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Survey of Education Attainment

Engineer Training Apprentices On CNC Machine
Exploring the impact of both accredited and non-accredited training programs
  • Client
    ECMC Foundation
  • Dates


Information is lacking on non-accredited postsecondary workforce training programs. 

Jobs increasingly require that workers have postsecondary training or education. Existing research has largely centered on career programs that are both accredited and offer portable college credit that can be transferred to another institution. These programs are generally offered by institutions and organizations that accrediting agencies recognize. 

Although research has demonstrated the impact of a college degree, more information is needed about the kinds of non-accredited and non-portable training that workers complete and their experiences with such training. These training types encompass a range of postsecondary educational credentials and experiences, including certificates, licenses, certifications, apprenticeships, and continuing education. They may be offered by for-profit and non-accredited institutions, professional associations, industry, and other providers.  


NORC studied both accredited and non-accredited training programs. 

The ECMC Foundation (ECMCF) sought information on workers’ experiences with non-accredited, non-portable workforce training programs. To fill this information gap, ECMCF awarded NORC at the University of Chicago a grant to study the types of workforce training that workers engage in and their experiences and satisfaction with that training.

NORC conducted the Survey of Educational Attainment (SEA) to provide ECMCF with data on workers’ experiences with non-accredited vs. accredited career programs. Work in support of this grant included:

  • background research and literature review
  • qualitative interviews with researchers, administrators, and learners
  • cognitive interviews
  • administration of the SEA
  • analysis, reporting, and dissemination of survey and interview findings.


The findings shed light on a wide variety of job training paths. 

The research revealed the wide variety of workforce training that workers can engage in, with much of this training being non-accredited and non-portable. The findings suggest that non-accredited and non-portable programs can provide job training that workers who do not have a college degree find useful. Complete findings are presented in a research brief. A public-use data file and documentation are also available.

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