- Certificates are the fasted-growing post-secondary credential, according to statistics between 1995 and 2014 from the Department of Education, with almost a million being granted each year.
- But new insight from the research group Burning Glass Technologies has found that these credentials may not actually be what's needed to fill workforce gaps. After reviewing 16 million job openings over the course of a year which don't require professional licenses, only about 130,000 asked for a certificate, writes the Hechinger Report.
- The unclear value of the certificate credential or alternative degree — with some statistics saying certificate holders earn 20% more on average than with a high school degree and others saying they earn significantly less than what's needed to meet living expenses — showcases the imperative for education advocates and policymakers to thoroughly research the credential before continuing to support it over other options.
Increasingly, students, policymakers and stakeholders in the education industry have begun to question the value of the four year degree, seeing the rise in shorter, cheaper alternative credentialing options. Among these, certificates have grown in popularity as a quick way to offer students who may not be able to afford to go to these institutions a way to get some type of postsecondary credential to enter the workforce and earn a higher wage.
Research is showing, however, that the returns may be significantly less than what was anticipated with many jobs, needing higher level skills, going unfilled and credential earners still making less. This reality calls into question policymakers' support of this option, and shines a spotlight on the education to career pipeline as being the necessary focus.
As an alternative to certificates, education officials may see more success in supporting high school apprenticeships, where students earn community college degree credits and often go on to a four year degree. They can also start backing more CTE options, which offer students those necessary skills to enter the workforce in a particular craft.