Why Are Certificates Valuable?

December 7, 2020

In a recently released report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, we can gather some valuable information on the labor-market value of certificate programs. Here is a quick summary:

“In yesterday’s industrial economy, the path to the middle class was less complicated: most workers could either find a job right after high school or get a bachelor’s degree first. All they really needed to decide was whether or not to go to college. But in today’s knowledge- and service-based economy, three educational pathways to the middle class have emerged: high school, middle skills, and the bachelor’s degree. None of these pathways guarantees middle-class earnings, but each offers different odds of success. Because good jobs for workers with a high school diploma have decreased, the middle-skills and bachelor’s degree pathways are now more likely to lead to jobs that pay well.”

Some important facts detailed in the article to consider:

  • A certificate increases the chances of being hired by 9%.
  • Three out of five associate’s degrees (57%) and nearly all certificates (94%) are awarded in career-oriented fields.
  • About 94% of certificates and 57% of associate’s degrees awarded are in career-oriented fields.
  • Workers who report being employed in a job related to their certificate program have higher median earnings (between $40,001 and $50,000) than those who are not working in a related job (between $20,001 and $30,000).
  • About 8% of workers have a certificate as their highest level of educational attainment, and 9% have an associate’s degree. An additional 15% of workers have some college but no credential.
  • Among workers with certificates, those who studied engineering technologies have median earnings between $75,001 and $150,000, easily outpacing those with certificates in cosmetology and education, who have median earnings between $10,001 and $20,000.
  • Earning a certificate in a blue-collar field (such as mechanic or repair technologies, manufacturing, and construction trades) can lead to a job with median earnings between $40,001 and $50,000.

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