Department of Labor publishes new stats on professional certifications and licenses

For many years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has published statistics on employment and other characteristics of the labor force by level of education. For example, we know from these statistics that in general, more education means a higher salary. For those that held a bachelor’s degree in 2014, median weekly earnings were $1,193. Compare that to median weekly earnings of $488 for those with less than a high school diploma. While these data are very informative, they didn’t give us a complete picture because they didn’t include statistics on nondegree credentials – like professional certifications or licenses (for example, commercial driver’s licenses, teaching licenses, medical licenses, information technology certifications, etc.).

By adding new questions to the Current Population Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics can, for the first time, now report on who has professional certifications and licenses and how they are doing in the labor market.

2015 Highlights

  • 25.5 percent of employed people held a currently active certification or license in 2015
  • A high proportion of workers in the healthcare field had certifications or licenses
  • Employed people with a college degree are more likely to have professional certifications and licenses than workers with less formal education
  • People who held a certification or license had a lower unemployment rate than those who did not (2.7 percent versus 6.1 percent, respectively)
  • Having a certification or license is associated with higher earnings among people with similar levels of education: among workers age 25 and older with some college or an associate degree, people who held a certification or license earned a median of $825 per week – 11 percent higher than the earnings of people who did not have these credentials ($742).
  • In 2015, employed women were slightly more likely to hold a certification or license than employed men (28.1 percent and 23.2 percent, respectively)