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Non-Degree Credentials Boost Employment and Life Outcomes

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American adults who have earned certificates or certifications, but lack a college degree, still report better employment and life outcomes than individuals with no credentials, according to a new report from Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation. Based on data from the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, a nationally representative poll of 50,000 U.S. adults ages 18 to 65, the report found that non-degree credentials result in greater marketability, employment rates, incomes and happiness with one's educational path.

"As the country redesigns policy and works to improve and expand postsecondary education and training, it is critical that we talk to education consumers about their experiences and the value they get from different types of education," said Carol D'Amico, executive vice president of mission advancement and philanthropy at Strada Education Network, in a statement. "Through this new research, we're seeing that not only do short-term credentials and certificates deliver an immediate impact for adults looking to upskill, but they also have the potential to foster the sort of wage increases needed to sustain a family and power true social and economic mobility."

Among the report's findings:

  • Adults without a degree who hold a certificate or certification have an 85 percent full-time employment rate, compared to 78 percent for their peers with no credentials;
  • The self-reported median annual income for people with non-degree credentials is $45,000, compared to $30,000 for those without credentials. However, these wage premiums vary based on occupation and gender; and
  • People with non-degree credentials "perceive their education paths as more valuable and are more likely to recommend them to others than are those without credentials."

"This new report shows that degreed higher education isn't the only viable path into a good career," asserted Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. "Oftentimes short-term certificates and industry-based certifications get the job done quicker, better and cheaper."  

"The data in this report highlight the quality, value and role that certificates and certifications play in the labor force," commented Courtney Brown, vice president of strategic impact at Lumina Foundation. "More important, these credentials can change lives, raise incomes and brighten futures of millions of Americans — aiding the nation's quest to increase opportunity and talent development."

Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation plan to produce a series of reports "designed to better understand the educational experiences of adults without college degrees," the organizations said in a news announcement. "Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications?" is the first report in that series; it is available on the Strada site (registration required).

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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