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Credential Attainment

The Impact of Credentials on Successful Outcomes

Results from our survey of employment counselors and program managers confirmed what many would already suspect is true - the attainment of a credential is an important factor in addressing barriers to employment. Research and policy development reflect this relationship between credentials and outcomes, with organizations advocating for the development of cost-effective, close ties between education and workforce development systems.1

Outcomes Data on Credential Attainment

Given research on the returns to education, we would expect employment outcomes to be best for postsecondary degree earners and worst for those who did not earn a postsecondary credential. The data presented here is only suggestive of the impact of credentials on employment outcomes-it doesn't tease out other factors related to employment in the way that the Net Impact project does.

A good illustration of this is the difference between the Median Annual Income graph and the Median Yearly Income Change graph with the filters set to "Recently laid off workers", "All Education Levels", and "All Regions". Postsecondary degree earners fare better than the other two groups in the Change graph, but all three groups fare about the same in the Income graph. This suggests that they started off at a lower income prior to participation. Likely, a lot of those participants who didn't earn a postsecondary degree through the program already had a Bachelor's degree or even Master's degree.

STEP 3: Select any combination of educational attainment and geographic region.

Median Yearly Income Change

Percent Consistently Employed One Year

Median Annual Income After Program Exit

Credential Attainment PollChart


Additional Information on Outcomes Data by Credential Attainment

These figures show average outcomes among three groups:

  • those who obtained a postsecondary degree (an Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree)
  • those who obtained a postsecondary certificate (such as an occupational license or certificate)
  • those who obtained no postsecondary credential (including the less than one percent of participants who earn their HS diploma or GED through the program)

Strategies Related to Credential Attainment

The program counselors we interviewed indicated they connected participants to training or education programs as a way to address employment barriers, and program managers also shared their experiences around credential attainment. A sample of gathered responses is shared below.


1 Among others, see:

  • The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning: The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) conducts research, creates webinars, and produces publications on ways to help adult learners access education-and connect that learning to work.
  • The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: An independent, nonprofit research and policy institute affiliated with the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy that studies the link between education, career qualifications, and workforce demands.
  • The Hamilton Project: The Hamilton Project offers a strategic vision and produces innovative policy proposals on how to create a growing economy that benefits more Americans.
  • The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Center for Workforce Development: The Center for Workforce Development (CWD) is committed to serving people in education, business, industry, government, and the community who are involved with planning, developing, delivering, and participating in education and training.
  • The Urban Institute: The Urban Institute brings data-driven expertise and objective analysis to today's critical social and economic policy debates.

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