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CompTIA Has Boarded the Digital Badging Bandwagon

Leading tech industry association CompTIA decided, at the end of last year, that it does, in fact, need some badges. Now that CompTIA has hopped aboard the badging bandwagon, what lies ahead?

Digital badges can make a big difference in job searches.It's difficult to write about digital badging without referencing the immortal line "Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!" from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and/or having a BADGES BADGES BADGES chant inspired by one of the most, er, unforgettable internet memes of all time. And now that we’ve covered these two must-haves in our opening sentence, we can proceed uninterrupted with a look at digital badging, its current role in IT certification, and CompTIA's move into digital badging at the end of 2018.


What is Digital Badging?


A digital badge is an electronic image that serves the same purpose as a Boy Scout's merit badge patch, or a sheriff's metal badge. It identifies an individual who has attained a level of proficiency in a specified skill, as well as identifying the organization that issued the badge.


In order to differentiate it from a mundane jpeg, a digital badge typically has metadata embedded into it. This extra info uniquely identifies the person who earned the badge, the achievement the badge was awarded for, and the organization that manages the program that issued the badge.


This metadata makes digital badges more useful and authoritative than simple industry logos. Anyone can paste a vendor logo in their resume or on their LinkedIn page, but a digital badge is less prone to tampering or being flaunted without merit. This quality gives digital badges better value and legitimacy. For example, hiring managers can easily verify a digital badge online when appraising a job candidate.


Digital badges are also useful for displaying your credentials when networking with other IT industry professionals. A growing number of industry sites support the use of digital badges in your online profile.


CompTIA's Digital Badges Finally Appear


The late arrival of leading tech industry association CompTIA to the digital badging party raised some eyebrows in the industry, as many of the top IT training and certification programs have had digital badges in place for some time. Why did it take CompTIA so long to roll out digital badges for its certifications?


Part of the wait may have been due to CompTIA's use of an external vendor to power its digital badging system. CompTIA decided to partner with Credly, a New York-based company that specializes in digital credentials across multiple industries. In 2018, Credly acquired Pearson's Acclaim business, which owns an in-house digital badging platform. CompTIA is leveraging Acclaim's platform for its own digital badges.


Acclaim uses the Open Badge technology which was first developed by Mozilla and has been refined over much of this decade. Open Badge is — as its name suggests — an open standard which has been implemented by large numbers of companies and organizations around the world. It is currently a well-established standard, and it's unlikely that CompTIA's delay in rolling out digital badges was related to a technology issue.