Characteristics of certificate completers with their time to certificate and labor market outcomes
The number of certificates conferred by U.S. postsecondary institutions increased 64 percent in the last decade, from 572,000 in 2000–01 to 936,000 in 2009–10, surpassing the 850,000 associate’s degrees conferred in 2009–10 (calculated from Knapp, Kelly, Whitmore, Wu, and Gallego 2003; Knapp, Kelly-Reid, and Ginder 2011). Certificates are overwhelmingly conferred in vocational fields (whereas many associate’s degrees are conferred in academic fields) and are intended to prepare students for the growing number of jobs requiring education at the subbaccalaureate level (Horn and Li 2009). National statistics on certificate requirements are reported in three broad categories of completion time (less than 1 year, 1 year to less than 2 years, and 2 years or more) but do not indicate credit requirements in detail or actual time to completion (Horn and Li 2009). There-fore, few statistics exist on how long it actually takes students to earn a certificate, in contrast to more extensive estimates of completion time for associate’s degrees (Green and Radwin 2012) and bachelor’s degrees (Adelman 2006; Aud et al. 2011; Cataldi et al. 2011; Wei and Horn 2009). Because time spent earning a certificate may equate to reduced time in the labor market, accurately measuring time to certificate is critical in understanding certificate students’ true investment when earning this form of human capital.