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National Education and Employment Study

Shot of a young woman raising her hand during a business conference
Seeking a better understanding of postsecondary work-related education, training, and credentials
  • Client
    Lumina Foundation
  • Dates
    2016 - 2017


Postsecondary job training that doesn’t lead to a degree is poorly understood.  

Traditional degree attainment is generally well understood, with students, educators, and employers aware of what a degree is and the expectations it entails. However, many non-degree credentials are now offered, including certificates, licenses, apprenticeships, or other workforce-related training. This non-degree training can vary significantly in quality and content. We need to better understand the types of training adults pursue, their quality, and their influence on careers and employment.


NORC surveyed U.S. adults to capture the variety of postsecondary non-degree training. 

The National Education and Employment Study (NEES), sponsored by Lumina Foundation, sought to gain more knowledge about adults' work-related education, training, and credentials, as well as to determine the percentage of adults in America who hold a high-quality certificate or certification as their highest educational credential.  

NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) collected NEES data in early 2016 and again that fall, administering the NEES survey by telephone and online to adults between the ages of 25 and 64 across the United States. The survey covered topics such as educational background, certifications, licenses, certificates, work experience, employment, and basic demographic information.


NORC’s analysis pointed to the value of technical training programs. 

NORC conducted descriptive analyses of the data collected in 2016. Results suggest that technical training and education offer high value to participants by enabling many credential holders to work in related fields directly or indirectly. This training is also associated with higher earnings.   

Full reports of these analyses may be viewed and downloaded via the links below. 

Related to this work, NORC completed the data collection effort for the 2017 and 2019 National Education and Attainment Survey (NEAS). This study was also funded by Lumina, and information, along with the Public Use File (PUF) for that effort, can be found on the NEAS project page.

The data obtained from the survey expand our understanding of the prevalence and types of certifications, licenses, and certificates available to adults after high school. These data are available for further exploration by researchers. At the close of the NEES data collection effort, NORC created a Public Use File (PUF) for the Wave 1 NEES data along with a User’s Guide to assist in conducting analysis. These files can be viewed and downloaded via the links below.

Data & Findings

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