Google’s plan to disrupt higher education

Google now offers fast-track certification for project management, data analytics, and user experience (UX) design.


March 15, 2021

Need new job skills, but short on time and money?

Last week, Google announced the details of its professional certification program. Among the highlights, per Inc.:

  • 3 programs, including project management, data analytics, UX design
  • 100k+ needs-based scholarships on offer
  • 130+ corporate partners ready to hire graduates

The programs take up to 6 months to complete and cost ~$240… slightly less than the $38.3k average total tuition for a 4-year public college.

Google started testing the concept in 2018…

… when it rolled out an IT support certificate on the ed-tech platform Coursera (where these new certificates will also be hosted).

That program attracted workers from nontraditional backgrounds:

  • Many students had no degrees
  • 46% came from the lowest income bracket, which reports annual income <$30k

While Google wants to place as many people in the jobs pipeline as possible, the courses — unlike this author’s sociology minor degree — are not meant to be a “walk in the park.”

Each one will have 100+ “rigorous” assessments.

Feeding their own funnel

This announcement is more than just positive optics for a company on the cusp of an antitrust case: Google will purportedly look at the certifications as the equivalent of a 4-year degree in their own hiring process.

Other corporations — including Bayer, Deloitte, Verizon, SAP, Accenture, Intel, and Bank of America — will also consider the certificate in lieu of a traditional degree.

This news comes at the intersection of 2 big trends:

  1. The rise of alternatives to the traditional college experience, and
  2. Rising unemployment due to COVID-19

The opportunities could make a huge difference: median salaries for project managers ($93k) and UX designers ($75k) are far higher than the national median income of $36k across all jobs.

Crucially, Google’s moves tend to echo across tech — from their infamous interview questions to their OKR framework. If the certification program catches on, we may see other tech titans follow suit.

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