Skip Navigation

Findings: Postsecondary/College

institution icon

Student Enrollments

Enrollment in subbaccalaureate occupational education

  • In 2011–12, some 38 percent of all credential–seeking undergraduates were subbaccalaureate occupational students. (see figure)
  • Subbaccalaureate occupational students are most often enrolled in public 2–year institutions, followed by for–profit institutions (see figure). However, while occupational students seeking an associate's degree enroll in public 2–year institutions more often than in for–profit institutions, occupational students seeking a certificate enroll in for–profit institutions more often than in 2–year public institutions. (see figure)
  • Health sciences is the most common field of study pursued by subbaccalaureate occupational students, followed by business and marketing. (see figure)
  • Females constitute the majority of students in subbaccalaureate occupational programs, and females constitute a larger percentage of the students in these programs than in subbaccalaureate academic programs or bachelor's degree programs. (see figure)
  • The percentage of black students is larger in subbaccalaureate occupational programs than in subbaccalaureate academic programs or bachelor's degree programs, and the percentage of Hispanic students is larger in subbaccalaureate occupational programs than in bachelor's degree programs. (see figure)
  • Compared to subbaccalaureate academic students and bachelor's degree students, subbaccalaureate occupational students are more often first–generation college students (see figure) and are older in age (see figure)

Enrollment among subbaccalaureate certificate students

  • From 2003–04 to 2011–12, the proportion of undergraduates who were seeking a subbaccalaureate certificate increased slightly from 7 percent to 8 percent. (see figure)
  • In 2011–12, some 34 percent of subbaccalaureate certificate seekers had already earned a postsecondary certificate or degree, an increase from 28 percent in 2003–04. (see figure)
  • In 2011–12, the predominant field of study for subbaccalaureate certificate seekers was health care, comprising 42 percent of certificate enrollments. (see figure)

Student Persistence, Attainment, and Labor Market Outcomes


Persistence and Attainment

  • Subbaccalaureate students have a lower rate of persistence and attainment than baccalaureate students. (see figure)
  • But students seeking a subbaccalaureate credential in an occupational field of study have a persistence and attainment rate that is not measurably different from that of subbaccalaureate students in other fields of study. (see figure)

Labor Market Outcomes

  • Students who complete a postsecondary credential have higher employment rates than noncompleters, and those who earn a degree have higher employment rates than those who earn a certificate. (see figure)
  • Compared to students who earn an academic credential, a higher proportion of students who earn an occupational credential were employed in 2009. (see figure)
  • Among employed completers, a higher proportion of those with an occupational credential report working in a job related to their field of study, compared to those with an academic credential. (see figure)

Institutions and Offerings

  • The number of postsecondary institutions was higher in 2014 than in 2000, particularly among institutions that offer subbaccalaureate occupational education. (see figure)
  • Among institutions overall, and among institutions offering subbaccalaureate occupational education, growth was restricted to the for–profit sector (see figure). As a result, for–profit institutions increased from 47 percent of all institutions that offer subbaccalaureate occupational education in 2000 to 57 percent in 2014. (see figure)

Credential Awards

  • In 2015, some 38 percent of all undergraduates credentials were awarded in subbaccalaureate occupational education (see figure). From 2003 to 2015, the share of all undergraduate credential awards that were in subbaccalaureate occupational education increased from 39 to 42 (in 2011), then decreased to 38. (see figure)
  • The number of subbaccalaureate occupational credential awards increased from 2003 to 2011, then decreased from 2011 to 2015. (see figure)
  • In 2015, public institutions awarded almost two–thirds of all subbaccalaureate occupational credentials, whereas for–profit institutions awarded about one–third (see figure). The share of subbaccalaureate occupational credentials awarded by public institutions decreased from 2003 to 2011, while for-profit institutions' share increased; the trend reversed after 2011. (see figure)
  • In 2015, some 75 percent of all subbaccalaureate occupational credentials were awarded in the four subject fields of health sciences (the predominant field), the trades, consumer services, and business management (see figure). From 2003 to 2015, the number of subbaccalaureate credential awards increased in 10 of 13 occupational fields of study, but decreased in marketing, business support, and computer and information sciences. (see figure)

Recent Postsecondary/ College Publications