leads to the general idea that an individual must obtain a degree or multiple degrees to get anywhere in life. In many cases, the value of a degree in the job market or in improving life outcomes is far less than expectations. Prospective students may be offered little data to show the value of degrees or perhaps are sold degrees with inflated promises of results.

Credential Inflation

Credential inflation is an increase in average credentials across a society, industry or profession. For example, a large increase in the number of people who hold an MBA. This will tend to increase the minimum requirements for positions. This can become a positive feedback loop whereby more credentials cause higher requirements leading to more credentials.

Grade Inflation

Grade inflation is when it becomes easier to obtain credentials. This can occur when an education system becomes a profit-oriented machine designed to satisfy demand for credentials as opposed to upholding educational standards and values.


Overqualification is the state of having far more credentials than are required for a role that you desire. This can hurt your chances for a role. For example, an IT manager who doesn't have an MBA may be hesitant to hire a software developer who does as they may fear they will compete for the manager's role.
Overview: Credentialism
Reliance or overreliance on academic or other formal qualifications.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about credentialism.
Cultural Capital
Education Issues
Human Capital
Interchangeable Parts
Internal Competition
Knowledge Capital
Knowledge Economy
Level Of Education
Personal Brand
Social Status
Student Data
Workplace Culture
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