NEW! The National Center for Education Statistics has released new detailed data on the prevalence and characteristics of certifications and licenses in the U.S. from the Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES). A highlight from the 2016 data: "Twenty-one percent of adults reported having a currently active work credential (a certification or license). Licenses were more prevalent than certifications—18 percent of adults reported having a license, compared to 6 percent reporting a certification."
From 2009 to 2017, the Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment (GEMEnA) worked to develop and validate national measures of the participation in and credentialing of education and training for work, and to build government-wide consensus for the adoption of these measures in key federal data collections. More specifically, GEMEnA engaged in a rigorous process of survey item development to validate core items on 1) the attainment of non-degree credentials, including industry-recognized certifications, occupational licenses, and educational certificates, and 2) enrollment in education and training that prepares people for work.
GEMEnA developed a core set of survey items to measure the prevalence and key characteristics of certifications and licenses, and efforts are underway to deploy these items within the federal statistical system. NCES fielded an in-depth survey of US adults, the Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES), to provide detailed data on credentials beginning in 2016. NCES also incorporated survey items on non-degree credentials into its post high school longitudinal studies.
Other GEMEnA agencies have deployed survey items on certifications and licenses in their own surveys of households and individuals including the redesigned Survey of Income and Program Participation (Census), the National Survey of College Graduates (NSF), and the Current Population Survey (BLS). An overview of certification/license items by survey is here (39 KB).
The Definitions tab provides GEMEnA's working definitions of certifications, licenses, and certificates. The Surveys link lists the federal data collections that use GEMEnA-developed items, including questionnaire items and instruments (where available).
GEMEnA consisted of staff (see list) from these federal offices:
To ensure the relevance of GEMEnA's work for answering critical policy and research questions, GEMEnA met regularly with a panel of experts and collaborated with a wide range of partners and stakeholders.