First they get a credential in a skill they need, then another and another. Each of these can quickly pay off on its own by helping to get a job, raise or promotion. And they can add up over time to a bachelor's degree. "Even if I chose not to finish, I would still have these pieces and I'd say, 'Look what I've done,' as opposed to, 'I have two years of college'" but nothing to show for it, said Nelson, who works as an information technology consultant and hopes to move into an administrative role. "I don't think it really dropped on me until I sat down to update my resume," she said. That's when Nelson realized that each of those certifications had already increased her value on the job market, she said.