Veterans Without Degrees

The Benefits and Opportunities of Certificates and Certifications

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Prior research has shown that the skills and knowledge veterans gain in the U.S. military are often under-recognized and undervalued by civilian employers. This nationally representative survey, conducted in partnership with Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, draws on the perspectives of U.S. veterans to understand the educational attainment of veterans without degrees, the benefits their credentials bring them, and their attitudes toward pursuing additional education.

Key Findings


Veterans disproportionately hold certificates or certifications compared to non-veterans.


Certificates and certifications boost employability and earnings premiums for veterans without degrees


Veterans without degrees perceive less of a need for additional education than non-veterans without degrees.

These findings provide new awareness of how veterans view and capitalize on their nontraditional qualifications in the labor market. It highlights the tremendous potential for policymakers, veterans’ organizations, educational institutions, and employers to create better systems that help veterans turn their qualifications into portable and stackable credentials recognized across the country.

The United States military is the single largest provider of education and training in the country. Yet, for the U.S. veteran population (21 million) and especially the 4 million veterans who served from 2001 to the present day and are still early in their careers, there can be a disconnect between the education and training they receive in the military and the credit they receive in the civilian world.

All service members complete multiple training courses, which may include non-degree credentials, as part of their service. Efforts to make this transfer more seamless and to ensure that all learning counts are essential to honoring and supporting veterans in their transition to the civilian workforce.

A few key principles guide our recommendations around supporting veterans without degrees, as well as adults without degrees more broadly:

  1. All learning counts, and all skills should be recognized.
  2. Competencies should be transparent and transferable.
  3. Credentials should be portable and stackable.
  4. Some military training should be credentialed while in service

The data and insights shared here are drawn from the Strada-Gallup Education Survey: an unprecedented survey of more than 340,000 U.S. adults ages 18–65 that explores their educational experiences and attitudes. This study draws upon that vast sample to reveal veterans’ perspectives on education outcomes and the benefits and challenges that arise from earning non-degree credentials. Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation collaborated on this report as part of a series of reports on adults without degrees.

Authors and Contributors

Dave Clayton, Ph. D.

Senior Vice President
Strada Education Network

Nichole Torpey-Saboe, Ph.D.

Director of Research
Strada Education Network

When it comes to education after high school, Americans know what they value and why. At Strada Education Network, we are listening to what they have to say and leveraging their insights about experiences and outcomes to forge more purposeful pathways between education and careers.

Gallup strategically partners with institutions to conduct custom research and implement best practices that create environments in which students and employees thrive.


Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. We envision a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials.

Download the Report

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