Badging & Certification

IBM Connected Credentials: Evolving the IBM Skills Recognition Framework

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IBM’s training and education programs are driving outcomes for our learners.  New learning paths with roadmaps highlighting skill credential options, updated content, and new digital learning options are fostering meaningful engagement, higher completion rates, and more IBM credentialed skills in the ecosystem.

These outcomes are significantly influenced by IBM’s comprehensive digital credentialing framework by extending the application of digital credentials across the entire learning lifecycle and not limiting them to only the highest stakes achievements. While high stakes credentials like formal certification achievement may – and should – be the ultimate goal, IBM recognizes the importance of providing learners with credentials reflecting and detailing achievement of important skill progression milestones and essential discrete level expertise acquired incrementally throughout the learning journey.

Providing learners with a more comprehensive, meaningful, and verifiable digital transcript associated with their commitment to professional development is a cornerstone of IBM’s credentialing strategy. This is why IBM is taking additional steps in 2020 to deliver even greater value and benefits to our stakeholders through a common credential language to connect learners to the skills and competencies most valued within the industry. IBM will accomplish this objective in three ways:

  • Implement a common language to make it easier to identify achievement types and levels
  • Make it easier to translate the merits and applicability of what each IBM credential represents
  • Establish transparent and easily recognizable credentialed learning paths

IBM Connected Credentials Design Language

IBM’s Connected Credentials framework is supported by a new design language serving as an enabler toward achieving these three objectives. Updated credential design language places significant emphasis on how IBM defines and visually represents classifications of credentials and the different types within a classification. Transition to the new design language will serve as the primary standard for how IBM recognizes incremental skill progression milestones, completion of comprehensive learning programs, and certification achievement. These three credential classifications are defined as follows:

In addition to the revised IBM digital credential classifications just described, IBM is also implementing a new visual design language at the emblem level to help differentiate and clarify credential types and definitions. The new credential type visuals and definitions are as follows:

IBM Skill Progression


Foundational activities are geared toward learners who are new to the subject matter and seeking to learn basic concepts and build foundational knowledge in support of efforts to gain a working knowledge of the topic. These credentials are typically issued to individuals with little or no prior knowledge and experience with the subject matter represented by the credential.




Intermediate level activities are geared toward learners who have acquired some degree of competence in the covered topic resulting from prior training, education and/or work experience. Intermediate level activities are for learners who seek to build upon foundational knowledge, refine and better hone their skills, and advance their understanding of the topic.




Advanced activities are tailored toward learners who have already achieved a higher degree of technical competence in the subject matter resulting from expanded training and supplemental work experience. Advanced level activities are for learners who wish to build upon intermediate knowledge and field experience toward the achievement of mastery in a specific technical area.



Thought Leader

Thought Leader credentials are earned by subject matter experts who are frequently consulted for their mastery level knowledge and skills. They are able to apply those skills in the most challenging situations and are highly effective at coaching and mentoring others in doing the same. A Thought Leader is an innovator and respected authority on the related subject matter. Thought Leader skill demonstration is typically validated by SME, Board review, evidence submissions, and verified experiential activities.



IBM Certificate

Validation of knowledge, skills and abilities achieved through the aggregation of multiple learning experiences structured as a prescriptive learning pathway supporting skill development within a more comprehensive area of study



  • Recognizes learning outcomes associated with a series of structured learning experiences
  • Multiple and varied assessment processes occurring throughout the learning program
  • Time to earn measured in weeks or months – sometimes longer
  • Can be established for programs targeting both newcomers and experienced professionals
  • Already utilized for several IBM initiatives (IBM academic programs, Coursera-hosted IBM learning, IBM Apprenticeship program, etc.)
  • Will be applied more broadly going forward for recognizing individuals who demonstrate proficiency for key IBM product specializations.

IBM Professional Certification

IBM Professional Certification provides validation of IBM technology-oriented knowledge, skills and abilities for essential job-roles through administration of proctored examination and/or performance-based testing. The certification assessment is independent of any specific educational event or related learning opportunities. Certification is also intended to measure or enhance continued competence through re-certification or renewal requirements. Re-certification may require mandatory continuing education hours, proctored re-assessment, non-proctored re-assessment or a combination thereof.

Three levels of potential achievement represent progressive levels of competency and experience, which includes Associate, Professional and Advanced respectively. What each level represents is uniquely defined for each certification offering based on subject matter complexity and related job role expectations.

IBM Professional Certification offerings are being aligned more tightly to industry standard job-roles and credentialed learning paths as a result of our revised credentialing strategy to help those seeking to become certified to have improved visibility into what is required on both an educational and experiential basis to prepare for the certification exam process.

What’s Next?

IBM is well underway with implementing the new IBM Connected Credentials design language and some may have already completed an activity that is aligned to this new framework. If so, congratulations on being among the first to receive one of the new IBM credentials!

It’s also important to address how these changes impact IBM digital credentials earned in the past that are not aligned to the updated credential designs. Although no plans are in place to apply the new design language retroactively, it’s important to know that prior achievements recognized through the IBM badging program remain as relevant and important as ever.

Continued implementation of the new IBM Connected Credentials framework will occur throughout the balance of 2020 as IBM continues transitioning many of our existing credential programs to align with the new framework. IBM will be following up with additional insights on the connected credentials framework as work matures around some other important enhancements.  Additional topics to be addressed in the near future will include:

  • Enhancements to IBM’s market-facing Professional Certification program and offerings
  • Specialization Certificate offerings
  • Integration of IBM credentials and learning pathways on the IBM Skills Gateway
  • Insights on how to get the most value from an IBM digital credential

In the meantime, keep learning…keep earning…and keep succeeding!

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