New Strada-Lumina Report Finds Non-Degree Credentials Have High Value for U.S. Adults

New analysis of Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey shows that American adults who hold certificates and certifications, but no degree, report better employment and life outcomes than those with no credential.

Indianapolis — A new report released today by Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation finds that sub-baccalaureate certificates and certifications provide substantial value in both employment and personal satisfaction for American adults without college degrees. The report, “Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications?,” 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.

Despite growing national focus among employers and institutions around the impact of sub-baccalaureate certificates and certifications on economic mobility, there has been limited evidence on those credentials’ economic value and their impact on individuals’ lives more broadly.

“As the country redesigns policy and works to improve and expand postsecondary education and training, it is critical that we talk to education consumers about their experiences and the value they get from different types of education,” said Carol D’Amico, Executive Vice President of Mission Advancement and Philanthropy at Strada Education Network. “Through this new research, we’re seeing that not only do short-term credentials and certificates deliver an immediate impact for adults looking to upskill, but they also have the potential to foster the sort of wage increases needed to sustain a family and power true social and economic mobility.”

The new 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. Specifically, adults without a degree who hold a certificate or certification:

  • Have higher full-time employment rates than their peers with no credentials (85 percent versus 78 percent).
  • Have a self-reported median annual income of $45,000, compared to $30,000 for those without credentials.
  • Perceive their education paths as more valuable and are more likely to recommend them to others than are those without credentials.

“This new report shows that degreed higher education isn’t the only viable path into a good career,” said Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Oftentimes short-term certificates and industry-based certifications get the job done quicker, better and cheaper.”

While the data point to the broad economic benefits of non-degree credentials, wage premiums vary significantly based on occupation and gender, raising equity as an important issue for further research. For some occupations, the income premium for 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 non-degree credential. The income premium enjoyed by non-degree adults who hold certificates or certifications is considerably larger for men than it is for women, and this holds across all occupations.

Despite this important variance, the findings from this analysis indicate that, on the whole, non-degree credentials deliver significant value and are well positioned to increase economic mobility.

“The data in this report highlight the quality, value, and role that certificates and certifications play in the labor force,” said Courtney Brown, Vice President of Strategic Impact at Lumina Foundation. “More important, these credentials can change lives, raise incomes and brighten futures of millions of Americans–aiding the nation’s quest to increase opportunity and talent development.”

The Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey is a nationally-representative survey of U.S. adults ages 18–65 that explores Americans’ educational experiences and attitudes. This report is based on an analysis of 50,000 survey participants ages 25–64 without a postsecondary degree who are in the labor force and not currently enrolled in college.

The “Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications?” report 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. Forthcoming reports will perform a deeper analysis of this population.

“This new partnership will enable us to share critical new insights on the intersection of education and employment, fueled by the experiences of education consumers and their needs and perspectives,” said Dave Clayton, Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights at Strada Education Network. “These insights will shed new light on not only what makes for a financially-viable education and career, but also a meaningful one.”


Strada Education Network is a national social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by catalyzing more direct and promising 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, they address critical college to career challenges through strategic philanthropy, research and insights, and mission-aligned affiliates. Learn more at


Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. The foundation envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy. Learn more at

Media Contacts:

Kate Johnson, Assoc. Director, Marketing Communications

Strada Education Network


Tracy Chen, Director of Media Strategy

Lumina Foundation


Riley Brands, Strategic Communications Lead