The online dictionary freeonlinedictionary defines a credential as a letter or certificate giving evidence of the bearer's identity or competence. I am going to make up an example with it.

(ex) John has been unemployed for four months. Ten months ago, he earned a Bachelor's degree by completing an accounting program. Half a year later, he finished a computer program and received an advanced technology certificates. However, his two recent credentials don't help them find a new job easily.

Am I using the word credentials correctly? Please give me your feedback. Thanks.

  • I take more issue with "recent credentials" than the use of "credentials". It sounds wrong. I would say "recently earned credentials", as it doesn't feel correct to frame someone's qualifications in time.
    – mstorkson
    Jan 25, 2017 at 21:40
  • These two recent credentials are not helping him find a new job easily. Credentials is fine in AmE.
    – Lambie
    Jan 26, 2017 at 0:30

1 Answer 1


Aside from using the wrong pronoun "them" for "John", it's perfectly fine.

However I don't know if a college degree is usually referred to as a "credential". See for example this page from San Francisco State University Department of Education that lists "credentials" as more like specializations within a field that indicate some limited and/or additional proficiency. You can obtain a credential and then go on to pursue a degree, or get a degree and then obtain one or more credentials in that field. It seems to vary from place to place and program to program.

It's not clear from your example whether you use "credential" to refer to John's initial college degree, or his additional certificates. If you plan to group them all together then "credential" is not quite right.

  • 1
    Credentials is maybe not the most common word, but neither is it uncommon. For example, take the episode of the Simpson's, "Fear of Flying". Homer demands to "see some credentials" from the therapist, who responds by gesturing to the wall of diplomas behind her. And if we look at the dictionary definition: "a qualification, achievement, personal quality, or aspect of a person's background, typically when used to indicate that they are suitable for something." A diploma certainly qualifies
    – mstorkson
    Jan 25, 2017 at 21:38
  • 1
    @mstorkson Makes sense. It probably varies with context -- someone who has done significant work to obtain an exclusive "credential" might object to it being lumped with a simple "degree", for example. I'm probably just splitting hairs, though.
    – Andrew
    Jan 25, 2017 at 21:41
  • 1
    Not all credentials are degrees but all degrees are credentials. For example, gaining security clearance is a "credential" but not an academic degree. However I can't think of a case in which someone would be offended at their degree being called a credential even in the case of JD, MD, PhD.
    – mstorkson
    Jan 25, 2017 at 21:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .