1. (noun) The insistence and overemphasis on academic or educational qualifications (e.g., certificates, degrees, and diplomas) as evidence of an individual’s qualification in hiring people for a job and for promotion.
- An individual with a PhD is more intelligent or smarter than someone without a PhD.
- Not being able to apply for a job without a certain certificate even if you have the ability to complete the job.
Audio Pronunciation: (cre·den·tial·ism)
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- Credentialism and credential inflation are used interchangeably by some social commentators and theorists, but separated here for clarity; for more information, see Bills and Rosenbaum 2007.
- The conceptual underpinning of credentialism arose through the critique of professionalism and the deschooling movement in the 1960–70s. Social theorists and critics contended formal education and hidden curriculums served to restrict access to opportunities and resources. The anticipatory socialization of formal education and credentialing provided a “rite of passage” that increased social capital and cultural capital within privileged groups but limit the social mobility of others.
- The critique of credentials is they serve as a gatekeeper for entry into a profession, but are not always indicators of the ability to perform complicated tasks or evidence of advanced knowledge. The credentials show the ability to obtain the credentials themselves, not always what they are supposed to represent.
- Credentialism leads to credential inflation and occurs in credential societies, a term coined by Randall Collins (born 1941) in The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification (1979).
- An achievement-based stratified society or system allocates status based on achievements that are often evidenced by credentials and access to achieve these credential limits mobility.
- Word origin of “credential” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Becker, Gary Stanley. 1964. Human Capital. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Berg, Ivar. 1971. Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery. Boston: Beacon.
- Bills, David B. 2003. ‘‘Credentials, Signals, and Screens: Explaining the Relationship between Schooling and Job Assignment.’’ Review of Educational Research 73(4):441–49. doi:10.3102/00346543073004441.
- Bills, David B., and James E. Rosenbaum. 2007. “schooling and economic success.” Pp. 4037–40 in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by G. Ritzer. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
- Brown, David K. 1995. Degrees of Control: A Sociology of Educational Expansion and Occupational Credentialism. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Brown, David K. 2001. ‘‘The Social Sources of Educational Credentialism: Status Cultures, Labor Markets, and Organizations.’’ Sociology of Education 74(Extra Issue):19–34. doi:10.2307/2673251.
- Bourdieu, Pierre, Jean-Claude Passeron, Richard Nice, and Tom Bottomore. 2014. Reproduction In Education, Society and Culture. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: SAGE.
- Collins, Randall. 1979. The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York: Academic Press.
- Derber, Charles, William A. Schwartz, and Yale Magrass. 1990. Power in the Highest Degree: Professionals and the Rise of a New Mandarin Order. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Dore, Ronald Philip. 1976. The Diploma Disease: Education, Qualification, and Development. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
- Groot, Wim, and Henriëtte Maassen van den Brink. 2000. “Over-education in the Labor Market: A Meta-Analysis.” Economics of Education Review 19(2):149–58. doi:10.1016/S0272-7757(99)00057-6.
- Halaby, C. N. 1994. “Overeducation and Skill Mismatch.” Sociology of Education 67(1):47–59. doi:10.2307/2112749.
- Illich, Ivan. 1971. Deschooling Society. New York: Harper and Row.
- Mincer, J. 1989. “Human Capital and the Labor Market: A Review of Current Research.” Educational Researcher 18(4):27–34. doi:10.3102/0013189×018004027.
- Park, Jin Heum. 1999. “Estimation of Sheepskin Effects Using the Old and the New Measures of Educational Attainment in the Current Population Survey.” Economics Letters 62(2):237–40. doi:10.1016/s0165-1765(98)00226-2.
- Perl, Paul, and Patricia M. Y. Chang. 2000. “Credentialism across Creeds: Clergy Education and Stratiﬁcation in Protestant Denominations.” Journal for the Scientiﬁc Study of Religion 39(2):171–88. doi:10.1111/0021-8294.00014.
- Rosenbaum, James E. 2001. Beyond College For All: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
- Wilke, Arthur S. 1979. The Hidden Professoriate: Credentialism, Professionalism, and the Tenure Crisis. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
- cultural capital
- grade inflation
- social placement
- status quo
Bills, David B., and James E. Rosenbaum. 2007. “schooling and economic success.” Pp. 4037–40 in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by G. Ritzer. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.
Collins, Randall. 1979. The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York: Academic Press.
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Kendall, Diane. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
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Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Smith, Murray. 2008. “credentialism.” Pp. 166–67 in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2nd ed., edited by W. Darity. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.
Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.
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Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
How to Cite the Definition of Credentialism
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “credentialism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved February 18, 2019 (http://sociologydictionary.org/credentialism/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
credentialism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from http://sociologydictionary.org/credentialism/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “credentialism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed February 18, 2019. http://sociologydictionary.org/credentialism/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“credentialism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2019. <http://sociologydictionary.org/credentialism/>.