Registration for Inspire 2024 is now open!

Register now

How to turn micro-certifications into a major revenue stream

• 5 min read

It wasn’t that long ago that a post-secondary degree was regarded as a golden ticket; the key that would unlock the door to endless career opportunities. (An argument made for generations by parents of high school students around the world—mine included.)

But we’re seeing a shift—especially in IT organizations.  

Skills > Degrees

In response to a tightening labor market and a shortage of skills, organizations are prioritizing skills over degrees. Many are even dropping formal degrees as a requirement altogether and are trying a new tactic: hiring based on skills and competencies, as opposed to academic qualifications.

Enter online education/non-degree programs (AKA alternative credentials, micro-credentials, micro-degrees, or micro-certifications).

Big names, like Google, Tesla, IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, and Accenture have all adopted this skills > degrees hiring strategy. A recent study found that only 26% of Accenture’s postings for software quality-assurance engineer positions had a degree requirement. Meanwhile, according to IBM’s CHRO, 50% of IBM’s U.S. job openings don’t require a four-year degree.

So, does this mean companies are hiring less qualified people? Nope. It just means their widening the potential talent pool. For example, let’s say you have a DevOps role to fill and your company uses AWS. Rather than screening for candidates with a 4-year IT degree (who might never have worked with AWS), you could screen for candidates with AWS certifications. Or, maybe you need to hire a Social Media Manager. Instead of recruiting candidates with potentially outdated marketing or communications degrees, you could attract those with platform-specific certifications (e.g. HubSpot). 

Benefits of certifications

It’s pretty easy to get the appeal of micro-certifications from the learner’s perspective. They can be completed in a shorter amount of time. They’re extremely convenient. (Think: self-paced online courses.) And they’re waaaaay more affordable than traditional degrees (even free, in some cases). 

It’s no wonder they’re so popular. But there are some pretty significant business benefits too! As this Person VUE report found, when employees attained new IT certifications organizations benefited in the following ways:

  • $10,000 added value per certified employee 
  • 72% increase in efficiency (certified employees produce more in less time)
  • 71% Increased productivity (certified employees produce more overall)

If that’s not enough, there’s something else in it for organizations. Opportunity. 

Get in on the action

Here’s a fun fact for you: The global Alternative Credentials market size was valued at USD 2.26 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 5.78 billion by 2027. 

Certifications present organizations with a big opportunity. Not only can you get more mileage out of your existing training content, but you can also establish yourself as an industry leader and strengthen your relationships with customers and partners, all while creating a qualified pool of future candidates. Oh… and you can create a whole new revenue stream.

Some organizations balk at the idea of charging for certifications. Here’s the thing: people tend to value something more if they have to pay for it. (For all you Simpsons fans out there, remember the episode where Homer’s in the Land of Chocolate and ditches the free chocolate when he spies the sale at Ye Olde Chocolate Shoppe? The phenomenon is real.)

That tangential tidbit aside, remember: there is value in what you’re offering. (See the section on major perks above.) Learning is an investment, and it’s not always the learner footing the bill. A lot of workplaces will often fund certifications as part of continuing education/ongoing professional development programs or as a way to fill a skills gap in their workforce. As long as you can communicate the benefits of the certification, individuals and organizations alike will be willing to pay. 

So, how can you position your certification programs to your customers, partners, and employees? Simple. Let them know what’s in it for them. (And it’s gotta be more than a digital badge they can share on LinkedIn.)

AudienceWhat’s in it for THEMWhat’s in it for YOU


  • Become indispensable to their organization

  • Establish themselves as an expert 
  • Appeal to other organizations who use the same products

  • Increase product adoption and success

  • More independent/less reliant on your support
  • Create product ambassadors


  • Improve reputation and credibility

  • Increase marketability and bring in more business
  • Empower them to sell better

  • Stronger, more productive partnerships

  • Identify which partners are most skilled 
  • Build loyalty
  • Ensure your partners represent your products and brand the way you want to be seen

Employees (current & future)

  • Professional development

  • Bolster their CV with new skills/gain marketable experience
  • Gain internal status as an expert/power user

  • Turn your employees into product experts/super users

  • Increase productivity and efficiency
  • Develop a pool of qualified future candidates

Certified to drive revenue

Depending on the goal of your certification program (e.g. to establish your brand as a leader, to strengthen customer and partner relationships, to drive revenue), you have some choices when it comes to pricing (e.g. free, pay-per-use, subscriptions, individual, team, etc.)

If your goal is to directly drive revenue, then obviously you’ll want to attach an enrollment fee to the program. But, if you’re less concerned about driving revenue and more concerned about growing your reputation, for example, then you might decide to waive the fee entirely. When it comes to pricing, it’s not an either/or thing. You can use a mix of models. So, you could provide a few fundamental courses for free while charging for premium courses or certification renewals. 

This is what Docebo’s customer Amazon did with their recently launched AWS Skill Builder, an online learning center with hundreds of cloud computing courses. Users have access to limited features at no cost with the option to upgrade to an individual or team subscription (on a monthly or annual basis) to gain access to more features (like practice certification exams) and more advanced courses. 

AWS Skill Builder uses a mix of pricing models 

This model is becoming increasingly common, especially with the Big Three cloud companies (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google). As this Tech Crunch article explains:

“…we are starting to see a push toward cloud companies charging their existing customers recurring fees for skilling up, which is what Amazon’s latest program is all about. With a monthly subscription, this may encourage users to place a greater value on the courses and ensure that they keep up with their learning—while simultaneously giving AWS a small revenue boost.”

Learning as a revenue-boosting strategy

There it is in black and white. Learning 👏 boosts 👏 revenue. (If that’s not enough to motivate you to create a certification program, I don’t know what is! 🤑) 

The Big Three have certainly figured out how to tap into the alternative credentials market. The good news is, this strategy can work for just about any organization. (Even yours!) So, if you’re looking for a new way to drive revenue, don’t overlook the potential of certification programs.