New Research: Workforce Participation of Stacked Credential Awardees in Utah
Karen Tao, Senior Researcher
August 16, 2023
Utah students who obtain sequentially higher awards in the same Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) families may participate in the workforce between receiving their certificates/degrees. This research uses 2011 to 2020 data from the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and the Department of Workforce Services (DWS) to investigate workforce participation for stacked awardees after completing the lower-level award and before beginning their higher-level degree.
In general, fewer than 10% of all USHE graduates stacked multiple awards within the same area of study. Among the various paths taken to stack awards, the most frequently observed path was from associate to bachelor’s degrees (42%), followed by any path beginning with a certificate (31%). The path from bachelor’s to graduate degrees was the least frequently taken (27%).
This study finds that 63% of stacked awardees did not have a gap between the completion of the lower award and the beginning of their higher degree. In contrast, 59% of stacked awardees who obtained a bachelor’s and a graduate degree took time off between degrees, participated in the workforce for the most time, and had the most full-time quarters worked. This pattern of bachelor’s degree graduates participating longer in the workforce may reflect hiring practices requiring certain academic degrees rather than characteristics of the students who obtained bachelor’s and then graduate degrees.
Health care was the industry in which stacked awardees most frequently studied and were employed, suggesting the alignment of education and workforce experiences for students who study health care. For stacked awardees who obtained a bachelor’s degree followed by a graduate degree, the most frequently studied CIP family was Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services.
Among stacked awardees with a gap between their postsecondary awards, 62% were employed for less than one year between degrees. Studying the pattern of workforce participation, the differences between the three stackable pathways were greater than the differences observed between demographic groups within those pathways.
Though the workforce participation rates do not appear different for men and women who stacked awards, students from historically excluded racial and ethnic groups are shown to spend more time in the workforce between degrees. These patterns in which minority students spend more time in the workforce could indicate the financial burdens to higher education that minoritized students face.
The average number of quarters worked between degrees and the average number of full-time quarters worked peaked for age groups 25-34 and 35-44, respectively, then decreased for age groups 45-54 and 55-64, respectively.
Overall, this study identified three main paths of stacking postsecondary awards: certificates to higher degrees, associate degrees to bachelor’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees to graduate degrees. Students stacking from bachelor’s to graduate degrees had the longest gap between degrees, participated in the workforce for the longest durations, and had the most full-time quarters worked. The current study found little differences in workforce participation patterns for stacked awardees from different demographic backgrounds. Health care was the industry most frequently studied and employed in, suggesting the alignment of education and workforce experiences for students in that field.
For more information regarding this research, visit the interactive data narrative and access the full report.