Post-secondary credentials matter more today than any time previously in history. They provide currency in the labor market and serve as key momentum points for individuals on a path to economic opportunity, especially those from under-served communities. From industry recognized credentials to post-secondary certificates and licenses to associate and bachelor’s degrees, “post-high school credentials” have become necessary for career success, and those with a high school diploma or less are often left behind.
In credential-driven labor markets, however, not all students must attain a bachelor’s degree. In fact, there are 30 million “good jobs”1 nationwide that are held by individuals with less than a bachelor’s degree (B.A.) and more than a high school diploma. This important “middle” represents a significant opportunity for growth. Recent data find that 28 percent of associate degree holders, and many workers with one-year certificates, earn more than the average B.A. holder.2 In response to this economic shift, state K-12 leaders have made college and career readiness a larger focus of their high school strategies. Of particular note is the increase in the number of states—from 11 prior to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to 26 today—that have included industry-recognized credentials as a component of their reporting or accountability systems for high schools.3 This represents a significant shift in state recognition that earning an industry credential while in high school can pay dividends for a student’s long-term prospects. Identifying industry-recognized credentials that are high value, and differentiating them from those that do not provide a return on investment for credential earners, is of paramount importance. Otherwise, states risk that their new attainment goals and accountability metrics could drive students and returning adult learners to unwittingly pursue lower-value credentials that do not lead to good jobs. This would not only be detrimental to those individuals, but it would also undercut the impact and credibility of the new state policies. 

1 Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Good Jobs that Pay without a BA, 2017, https://goodjobsdata.org/wp-content/uploads/Good-Jobs-wo-BA-final.pdf.

2 Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Five Rules of the College and Career Game, 2018, https://cew-7632.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Fiverules.pdf.

3 Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, Career Readiness & the Every Student Succeeds Act: Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans, December 2017, http://edstrategy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/ Mapping_Career_Readiness_ESSA_FULL_2017.pdf.

Read on and download the full document at https://cte.careertech.org/sites/default/files/files/resources/Credential_Currency_report.pdf