States can—and should—graduate students from high school prepared for the challenges of college and careers. Many states are working toward this goal by improving the quality of career and technical education (CTE) programs and have looked to industry-recognized credentials as one component of this improvement. However, there is limited research on education and labor market outcomes associated with earning an industry credential in high school.
A new report from ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Technologies, Where Credentials Meet the Market: State Case Studies on the Effect of High School Industry Credentials on Educational and Labor Market Outcomes, addresses that gap.
Where Credentials Meet the Market builds on the foundation laid in Credentials Matter: A National Landscape to examine the impact of credential attainment on long-term student outcomes. This second report analyzes the credentials students earn in high school and their impact on students’ secondary completion, postsecondary enrollment and completion as well as wage earnings. It provides insights into the return on investment of earning a credential in Florida, Indiana and Kentucky—three states that collect rich, student-level data that includes credential attainment at the student level.
Overall, the report finds that earning a credential is associated with positive outcomes related to high school completion, community college enrollment and completion, and wages.
Secondary Educational Outcomes
- Earning a credential is associated with an increase in the probability of graduating from high school on time in Florida, Indiana and Kentucky. This effect is stronger for female CTE students as compared to male CTE students.
Postsecondary Educational Outcomes*
- In Florida, earning a credential is associated with an increase in the probability of CTE students enrolling in and graduating from community college and enrolling in university. There is no effect in Florida of earning a credential on CTE students graduating from the university system.
- In Kentucky, for CTE students, earning a credential is associated with an increase in the probability of earning an associate’s degree. The effect of earning a credential on earning a bachelor’s degree is negative for CTE students.
- Indiana was not able to provide data to assess postsecondary educational outcomes.
Labor Market Outcomes
- In both states that provided wage data, Indiana and Florida, earning a credential is correlated with higher wages for workers who earn at least $20,000 annually and are at least 24 years old. Of the three types of credentials earned in Florida, certifications, licenses and software credentials, only certifications were associated with a wage increase.
*Postsecondary outcomes need additional research to determine if rigor of study or cost of higher education for credential earners has an impact on bachelor’s degree attainment.
Based on these findings, Where Credentials Meet the Market has identified five specific recommendations for states to consider as they design education-to-career pathways for students.
- Collaborate across education, business and industry, and workforce systems to develop clear definitions for industry credentials of value that are appropriate to CTE programs and pathways.
- Collect and report data on industry credential attainment throughout secondary and postsecondary.
- Connect industry credential attainment data to longitudinal datasets that include secondary, postsecondary and labor market outcomes. Publish periodic user-friendly reports to all relevant stakeholders, including parents and students.
- Assess the return on investment of industry credentials over time to guide decision making related to policy and CTE program offerings, alignment and quality. States can assess the value of individual credentials internally by adapting the methodology used in this report.
- Once these credentials are identified, provide incentives through financial incentives and accountability metrics for the attainment of industry credentials associated with positive long-term education and labor market outcomes.
About Credentials Matter
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 provides insight into how industry credentials earned by high school students align with workforce demand in each state to inform education system improvements and state data collection practices. Visit ExcelinEd.org/CredentialsMatter for more information.
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.
About the author
As Innovation Policy Managing Director, Quentin oversees Personalized Learning, College and Career Pathways and Course Access policies at ExcelinEd. Previously, Quentin served as executive director of the college, career, and military preparation at the Texas Education Agency. He also held leadership positions with Amplify Education, an education consulting and technology firm, TNTP, and The Learning Institute. Quentin began his career as a high school English teacher. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Memphis.