Veterans Say Non-Degree Credentials Pay Off

Survey of over 30,000 military vets shows that they value certificates and certifications

INDIANAPOLIS — Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation today released a national survey of more than 30,000 U.S. veterans, which found those without degrees are much more likely to hold certificates or certifications than their non-veteran peers. And those credentials provide meaningful financial returns: veterans with certificates or certifications earn an average of $10,000 more per year than veterans with no postsecondary credential.

Prior research has shown that the skills and knowledge veterans gain in the military are often under-recognized and undervalued by civilian employers. This new report, “Veterans Without Degrees: The Benefits and Opportunities of Certificates and Certifications,” draws on veterans’ perspectives to understand the value of non-degree credentials as a means of translating military-based learning and the civilian labor market.

“We do a disservice to our nation’s veterans when we fail to credential their military-based learning so it can be immediately recognized and valued when they complete their military service,” said Dave Clayton, Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights at Strada Education Network. “Every day, service members are acquiring and strengthening invaluable skills. They shouldn’t start at square one when they return home. We have to develop stackable, portable credentials that enable veterans to harness their prior learning as they work toward additional credentials, degrees or civilian careers.”

The study found that among adults without degrees, veterans are about 60 percent more likely than non-veterans to have a certificate or certification, and that male veterans without degrees are about 40 percent more likely to have such a credential than are their female peers. Veterans without degrees are more satisfied with their current education level than the general population: just 37 percent of veterans without degrees feel they need more education to advance in their careers, compared to 47 percent of adults without degrees nationwide.

Certificates and certifications produce the highest income premiums in the security and engineering fields — which align closely with prevalent military jobs — but make little or no measurable difference to the annual earnings of administrative, healthcare, or education workers. The report identifies the need to better understand these differences and to improve the credential market, ensuring that all learning and career-relevant skills count.

“With this report, we set out to better understand the perspectives of veterans and the role that certificates and certifications play in their transition into the civilian workplace,” said Courtney Brown, Vice President of Strategic Impact at Lumina Foundation. “The findings underscore the importance of these credentials and provide an opportunity for educational institutions, employers, and policymakers to work together to create better systems that help veterans obtain and develop stackable, transparent credentials that lead to strong employment outcomes.”

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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


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