National Center for Educational Statistics' Employment Status of Postsecondary Completers: Examination of Credential Level and Occupational Credentials

This Data Point uses data from the 2009 follow-up to the 2004 Beginning Post-secondary Students Longitudinal Study to examine the rates of employment among students who do and do not earn a post-secondary credential, and among those who earn a credential in an occupational versus academic field.

This report leverages data from the Beginning Post-secondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) to examine employment rates among students who earned a postsecondary credential to those who did not. It also compares students who earned a post-secondary credential in an occupational field to those who earned a credential in an academic field.

The report observed that a larger percentage of students who earned an occupational credential were employed versus those who earned an academic credential. Additionally, a higher proportion of students with an occupational credential reported working in a job related to their field. 




This report further demonstrates the need for the middle skill jobs which make up the largest part of our labor market. They are jobs which require some training but not a traditional bachelor's degree. But I am concerned about the potential lack of career mobility for these students. For example, my daughter is a traditional college student, pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing Degree. While she could attend a local community college and become a registered nurse, we spent a great deal of time investigating the best option for a long term career, and we were continually directed toward a BSN. The rationale was all about future earnings and long term mobility. My question then becomes which is the best option for an individiual's future? Is it a middle skill job which provides a sustainable life - or is it a higher degree which offers long term mobility? 

That's a great question, Kathy.  Thanks for sharing it.  In my experience working with learners, it comes down to setting both short and long-term goals.  For some adult learners, a middle skill job may be a long-term goal, and that is fine.  However, for other learners, a middle skill job may be a short-term goal.  In these cases, it is important to consider how mobile these middle skills will be in the long-term, and what opportunity they offer to learners who will seek additional, higher education. 

In these cases, I think it's important to look for programs that offer articulation agreements with higher education programs that lead to bachelor's degrees, or other advanced training and education.  An articulation agreement is a formal agreement between two or more higher education institutions, documenting the transfer policies for a specific academic program, or degree.  These are true examples of career pathways, because they provide opportunities for learners to have both short and long-term educational and employment goals.  They also provide learners a degree of assurance that they aren't closing any doors by focusing on the middle skills marketplace.

What do others think?  Do you see programs that have established articulation agreements as a pathway for middle skills jobs, leading to advanced education and more specialized skills that offer greater employment opportunities in the future?

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator