Certificates: the New Associate’s Degree?

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has published a new report:  Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees. I’m a big fan of a previous report from these authors, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018 and wrote about it here.

This new report gives a clear look under the hood of one of the staples of our post-secondary education infrastructure: the certificate.

Take a look. It’s not a hard read.

Uniquely American, certificates are widely varied in their positive impacts and largely ignored by private, public and government socioeconomic surveyors. The study’s authors contend that if certificates “with a demonstrated labor market value” were counted in official post-secondary surveys as “credentials” they would improve the U.S.’s post-secondary completion position from 15th to 10th among industrialized nations (OECD countries).

And 1 million certificates were awarded in 2010 – up from 300,000 in 1994.

Interesting data from the report include:

  • Certificates are the fastest growing form of post-secondary credentials in the U.S. increasing from 6% in 1980 to 22% today
  • 20% of certificate holders go on to get two-year degrees
  • 13% of certificate holders go on to complete four-year degrees
  • Workers with certificates earn an average 20% more than workers with just high school degrees

As talent management and HR professionals continue to struggle to find “qualified” workers to fill their openings, perhaps a new look at the experience and credentials they require might open a large segment of fully qualified workers – those with certificates instead of college degrees.

Something to think about.



Filed under Career Planning, Certificates, China Gorman, Demographics, Education Deficit, Employment Data, Post-secondary education, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, Unemployment

5 responses to “Certificates: the New Associate’s Degree?

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  4. China, this focuses on certificates in lieu of college degrees, or as the new associate’s degree. I received my certificate (in Nonprofit Management) from Georgetown University six years after receiving a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. I absolutely believe it was the focused professional certificate that helped me get back into the workforce after a year off with my newborn daughter, and then that made me stand out when I sought my next job after that. Now that I am a stay-at-home-mom again (yep, one of those women who is going in and out of the paid workforce!), I imagine that I will seek another professional certificate to bump up my credentials before re-entering the workforce again one of these days.

  5. Seems like there are so many people with associate degress that a certificate might just be something to prove to an employer that you are in expert in a particular field.

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