New Center for Public Education study finds career readiness tied to high credentials

Higher education confers many benefits, including a better opportunity of obtaining good jobs with high wages, however, it is not the only path to success. NSBA Center for Public Education (CPE) today released its third installment in a series of reports about non-college goers, “Path Least Taken III: Rigor and focus in high school pays dividends in the future.” CPE’s study finds that well-prepared high school graduates can achieve similar and in some cases greater success than college goers. The winning combination is what CPE calls “high credentials,” a mix of academic knowledge and job specific or technical skills developed in high school plus a professional certificate or license.

Earlier installments in the Path Least Taken series found the overall group of high school graduates who did not go to college face the dimmest economic and social prospects at age 26 compared to those who did. The new report shows that students with high credentials, however, achieved higher economic and social outcomes than two-year degree holders and students who don’t complete their college education. Graduates with high credentials achieved outcomes that were second only to four-year degree holders. High credentialed non-college goers earned 39 percent more than non-credentialed non-college goers, and 21 percent more than 2-year degree holders at age 26 ($18.71 per hour compared to $13.42 and $15.43 respectively). The high credentials group trailed the 4-year degree graduates in hourly wage by only 3.4 percent.

“All students must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to reach their full potential,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association. “To better prepare the next generation, school leaders have to look at enhancing educational opportunities for all students, both college bound and career bound, to ensure future readiness for both.”

Path Least Taken III: Rigor and focus in high school pays dividends in the future” is located on CPE's website at:

More information available in our press release.

Go to top