A Portrait of Adult Learners

1 in 10 adults reports being in college degree or certificate programs for work-related reasons.
August 5, 2005

Two in five adults participated in formal education courses or activities for work-related reasons and nearly 1 in 10 were in degree or certificate programs at colleges or universities in 2002-3, according to a U.S. Education Department study released Thursday.

The study, prepared as part of the National Center for Education Statistics' National Household Education Surveys Program of 2003, found that 40 percent of those aged 16 or above said they participated in formal work-related educational activities. Thirty-three percent said they took work-related courses, presumably through their employers, 9 percent said they were in college or university programs for work-related reasons, and 2 percent took part in vocational or technical diploma or degree programs.

Among other findings of the report:

  • Eighty-eight percent of the adults who reported participating in college or university programs said they did so to learn completely new skills or knowledge. Other reasons they gave included maintaining or improving skills that they already had (80 percent), helping change their job or career fields (73 percent), getting or keeping a state or industry certificate or license (36 percent), receiving a promotion or pay raise (32 percent) or because their employer required or recommended it (15 percent).
  • More participants in college or university degree or certificate programs reported attending courses for 12–18 credit hours (32 percent) than for 11 credit hours or fewer (22 percent), for 19 to 30 credit hours (26 percent), or for 31 credit hours or more (17 percent).
  • Twenty-six percent of adults in college or university work-related degree or certificate programs said they received financial support from their employers for tuition, books or materials, 25 percent said their employers let them take the programs during workhours, 14 percent said they were paid while they attended the training, and 11 percent said the programs were offered in the workplace.




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