Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees

In America, the postsecondary certificate has become a cost-effective tool for increasing postsecondary educational attainment and gainful employment. Certificates are a homegrown American invention and are expanding rapidly in response to a wide range of educational and labor market demands.  

Certificates vary widely in their benefits, but have the capacity to raise the country’s global educational standing by both encouraging further education and degree completion as well as by providing gainful employment. Two out of every three workers who have a certificate and a college degree earned the certificate first, an indication that certificates can serve as a stepping stone on the way to a college degree. 

Even if only certificates with demonstrated value were included among America’s postsecondary credentials, the United States would move from 15th to 10th in postsecondary completions among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries for those 25- to 34-years-old. Despite the growing importance of certificates — one million are awarded each year — only one of the major government socioeconomic surveys has information on certificate holding. Consequently, there are very few studies or reports focused on this education/training option. 

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