Business Development

Confused by continuing education terminology? We help you figure it out.

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Professionals today have a growing number of ways to gain new skills and demonstrate their knowledge.  Badges, certificates, and certifications abound. But how do you know which is right for you, or, if you are a manager, for your team?

The benefits of credentials are clear. For technology professionals, earning credentials of any kind can offer greater career mobility, faster promotion, improved customer service, and easier time solving technology challenges.1 But each learning path requires a different level of time and effort — and often the education assumes an existing skill level in a technology job role.

So, it is important to know what the choices are before you begin to upskill.

Here is a quick overview of the options.

What is a “badge?”

A “badge” is a digital emblem you can display to demonstrate an earned credential. It is a visual representation that says: “I have succeeded.”

Each badge is meant to differentiate a credential — setting it apart from others, so employers, peers and clients can quickly and easily see what you’ve achieved.

At IBM Learning these digital badges are available for three types of IT credentials: Skill Development Badges, Certificates, and Certifications.

IBM Skill Development Badges

IBM Skills Development Badges are credentials you can earn to show you have achieved a learning milestone, and to demonstrate a specific level of skill.

These credentials are progressive and stackable—when you complete one level of a competency or specialization, you can move on to the next. The levels begin at “Foundational” and progress through “Intermediate” to “Advanced” and often are reached while you are working through the curriculum for a Certificate or Certification.  The digital badge itself shows this progression: in the bottom-right corner, more vertical bars illuminate as you make your way from level to level.


Certificates are credentials you can earn (and display) when you complete a specific, structured program of study. Compared to a Skill Development Badge, a Certificate takes longer to complete and requires an exam to prove your understanding of the training. Often, as you work your way along the certificate learning path, you will have the opportunity to earn intermediate Skill Development Badges.


The most challenging IBM credentials to earn are certifications. At IBM Learning, we offer three types of certifications.

IBM Specialty Certification

Once you complete a highly structured curriculum in a specialized field or topic and successfully pass a third-party proctored assessment, you can earn an IBM Specialty Certification.

IBM Certifications

Earning an IBM Certification validates that you have acquired the expertise to perform a specific job to a defined standard. Each follows a longer-term learning path and typically includes practical experience. At IBM, Certifications progress through three levels of expertise, from Associate to Professional to Advanced.

IBM Certification Plus

This is an industry-recognized stacked credential recognizing multi- or co-certification status that is appropriate for the many job roles that require knowledge of more than one specific product or solution. They require that professionals understand related specializations. The IBM Certification Plus credential puts the two together, proving the learner understands the comprehensive solution.

Begin your path now to an accelerated career

Professionals who earn credentials of all types not only report greater confidence in their abilities, but they also experience greater demand for their skills and improved job prospects, pay, and the respect of their peers, employers, and business partners.

IBM Learning is your gateway to a world of skills that elevate productivity and drive results, offering diverse, flexible learning solutions tailored to your needs. Validate and showcase your new skills with a vast catalogue of IBM credentials, connect with other learners, or find community by participating in one of our many learning events. Let IBM be your guide on your learning journey.

Learn more about IBM Learning here.

1 IDC InfoBrief, Sponsored by ITCC, IDC’s North American Skills Survey, Doc. #US51860824, March 2024.

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