Trends in Certification and License Attainment and Earnings by Education Level


The above figure shows the attainment rate and difference in median weekly earnings between workers with and without a certification or license by education level.

This article is part of a series of reports on new estimates from the Labor Market Information Institute State Certification and Licenses Data Tables. Find previous blog posts in this series here.


The attainment of certifications and licenses, and their associated earnings, varies by education level. U.S. workers with a degree attain certifications and licenses at a higher rate than workers without a degree. However, workers with less than a degree had the largest and most consistent boost in earnings relative to their non-credentialed counterparts. Workers without a degree earned at least $95 more with a certification or license in every state.

Key Definitions and Methods

The attainment rate is the percentage of the population with a certification or license

To find the attainment rate for various sub-populations, we divide the number of people in the sub-population with a certification or license by the total number of people in the sub-population.

The difference in earnings is found by subtracting the earnings of people without a certification or license from the earnings of people with a certification or license

Attainment by Education Level

Thirty percent of full-time workers with a degree and 11 percent of full-time workers without a degree have a certification or license in the United States.

When examined by level of education, the attainment rate continues to vary by state. The percent of workers with a degree and a certification or license varies from 37.1% in Wyoming to 23.8% in the District of Columbia. The percent of workers without a degree and a certification or license varies from 16.4% in Alaska to 7.8% in South Carolina. Attainment rates of certifications and licenses are high in Wyoming and Alaska regardless of education level. 35.8% of Alaskans with a degree have a certification or license, the 4th highest rate among states for workers with a degree. 14.3% of Wyomingites without a degree have a certification or license, also the 4th highest among states for workers without a degree.


The above figure shows the attainment rate by education level. The attainment rate is the percentage of the population with a certification or license.

Earnings by Education Level

While we might expect the increase in earnings associated with the attainment of certifications or licenses to accelerate with higher levels of education, workers without a degree had the largest difference in earnings between workers with and without a certification or license. In fact, workers with a degree earned less with a certification or license than their non-credentialed counterparts in two states, Washington and Oklahoma.

Full-time workers with a degree had $1,229 in median weekly earnings with a certification or license, $68 more than similar workers without a certification or license.

Earnings for workers with a degree and a certification or license also vary by state. Workers with a degree in Mississippi had the lowest median weekly earnings with a certification or license of any state, $974, although these workers earned $85 more than similar, non-credentialed workers. In the District of Columbia, workers with a degree and a certification or license had $1,823 in median weekly earnings, the most of any state. These workers earned $294 more than similar workers without a certification or license. Workers with a degree and a certification or license also earned $200 more than their non-credentialed counterparts in Hawaii ($241), Nevada ($221), and New York ($209).

However, workers with a degree earned less with a certification or license than without in Washington and Oklahoma. Workers with a degree in Washington earned $1,379, or $7 less, with a certification or license, and workers with a degree in Oklahoma earned $1,024, or $12 less, with a certification or license, relative to workers without a certification or license in each respective state.


The above figure shows median weekly earnings with and without a certification or license by education level. Earnings without a certification or license are in orange, earnings with a certification or license are in blue.

While U.S. workers without a degree only had $796 in median weekly earnings with a certification or license, these earnings were $104 or 15% more than those of similar workers without a certification or license.

In contrast to workers with a degree, workers without a degree earned at least $95 more with a certification or license in every state. Workers without a degree in Colorado had $1,010 in median weekly earnings with a certification or license, $251 more than similar workers without a certification or license. Colorado workers without a degree had the largest difference in earnings between workers with and without a certification or license of any state. Workers without a degree also earned $200 more than their non-credentialed counterparts in Hawaii ($237), Alaska ($214), and Arizona ($203). Workers without a degree in Alaska had median weekly earnings of $1,022 with a certification or license, the most of any state.

Workers without a degree in Florida had the lowest median weekly earnings with a certification or license of any state, $740. These workers only earned $95 more than similar workers without a certification or license. Workers without a degree with a certification or license only earned less than $100 more than their non-credentialed counterparts in Arkansas ($98), Missouri ($97), Ohio ($96), Vermont ($95), Nebraska ($95), Florida ($95).


The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Current Population Survey collects information on the prevalence of certifications and licenses in the United States, published annually. Using this data, the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute produced state-level estimates on the prevalence of certifications and licenses, including tables comparing certification and licensure by educational attainment across occupations, age, race and ethnicity, and gender.