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Postsecondary Education

Postsecondary Certificates and Degrees Conferred

Last Updated: May 2021
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Between 2009–10 and 2018–19, the number of postsecondary certificates and degrees conferred by public institutions increased at each award level, and the number conferred by private nonprofit institutions increased for all award types above the certificate level. Private for-profit institutions, however, conferred fewer certificates and degrees in 2018–19 than in 2009–10, with the exception of doctor’s degrees.

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Figure 1. Number of certificates and degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by award level: 2009–10 through 2018–19
Figure 1. Number of certificates and degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by award level: 2009–10 through 2018–19

1 Data are for certificates below the associate's degree level.

2 Includes Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level. Includes most degrees formerly classified as first-professional, such as M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees.

NOTE: Data in this table represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Degree counts are limited to degree-granting institutions; certificate counts include both degree- and non-degree-granting institutions. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2010 through Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 318.40

The number of awards conferred generally increased between 2009–10 and 2018–19. The number of certificates conferred below the associate’s level was 7 percent higher in 2018–19 than in 2009–10 (1.0 million vs. 935,700). Between 2009–10 and 2018–19, the number of associate’s degrees conferred increased by 22 percent (from 848,900 to 1.0 million), the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred increased by 22 percent (from 1.6 million to 2.0 million), the number of master’s degrees conferred increased by 20 percent (from 693,300 to 833,700), and the number of doctor’s degrees conferred increased by 18 percent (from 158,600 to 187,600). [Other]
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of certificates and associate’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: 2009–10 and 2018–19
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of certificates and associate’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: 2009–10 and 2018–19

1 Data are for certificates below the associate's degree level.

NOTE: Data in this table represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Degree counts are limited to degree-granting institutions; certificate counts include both degree- and non-degree-granting institutions. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2010 and Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 318.40.

The change in the number of certificates conferred between 2009–10 and 2018–19 differed by control of institution (public, private nonprofit, or private for-profit). Public institutions conferred 51 percent more certificates in 2009–10 than in 2018–19 (increasing from 472,400 to 713,700). In contrast, private for-profit institutions conferred 39 percent fewer certificates over the same time period (decreasing from 427,600 to 260,400). The number of certificates conferred by private nonprofit institutions was 27 percent lower in 2018–19 (25,900) than in 2009–10 (35,700) but showed no consistent trend overall during this period. The number of certificates conferred by private nonprofit institutions decreased by 14 percent between 2009–10 and 2013–14 (from 35,700 to 30,700). It then peaked in 2014–15 at 46,100 before decreasing again by 44 percent between 2014–15 and 2018–19 (from 46,100 to 25,900). [Control of institution]
In accordance with the number of certificates conferred, the proportion of certificates conferred by public institutions increased from 50 to 71 percent between 2009–10 and 2018–19, and the proportion conferred by private for-profit institutions decreased from 46 to 26 percent. There was no consistent trend in the proportion of certificates conferred by private nonprofit institutions over the same period. Following a pattern similar to the number of certificates conferred by private nonprofit institutions, the proportion of certificates conferred by private nonprofit institutions decreased between 2009–10 and 2013–14 (from 4 to 3 percent). It then peaked in 2014–15 at 5 percent before decreasing again between 2014–15 and 2018–19 (from 5 to 3 percent). [Control of institution]
For associate’s degrees, the number of degrees conferred between 2009–10 and 2018–19 increased by 43 percent at public institutions (from 640,300 to 915,000) and by 17 percent at private nonprofit institutions (from 46,700 to 54,400). In contrast, the number of associate’s degrees conferred by private for-profit institutions decreased over the same period by 58 percent (from 161,900 to 67,200). The proportion of associate’s degrees conferred by public institutions increased between 2009–10 and 2018–19 (from 75 to 88 percent). The proportion of associate’s degrees conferred by private nonprofit institutions fluctuated with single year differences of 1 percent or less between 2009–10 and 2018–19 (5 percent in both), and the proportion conferred by private for-profit institutions decreased (from 19 percent in 2009–10 to 6 percent in 2018–19). [Control of institution]
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: 2009–10 and 2018–19
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: 2009–10 and 2018–19

1 Includes Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level. Includes most degrees formerly classified as first-professional, such as M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees.

NOTE: Data in this table represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data are for postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Degree counts are limited to degree-granting institutions; certificate counts include both degree- and non-degree-granting institutions. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2010 and Fall 2019, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 318.40.

The number of bachelor’s degrees conferred between 2009–10 and 2018–19 increased by 28 percent at public institutions (from 1.0 million to 1.3 million) and by 14 percent at private nonprofit institutions (from 503,300 to 575,600). In contrast, the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred by private for-profit institutions was slightly lower in 2018–19 (97,100) than in 2009–10 (97,500), reflecting a decrease following a peak of 140,800 degrees in 2012–13. The proportion of bachelor’s degrees conferred between 2009–10 and 2018–19 at public institutions increased (from 64 to 67 percent), while the proportion conferred by private nonprofit institutions decreased (from 31 to 29 percent). The proportion of bachelor’s degrees conferred by private for-profit institutions showed no consistent trend between 2009–10 and 2018–19. Rather, the proportion increased between 2009–10 and 2012–13 (from 6 to 8 percent) and then decreased between 2012–13 and 2018–19 (from 8 to 5 percent). [Control of institution]
The number of master’s degrees conferred between 2009–10 and 2018–19 increased by 20 percent at public institutions (from 322,400 to 386,200) and by 27 percent at private nonprofit institutions (from 300,100 to 380,900), while the number conferred at private for-profit institutions decreased by 6 percent (from 70,900 to 66,700). Over this period, the proportion of master’s degrees conferred by public institutions stayed about the same (46 percent in both 2009–10 and 2018–19), the proportion conferred at private nonprofit institutions increased (from 43 to 46 percent), and the proportion conferred at private for-profit institutions decreased (from 10 to 8 percent). [Control of institution]
The number of doctor’s degrees conferred between 2009–10 and 2018–19 increased by 20 percent at public institutions (from 78,800 to 94,600) and by 14 percent at private nonprofit institutions (from 75,200 to 85,700). Additionally, in contrast to the decreases in other credentials awarded by private for-profit institutions over this period, the number of doctor’s degrees conferred by these institutions increased by 58 percent (from 4,600 to 7,300). Between 2009–10 and 2018–19, the proportion of doctor’s degrees conferred remained the same at public institutions (50 percent in both 2009–10 and 2018–19), decreased 1 percentage point at private nonprofit institutions (from 47 to 46 percent), and increased 1 percentage point at private for-profit institutions (from 3 to 4 percent). [Control of institution]

Supplemental Information

Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Postsecondary Certificates and Degrees Conferred. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cts.