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Credentials Matter

Examining How Industry Credentials Create Pathways to Careers

States offer a wide range of career and technical education programs and credentials intended to prepare high school students for success, but how effective are these programs and the credentials students are earning?

Credentials Matter, a first-of-its-kind analysis, examines how the credentials students earn align with real-world employer demand. This project includes a unique online tool presenting the most extensive collection and analysis of supply, demand and alignment data of industry-recognized credentials earned in states.

We hope Credentials Matter will inform and inspire efforts to build a better career education system for our students and their futures.


Explore the Website

Visit to explore interactive maps and data tables and to learn more about this research.

Read the Report

View the Credentials Matter report to examine the analysis’s approach, findings and recommendations.

Credentials Matter is an ongoing research partnership between ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Technologies designed to shed light on the landscape of industry credential data collection and alignment across the country. The project includes a unique online tool presenting the most extensive collection and analysis of supply, demand and alignment data of industry-recognized credentials earned in states.

Credentials Matter findings and recommendations represent a critical first step to helping a range of stakeholders understand the current landscape of credentials earned and evaluate whether those credentials have currency in the job market.

Credentials Matter was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.


1. Just over half of all states (28) collect quantitative data on the attainment of credentials. 2. States do not have consistent definitions for what constitutes an industry-recognized credential—even though U.S. high school students earn hundreds of thousands of credentials each year. 3. Many credentials are not explicitly requested in employer job listings, despite the fact that the credentials may be required or desired for the position. 4. Of the 24 states where data were available and analyzed, no state is highly aligned in terms of supply for credentials earned by high school students and the demand for those credentials in the job market.


All stakeholders must play a role in improving alignment to ensure students have opportunities to be successful. State agencies, policymakers, employers, educators, credentialing entities and families can improve student career readiness by identifying, promoting and reporting valued industry-recognized credentials.

  • States: Convene stakeholders to implement policies and processes that leverage data on credential attainment and workforce demands to ensure alignment between education systems and the workforce.
  • Districts, Schools and Postsecondary Institutions: Improve alignment between program offerings, credentials available and workforce demands.
  • Business and Industry: Improve employer signaling to better communicate specific needs and the advantages that various credentials provide.
  • Credentialing Entities: Increase capacity and willingness to provide states with data that can be integrated into their data systems to evaluate the return on investment of credentials for students and the workforce.

Credentials Matter recommendations graphic.

What They Are Saying

Stock photo of man using magnifying glass to look at motherboard. Text reads “States are on the right path toward preparing each and every high school student for success after graduation, but Credentials Matter shows there’s work to be done to ensure that the credentials students earn are aligned with today’s labor market. This report provides clarity for policymakers, the business community and families on the steps that must be taken to keep our states and country competitive in the 21st century.” Governor Jeb Bush, Founder and Chairman, ExcelinEd

Stock photo of teenage girl working in a manufacturing facility. Text reads “Every career education course and credential offered in our state systems should be high quality and prepare young people for success in college or a mid-skill/mid-wage or higher job. Credentials Matter can inform and inspire efforts to build the kind of career education system that our students deserve.” Patricia Levesque, CEO, ExcelinEd

Stock photo of three teenagers, two boys and one girl, all in blue shirts working on a machine. Text reads “The ultimate goal of any career credential, whether a certification, certificate, or license, is to give students an edge in the job market by demonstrating the skills they’ve acquired. Every day employers signal what they’re looking for in their job postings. Ensuring that the supply of credentials is aligned with the demand by employers is fundamental to giving graduates a real chance in their careers.” Matthew Sigelman, CEO, Burning Glass Technologies

Stock photo of tween boy and male teacher wearing protective eye goggles and working with a blowtorch welding metal. Text reads “High school graduation rates have been rising steadily, but college and career readiness has not kept pace. Better alignment between students’ high school experiences and labor market demands could bridge that gap, which is why we supported ExcelinEd to develop Credentials Matter. We’re delighted to see that investment come to fruition with new tools and resources will help educators, employers, and policymakers understand workforce expectations and design programs to ensure that students graduate prepared to meet them.” Ambika Kapur, Education Program Officer, Carnegie Corporation of New York