Credentials 101

Learn more about this site and the data behind it

All students should graduate from high school prepared for college and career success. Unfortunately, for too many students across the country that is not the case. The lack of skilled workers to fill open positions is a growing concern for our economy and threatens to undermine the innovation and competitiveness in many of our leading industries. By 2020, 65 percent of job openings will require some postsecondary education, with 30 percent of those projected job openings requiring some postsecondary education short of a bachelor's degree.

Industry credentials allow students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills required for success in a specific occupation or industry. Some industry credentials are stackable into a postsecondary credential that can accelerate career advancement. However, not all industry credentials are valued equally in the workforce. In fact, some credentials lead students to dead-end, low-wage jobs.

As states work to increase the career-readiness of their students, they can ensure that career and technical education offerings lead to the credentials valued most in their state's unique workforce.

What does this site do?

This site provides insights into how the industry credentials high school students earn align with workforce demand in each state. The various ways to explore state credential and workforce demand data can be leveraged to inform education system improvements and state data collection practices. It also provides resources to dive deeper into the credentials landscape across the country and provide support to states in aligning their education systems with workforce demand.

  • State or National

  • Career Cluster

  • Credential

    • Are the credentials students earn aligned with workforce demand in my state?

    • How many credentials are students earning in my state?

    • Does my state collect industry credential data?

    • How does my state compare to other states and to the nation?

    • How many students earn in-demand credentials in each career cluster/industry area?

    • How do occupations align to employment growth and wages in each career cluster?

    • How do occupations align to employment growth and wages in each career cluster?

    • What is the supply and demand of individual credentials across states?

    • Which states are oversupplying or undersupplying each credential?

  • Explore the data

    Download and share data from this site. Click the download or share icons at the bottom of each page. Download and share data views to highlight what is happening within your state.

Who is this tool for?

  • Policymakers

  • CTE Directors / SEA Chiefs

    • How well is my state preparing students to earn credentials aligned with in-demand careers?

    • Are enough students in my state earning the credentials that employers need?

    • How does my state compare to other states?

    • What does my state know about the credentials that students earn?

    • Which credentials are students earning that lead to in-demand careers?

    • Which credentials earned in my state lead students to dead-ends?

    • What are the strengths and gaps in credential attainment in my state?

    • How does credential supply and demand vary by career cluster in my state?

  • Employers

  • Parents / Educators

    • What are the credentials that are most valued by employers?

    • What industry credentials does my state offer that my student can earn?

    • How many students are earning the credentials that matter most to my business?

    • How many job postings are requesting the credentials that matter most to my business?

Key terms and Definitions

Search for key terms and definitions used throughout the site below. A complete description of the methodology for this analysis can be found in [Report Name].

  • Industry credentials


    Mandated by law for workers to gain permission to practice in specific occupations (i.e. Registered Nurse, Truck Driver, Barbers and Cosmetologists) and must be renewed periodically. Requirements vary by state and/or by licensing agency.


    Signal an individual has acquired a set of abilities and in some cases allow them to perform a specific job (but is not a legal requirement). These credentials may be door-openers to entry-level jobs or help seasoned workers advance up the career ladder in their field.


    Demonstrate competence particular to a specific software. This includes productivity software as well as more job-specific applications such as graphic or computer-aided design.

    General Career Readiness

    Measures general foundational workplace skills including basic reading, math, financial and digital literacy, workplace safety, and basic life support or first aid. These types of skills are necessary across virtually all occupations.

    CTE Assessment

    Measures the skill attainment of students who have completed a program course sequence or Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway. These assessments test the student's mastery of state standards and are not necessarily aligned with or approved by an industry body. Some states include CTE assessments, in addition to other types of industry credentials, within their CTE accountability and reporting systems.

  • Supply & Demand

    Credentials Earned

    The supply of credentials earned by students in each state is reported directly from state education departments. The data in this site are limited to the latest year of available data from each state.


    The demand for a credential is based on job postings data sourced from Burning Glass Technologies. Demand for Certifications, CTE Assessments and General Career Readiness credentials is based on specific requests for those credentials. Demand for Software credentials is based on postings requesting competence in the software, but not necessarily the credential itself. Demand for licenses is based on demand for the licensed occupation in the state where the license is required in most or all states. Demand data are displayed to match the year of data in which the credentials earned were reported.

    Over/Under-Supplied Categories

    This measures the extent to which each credential is over- or under-supplied. The metric is based on a comparison of the number of credentials earned and the number demanded in each state and for each credential. Categories include:

  • Data Collection

    Secondary data are being collected

    As of school year 2018-19, the state collects credential attainment data at the secondary level.

    Postsecondary data are being collected

    Postsecondary data are being collected: As of school year 2018-19, the state collects credential attainment data at the postsecondary level.

    Data are collected directly from vendors

    As of school year 2018-19, the state has two or more data-sharing agreements with vendors of credentials.

    Credentials are included in ESSA plan

    The state includes a measure of whether their students are earning industry credentials in their plan for compliance with the accountability requirements with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA is the nation's main federal education law that requires all states to develop accountability systems that measure their k-12 public schools' success at preparing all students for college and career.

    State has adopted a credential incentives policy

    The state has a policy that financially rewards schools and/or teachers based on the number of students who earn approved industry credentials.

    Years of data available

    The range of years for which the state has been collecting data.

    Year of data

    The year of data for each state that is displayed. This is the latest year of data available for each state (in most cases either 2016-17 or 2017-18).

    Map categories

    No data: The state does not collect data on credential attainment nor does it maintain a list of approved credentials.

    List: The state maintains a list of approved credentials but does not collect attainment data.

    Secondary data: As of school year 2018-19, the state collects credential attainment data at the secondary level.

    Secondary and Postsecondary data: As of school year 2018-19, the state collects credential attainment data at the secondary and the post-secondary level.

  • Alignment

    No data

    The state does not collect data on credential attainment or did not share existing credential attainment data.

    Alignment Category

    This shows a measurement of how aligned the state's credential attainment and data collection practices are with demand for credentials at the state level. The factors that effect this score include the percent of credentials earned that are in-demand, the percent of credentials in-demand that are not earned and data collection best practices. Categories include:

    Percent of credentials earned in-demand

    This is calculated based on the number of total credentials earned in a state and the number of credentials earned that are requested by employers in the state.

  • Career and Technical Education (CTE)

    Career Cluster

    One of 16 Career Clusters from The National Career Clusters Framework from AdvanceCTE, an approach used by most states. Each credential has been linked to up to four Career Clusters based on content area. Career Clusters are assigned by researchers and do not necessarily reflect the credential's availability in a Career Cluster in any one given state.

    CTE Concentrators

    Number of students who concentrate in CTE as defined by Perkins CTE Concentrator Enrollment data.

    High School Enrollment

    Public school enrollment in grades 9 through 12.

  • Occupations


    Standard Occupation Classification from Bureau of Labor Statistics database.

    Median Salary

    2017 median annual wage from Bureau of Labor Statistics database.

    Employment in 2016

    Employment in 2016 in thousands from Bureau of Labor Statistics database.

For additional support understanding the data and the implications it has for your state.