Feb 25, 2021
Individuals in the United States can pursue a variety of different types of postsecondary education credentials, including degrees, certificates, industry certifications and licenses, and apprenticeships. The author describes common types of postsecondary education credentials and presents data on how frequently individuals earn these credentials and the demographic characteristics of these individuals.
Individuals in the United States can pursue a variety of different types of postsecondary education credentials. This Perspective describes four common types: degrees, certificates, industry certifications and licenses, and apprenticeships.
Bachelor's degrees are the most commonly awarded postsecondary credential in the United States (approximately two million each year), though at least one million each of associate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificates are also awarded annually. Programs such as apprenticeships and dislocated worker programs also provide training to hundreds of thousands of adults each year, and these programs often result in industry-recognized credentials. In national surveys, 47 percent of Americans report holding some type of degree, and approximately one-fifth report holding a license or certification.
While those earning postsecondary credentials are diverse, disparities by race and ethnicity remain. White individuals are more likely to have earned bachelor's and graduate degrees and more likely to hold licenses and certifications relative to Black and Hispanic individuals. Women are slightly more likely to earn postsecondary education credentials of all types relative to men.