A survey of more than 30,000 military veterans shows that they value non-degree credentials--here are 4 ways to better recognize new credential pathways, like this military army veteran holding a laptop.

Veterans say non-degree credentials pay off


A survey of more than 30,000 military veterans shows that they value non-degree credentials--here are 4 ways to better recognize new credential pathways

“We do a disservice to our nation’s veterans when we fail to credential their military-based learning so it can be immediately recognized and valued when they complete their military service,” says Dave Clayton, senior vice president of Consumer Insights at Strada Education Network. “Every day, service members are acquiring and strengthening invaluable skills. They shouldn’t start at square one when they return home. We have to develop stackable, portable credentials that enable veterans to harness their prior learning as they work toward additional credentials, degrees or civilian careers.”

The study found that among adults without degrees, veterans are about 60 percent more likely than non-veterans to have a certificate or certification, and that male veterans without degrees are about 40 percent more likely to have such a credential than are their female peers.

Veterans without degrees are more satisfied with their current education level than the general population: just 37 percent of veterans without degrees feel they need more education to advance in their careers, compared to 47 percent of adults without degrees nationwide.

Non-degree credentials produce the highest income premiums in the security and engineering fields–which align closely with prevalent military jobs–but make little or no measurable difference to the annual earnings of administrative, healthcare, or education workers. The report identifies the need to better understand these differences and to improve the credential market, ensuring that all learning and career-relevant skills count.

“With this report, we set out to better understand the perspectives of veterans and the role that certificates and certifications play in their transition into the civilian workplace,” says Courtney Brown, vice president of Strategic Impact at Lumina Foundation. “The findings underscore the importance of these credentials and provide an opportunity for educational institutions, employers, and policymakers to work together to create better systems that help veterans obtain and develop stackable, transparent credentials that lead to strong employment outcomes.”

Competencies gained through military training are often not defined in terms familiar to those outside of the military. The burden falls on policymakers and education providers to support veterans and consider policies and practices
that better recognize learning towards credential pathways.

A few basic principles for action include:

  • Ensure that all learning counts and all career-relevant skills are recognized. Education providers should have systems in place to evaluate prior learning and should make these opportunities more visible as they seek to enroll and support veterans.
  • Improve competency transparency and transferability to guarantee that veterans receive the credit they deserve and are able to use it toward meaningful credentials. This is critical given the frequency with which military personnel move while on active duty.
  • Structure credentials to be portable and stackable. Competencies—whether earned in the classroom or through military service—should be building blocks for both valuable non-degree certificates or certifications and degrees, avoiding dead-end paths.
  • Partner with the military service branches to build pathways connecting military skills with in-demand credentials that can be pursued at any point during an individual’s time in service. High-quality military education and training produces knowledge and skills that cut across a variety of credentialing opportunities.

Laura Ascione

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