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Adults without degrees can benefit from certificates

June 13, 2019

While higher education remains a viable path to economic advancement, adults without a postsecondary degree are increasingly benefitting from non-degree certificates and certifications, according to a recent report. As automation and technological advances demand more skills from workers in the changing economy, Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation partnered to determine the value and impact of the growing number of non-degree credentials. They found that certificates and certifications can stand as a beneficial stand-alone credential, leading to higher full-time employment rates and annual incomes, although the findings vary among occupations and there are gender gaps across all occupations.

The report, Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications, is based on data from the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, using a subset of nearly 50,000 individuals aged 25-64 in the labor force who do not have postsecondary degrees and are not currently enrolled in college. It found that those who hold a certificate or certification are more likely to perceive themselves as marketable, lending credence to the multi-faceted value of the certificate, which is also reflected in the full time employment rates (85 percent versus 78 percent with no certificate) and higher incomes (an average of $15,000 over those holding no certificate or certification).

The report found that the income premium was considerably larger for men than for women, with the gaps most pronounced at the top of the income distribution, where men with certifications earn $25,000 more than those without, compared to women where that premium is $10,500.

Nonprofit work-force efforts are also trying to increase the employability and skills of those without a degree and boost the path to the middle class through training and internships. A story last month in the New York Times found that while some bright spots exist in these efforts, tech-centered initiatives remain somewhat limited and not at the scale that manufacturing jobs once held for the middle class. However, many states and manufacturers are trying to boost the number of workers who can fill thousands of open positions. For instance, Connecticut recently passed legislation that will increase coding and computer science curriculum in public schools as well as asking the state Department of Economic and Community Development to perform an analysis of the workforce needs in the state, and work with the other relevant agencies to develop a plan that would prepare the workforce.

Connecticuthigher ed, certificates, workforce