Industry-Recognized Credentials (IRCs) are important milestones for many individual career pathways. Both at the secondary and postsecondary levels, students should have the opportunity to earn education- and work-related credentials that verify skill mastery, educational attainment and the ability to perform a task or operation. Credentials are also valuable to employers, allowing them to determine the skill or education level of job applicants without having to perform an assessment for each one.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2010), an education- and work-related credential can be defined as a verification of an individual’s qualification or competence issued by a third party with the relevant authority to issue such credentials. Credentials include educational certificates, degrees, certifications and government-issued licenses.

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An IRC is a certification that has been widely acknowledged as holding value within a specific industry or field. Recipients of such credentials have demonstrated that they possess the knowledge, skills and competencies required to perform specific tasks or roles within that industry. IRCs are awarded by certifying bodies, trade associations or professional organizations that have established standards for proficiency and knowledge within that domain. Designed as a validation of an individual’s expertise, IRCs serve as a trusted benchmark for employers and stakeholders.

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) defines education- and work-related credentials as follows:

Awarded by...Education InstitutionBusiness, trade associations, industryEducation InstitutionGovernment Agency
Results from...Course of StudyAssessmentCourse of StudyMeeting Requirements
Indicates...EducationSkill MasteryEducationLegal Permission
Completed in...<2 YearsVariable2+ YearsVariable
Maintained by...N/ASkill practice, re-assessmentN/ARe-application, continuing education
Example...ServSafe Food Handler, Green Manufacturing Specialist, Certificate in Business AdministrationCertified Welder (CW), Certified Logistics Technician (CLT), Certified International Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)Bachelor of Science, Master of Sciende, Doctor of EngineeringRegistered Nurse (RN), Cosmetologist, Master Plumber
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By earning an IRC, individuals enhance their employability and professional credibility as well as their career advancement prospects. IRCs are developed in close collaboration with industry experts to ensure outcomes align with current and future job market needs. In offering IRCs, districts effectively equip students with specific in-demand knowledge and skills employers are seeking. Alignment of IRCs to district Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways allows students to explore diverse career paths while gaining exposure to different industries and real-world skills and experiences that may help shape their career trajectories. IRCs can also foster stronger partnerships between districts and local businesses, community organizations, and post-secondary education organizations. These partnerships may help develop or strengthen increased collaboration in areas such as work-based learning opportunities for students.

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Approved Industry Recognized Credentials List

The Approved IRCs List is designed to provide districts a starting point to identify relevant high-quality IRCs in alignment with each CTE service area. New certification can be added through the formal application process and certifications no longer of value can be removed.

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CTE Alignment

IRCs help define structured program pathways for students and families. Many IRCs are stackable, meaning they can be accumulated and built upon over time. Students earning entry-level credentials may pursue additional related credentials as they progress through programs. In addition, certain IRCs have established pathways for college credit or articulation agreements with higher education institutions.

There are a number of credentials available that align with Iowa’s six CTE service areas. The Approved IRCs List provides teachers and administrators with suggested credentials most beneficial for Iowa students enrolled in CTE programs transitioning to postsecondary education/training or entering the workforce directly from high school.

Perkins funds can be used to pay for the cost of student assessments that lead to a credential or certificate.

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IRC Request Form

Districts, individuals or organizations seeking to add an industry-recognized credential may submit a request using the linked form below. Credentials not demonstrated to be industry-recognized , current, valuable and supported by Iowa industry will not be considered. Credentials should meet all high-quality characteristics as outlined above and have the support of at least five Iowa businesses. While a credential does not guarantee employment, this list will provide support of high-quality credentials that can assist Iowans seeking employment with providing evidence of knowledge and skills relevant to the industry.

Iowa Industry-Recognized Credentials Request Form

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Credentials to Careers Grant Opportunity

Credentials to Careers Grant - Helps schools pay for costs related to creating or expanding CTE service area programs resulting in students earning an approved IRC.

Questions about the grant can be directed to Dennis Harden at


  • Cedar Rapids Community School District
  • Council Bluffs Community School District
  • Fort Madison Community School District
  • Gilbert Community School District
  • Hamburg Community School District
  • Harlan Community School District
  • Indianola Community School District
  • Iowa Valley Community School District
  • Johnston Community School District
  • Mason City Community School District
  • New London Community School District
  • Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community School District
  • Sioux City Community School District
  • South Hamilton Community School District
  • Spencer Community School District
  • Stanton Community School District
  • Treynor Community School District
  • Waukee Community School District
  • Waverly-Shell Rock Community School District
  • Woodbine Community School District
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Credentials to Child Care Careers (C4) Grant Opportunity

Round Two - Credentials for Child Care Careers Grant - Supports districts in providing students with a Child Development Associate Credential (CDA) through local Family and Consumer Science (FCS) programming, while building the child care workforce through community partnerships with licensed child care centers.

Application deadline: Monday, May 6, 2024

Credentials for Child Care Careers Grant Opportunity Webinar - Recorded 3-4-24. Credentials for Child Care Careers Grant Opportunity Webinar PowerPoint

Credentials for Child Care Careers FAQ Sheet

Questions about the grant can be directed to Amy Stegeman at

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