New Report: Nearly Half of American Adults Without Degrees Voice Need for More Education—And They Are Looking to Employers

New analysis of Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey finds that 46% of working-age adults without a college degree believe they need additional education and training to advance in their careers.

INDIANAPOLIS — A new report released today by Strada Education Network shows that almost half of American adults without degrees believe they need additional education to advance in their careers, and they are most likely to look to employers for that training.

The report, “Back to School? What Adults Without Degrees Say About Pursuing Additional Education and Training,” found that adults without degrees report they are most likely to participate in additional education and training from employers (33%), followed by community colleges (23%) and trade schools or programs (21%). Traditional four-year colleges and universities lag behind at 17%.

While young adults aged 18-24 feel the strongest need for more education (55%), even those aged 55-64 (31%) persist in stating they need additional education to advance their careers.

These new insights from the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey come at a time when federal policymakers and state leaders are heavily focused on engaging adults without degrees, who make up 60% of the workforce, in education and training that will increase their job prospects and fuel state and regional economies.

“Despite enormous effort at both the state and federal level to boost postsecondary attainment, policymakers and practitioners have had too little insight into what actually motivates individuals to pursue additional education,” said Carol D’Amico, Executive Vice President of Mission Advancement and Philanthropy at Strada Education Network. “With this research, we’re hearing from working adults themselves—and they’re telling us that they want additional education and training, but not exclusively, or even primarily, in the traditional higher education package.”

The Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey has interviewed nearly 350,000 individuals about their education, work and life experiences—producing a nationally-representative sample of adults ages 18-65 across all education and work pathways. This report focuses on two aspects of the experiences of adults without degrees: their perceived need for additional education to advance in their careers, and their likelihood of enrolling in an education or training program within five years.

Perhaps not surprising, career outcomes lie at the heart of those adults’ decision-making. Key findings include:

  • Forty-six percent of all Americans—and 46% of those without a college degree—say they need additional education to advance in their careers.
  • Among adults without degrees, those with the least education—adults who have not finished high school or earned a GED diploma—are the most likely to say they need additional education (59%). Vocational and technical program completers come next (51%), followed by those with some college experience but no degree (44%) and those with a high school diploma or GED (42%).
  • The perceived need for additional education among adults without degrees also varies widely by metropolitan area and state, from a high of 57% in California to a low of 33% in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • The greatest number of adults without degrees (44%) say they intend to enroll in courses or training from a work-based setting, followed by 38% for traditional education institutions, and just 15% for online academic providers.

The report also provides particular insight into the “some college, no degree” population that is often a primary target of college completion campaigns. Despite already having college credits to their name, these individuals are no more likely than their peers without degrees to say they are interested in returning to education to advance in their careers. Indeed, they have a complex set of thoughts when it comes to pursuing more education that are worthy of further research.

“Taken together, the report’s findings highlight the need for policy solutions and training models that aren’t one-size-fits-all, and instead recognize how significantly motivations vary by demographics, location, and prior educational experience,” said David Clayton, Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights at Strada Education Network. “Adults without degrees are telling us that while they need programs that are within reach for their budget and their busy lives, they ultimately have to see a positive employment outcome.”

For more information on the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey and the complete findings of the report, view the full report here.

Strada Education Network is a national social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment. The Network engages partners across education, nonprofits, business and government to focus relentlessly on students’ success throughout all phases of their working lives. Together, we address critical college to career challenges through strategic philanthropy, research and insights, and mission-aligned affiliates. Learn more at