National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC)

What is the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC)?

The ACT® NCRC is an industry recognized, portable credential that demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills in Applied Math, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents. The certificate is recognized across all industry sectors.

The NCRC is based upon the WorkKeys® assessments and measures "real world" skills that employers believe are critical to job success. Test questions are based on situations in the everyday work world.

What does the National Career Readiness Certificate assess?

Individuals can earn the NCRC by taking three WorkKeys® assessments:

  1. Applied Math (Formerly Applied Mathematics) - measures the skills people use when they apply mathematical reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving techniques to work-related problems
  2. Graphic Literacy (Formerly Locating Information) - measures the skills people use when they work with workplace graphics
  3. Workplace Documents (Formerly Reading for Information) - measures the skills people use when they read and use written text in order to do a job

What cognitive skills does the NCRC document?

The NCRC is not an assessment of academic content. The questions focus on applying content in work situations. The assessments show evidence of cognitive skills such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Using work-related text
  • Applying information from workplace documents
  • Applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
  • Performing work-related calculations
  • Locating, synthesizing, and applying information that is presented graphically
  • Comparing, summarizing, and analyzing information presented in multiple graphics

Who can take the NCRC in South Dakota?

All job seekers in South Dakota can take the NCRC at their local Department of Labor & Regulation office. In a partnership between the SD Department of Education and Department of Labor & Regulation, the NCRC is available to junior and senior students, free of charge, at their school. High school educators can also take the assessment through this partnership at no charge.

What does the certificate show?

Students can earn certification at four levels: bronze, silver, gold or platinum. A certification at any level validates students’ work-readiness skills. The higher the certification level, the more jobs the certificate holder’s skills align with.

  • Bronze - scores at least a level 3 in each of the three core areas and has the necessary foundational skills for 16% of jobs
  • Silver - scores at least a level 4 in each of the three core areas and has the necessary foundational skills for 67% of jobs
  • Gold - scores at least a level 5 in each of the three core areas and has the necessary foundational skills for 93% of jobs
  • Platinum - scores at least a level 6 in each of the three core areas and has the necessary foundational skills for 99% of jobs

Learn more about the skill definitions in the “resources” section on this page.

How can the results of the assessments and certificate be useful while still in high school?

There are great resources available to help students, educators and families understand and use the results of the WorkKeys® assessments and the NCRC (beyond the obvious use of securing great internships and jobs!). Resources like the Job Skills Profiles and tools in students’ SDMyLife portfolios will assist in making assessment results most meaningful.

How can schools participate?

The National Career Readiness Certificate program is available to South Dakota juniors and seniors at no charge. The assessments are administered online, at the school. Schools should plan for 3-4 hours.

Schedule NCRC for your school by contacting the Department of Labor & Regulation. An application form can be found in the “resources” section on this page.
Heather Nelson: 605-882-5131,
Barb Unruh: (605) 773-5821,

NCRC benefits students. How does it benefit schools?

The results of students’ certifications can be applied to the School Performance Index (SPI).  Students’ results will be incorporated into the College and Career Readiness (CCR) Indicator.

 Public high schools in South Dakota can earn credit on the Accountability Report Card College and Career Readiness indicator for students who score at a Silver level or above.

Questions on School Performance Index?

Contact the Department of Education’s Division of Assessment and Accountability at (605) 773-3426.
Abby Javurek-Humig: (605) 773-4708,

What accommodations are available?

Following the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), WorkKeys® and ACT provide testing accommodations for individuals with disabilities who need accommodations to take the WorkKeys® tests. More information can be found in the WorkKeys® Test Administration and User Guide. 

What do schools need to provide to administer the NCRC?

Information on test administration can be found in the WorkKeys® Test Administration and User Guide. Program specialists at the SD Department of Labor and Regulation can share best practices as well:
Heather Nelson: (605) 688-5131,
Barb Unruh: (605) 773-3101,

What technical specifications does our school need to be aware of?

Supported web browsers include Firefox 45+ and Chrome 48+. Internet Explore is no longer a supported web browser

ACT outlines detailed technical specifications for accessing and taking the assessments at

What do questions look like on the NCRC?

Sample questions for each of the WorkKeys assessments (Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information and Locating Information) can be viewed here.

Questions on the NCRC?

Contact the Division of Career & Technical Education to learn more about the National Career Readiness Certificate at (605) 773-3423.

Where can I find more information?