Cover: The Value of Education and Training After High School

The Value of Education and Training After High School

How Postsecondary Credentials Impact Earnings

Published Feb 2, 2022

by Lindsay Daugherty

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The earnings of individuals who participate in education and training after high school can provide information about the value of those credentials. This Perspective provides a review of the evidence on earnings gains associated with various types of postsecondary credentials, including college credit–bearing degrees and certificates, noncredit training and certificates, apprenticeships, and occupational credentials (i.e., licenses and certifications). The evidence suggests that most types of postsecondary credentials can lead to improved earnings, though longer-term credentials tend to be associated with higher returns, and credit-bearing credentials may offer higher returns than noncredit credentials. When individuals go on to earn additional credentials (or stack credentials), they can see additional earnings gains beyond those that they receive for the initial credential. There is wide variation in the returns to credentials across different fields. Returns to postsecondary credentials vary for individuals by demographic characteristics; women see larger gains across credentials, while racial and ethnic differences vary by credential types.

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Funding for this research was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted within the RAND Lowy Family Middle-Class Pathways Center with RAND Education and Labor.

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