Strada Education and Lumina Foundation Report - Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications?

A new report from Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation analyzes data from the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey to provide a first-ever look at the impact of non-degree credentials on the lives of a nationally-representative group of education consumers.

The report, Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications?, is the first in a series that will be produced in partnership between Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation designed to better understand the educational experiences of adults without college degrees.  The study finds that adults with a certificate or certification, but no college degree, report greater marketability, employment rates, incomes, and happiness with their educational paths than adults without credentials

Additionally, certificate holders without a post-secondary degree:

  • Have higher full-time employment rates than their peers with no credential (85 percent versus 78 percent).

  • Have a median annual income of $45,000, versus $30,000 for those without a credential.  Wage premiums depend on occupation. For some occupations, the income premium from a certificate or certification is as high as $25,000 per year, while for other occupations there is little to no advantage in having earned a certificate, or certification.

Taken together, these findings indicate that certificates and certifications can serve as a beneficial stand-alone credential. However, there are important variations by occupation and gender.    I encourage career pathways stakeholders to have a closer at the full report. 

Will these results impact the type of certificate(s) your program offers, and/or how you prepare learners in making decisions about which certifications to pursue?


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator



The Overlooked Value Of Certificates And Associate's Degrees: What Students Need to Know Before They Go to College

This report examines the labor-market value of associate’s degrees and certificate programs, finding that learners' choice of a field of study influences future earnings.  

While there are several policy papers on this topic, this report is a great visual resource for using with learners to make more informed choices.  The charts and graphs explain how field of study affects future earnings.  The graphics show that nearly 94% of certificates and 57% of associate’s degrees awarded are in career-oriented fields.  You can see the breakdown by median earnings of many career fields, for both certificates and associate's degrees.  

How could you use this type of information to help learners navigating career guidance and decision-making? 

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator 


Mike, thanks for lifting up this report from the Center on Education and the Workforce -- I agree that it is a useful visual resource for both adult education practitioners and adult learners.

What I wonder about is the disconnect between what employers need, or say they need, and what they actually do when it comes to making hiring decisions. In commenting on the recent Strada/Lumina Foundation report Bridge Builders: How Intermediaries Can Connect Education and Work in a Postpandemic World, Jay Mathews says,

" 'While shorter-term credentials such as certificates and certifications can be faster and more sharply focused ways to meet workforce needs, more than half of employers say they won’t consider candidates for middle-skill jobs without bachelor’s degrees, even for jobs that haven’t traditionally required one,' the report said. ... There are 35 million American high school graduates who lack four-year college degrees but have skills that match what employers already need, the study reported. Companies find it difficult to define the specific qualifications they want, so they require four-year degrees for everyone, figuring that will cover it. Many workers have no chance to get jobs they can do because employers think it is easier to demand formal educational credentials rather than look carefully at each applicant’s experience and skills." [Educators failing to teach what students need for good jobs, 26 Dec 2020]

So the bridge building needs to happen in two directions: from adult learners to employment options, and from employers to qualified candidates. The CEW report provides an important perspective on how that can happen.