Tag Archives: Certifications and Licenses

The Role of Certifications and Licenses in State Post-Secondary Attainment Goals


The above map shows state post-secondary attainment goals. Scroll over a state to see more information on its attainment goals.


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.


Forty-two states have set goals for the attainment of post-secondary credentials, including degrees and certificates. This blogpost explores how these goals vary by state with special attention to whether and how states measure the attainment of professional credentials like certifications and licenses. [1]

Fifty States, Forty-Two Different Attainment Goals

State educational attainment goals are generally focused on increasing the overall level of education among state residents. States prioritize different types of credentials, including some and excluding others, and set goals for different sub-populations, focusing only on people in the workforce or setting specific goals for younger workers and new labor market entrants. States measure progress toward their goals in different ways as well, using different national and state databases to track educational attainment.

There are some similarities across states as well. Among the 42 states that have set goals, 31 measure attainment among the population ages 25 to 64, regardless of employment status.

Goals in three states measure the attainment of credentials only among the state’s workforce. Six states aim to increase the attainment of post-secondary credentials among their young adult population (ages 25-34). Minnesota and Washington set their attainment goals for working adults ages 25 to 44. Colorado and Pennsylvania aim to increase educational attainment among persons from traditionally underrepresented populations, reducing gaps in attainment among white and non-white populations.

Attainment goals also vary in their consideration of professional credentials. All 42 state attainment goals include the attainment of traditional degrees – including both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Six states only consider the attainment of degrees in their goal. Sixteen states additionally include certificates. The remaining 20 states track the attainment of any post-secondary credentials, including professional credentials like certifications and licenses and apprenticeship programs.

However, tracking the attainment of certificates and professional credentials can prove challenging for states.  Federal datasets that collect information on persons’ level of education typically only collect data on degree types, and do not collect data on certificates or professional credentials.  The next blogpost in this series will further explore available sources providing data on the attainment of professional credentials.

Measuring Attainment: Stories from Three States

Alabama, Iowa, and Washington all track the attainment of any post-secondary credential towards their higher education attainment goals. However, how these states track post-secondary credentials, and which post-secondary credentials each state tracks, varies.

Washington Student Achievement Council Educational Attainment Dashboard. Explore this dashboard at https://wsac.wa.gov/roadmap/attainment

The Washington Student Achievement Council set a 10-year goal in 2013 for 70% of Washington adults aged 25-44 to have a postsecondary credential by 2023.  Washington’s plan to increase educational attainment in the state specifically calls on increased attainment of “postsecondary certificate[s], apprenticeship[s], or degree[s].”[2]Washington Student Achievement Council Educational Attainment Dashboard

Washington tracks attainment of degrees using 1-year American Community Survey estimates[3], and estimates the attainment of high-value certificates using data annually produced by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce (CEW) on behalf of the Lumina Stronger Nation Report.[4] The CEW derives state level estimates for certificate attainment from U.S. Census and IPEDS data.

Iowa Laborshed Survey Analysis – Educational Attainment Dashboard. Explore this dashboard at https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/laborshed-studies

In 2016, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad set a goal for 70% of Iowa’s workforce to have “education or training beyond high school…including postsecondary degrees, certificates, and other high-quality credentials” by 2025.[5]  Future Ready Iowa and Iowa Workforce Development track the attainment of postsecondary credentials using the state’s Laborshed Survey.[6]  In addition to degree attainment, Iowa counts the attainment of “some education beyond high school, no degree obtained,” “vocational training,” and “trade certification” towards its attainment goal.

Alabama Works! Success Plus Educational Attainment Dashboard. Explore more at https://alabamaworks.com/successplus/

Alabama Works! set a goal for 60% of the state’s working age population to hold “some type of certificate, credential or degree of value” by 2025 in response to an executive order from Governor Kay Ivey in 2017.  Alabama Works tracks the attainment of postsecondary credentials using data from the Current Population Survey.  In addition to degree attainment, the Current Population Survey additionally tracks the attainment of certifications and licenses, of which Alabama specifically tracks the attainment of certifications and licenses that are required for an individual’s job.

Read more about the data sources mentioned in this article in our February 2020 blog post on certifications and licenses.


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.


[1] All data on state attainment goals provided by the Lumina Foundation and aggregated by HCM Strategists, unless otherwise noted.  http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2019/media/Attainment_Goal_state%20rundown_021519.pdf

[2] https://wsac.wa.gov/the-2013-roadmap

[3] https://wsac.wa.gov/roadmap/attainment

[4] http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2019/#page/sources

[5] https://governor.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Executive%20Order%2088.pdf

[6] https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/laborshed-studies

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.


 

New Data on the Attainment of Certifications and Licenses


The above map provides state-level attainment rates. Scroll over your state to see how it compares nationally! The attainment rate is the percentage of the population with a certification or license, according to the LMI Institute’s analysis of Current Population Survey data made available by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

This article is part of a series of reports on new estimates from the Labor Market Information Institute State Certification and Licenses Data Tables.


Eighteen percent of the United States civilian non-institutional population aged 16 years or older has a certification or license. Across states, the percentage of the population with a certification or license ranges from 15 percent in California to 22 percent in Maine. Across occupations, the difference in average weekly earnings for those with a certification or license ranges from $70 to $744.

While non-academic credentials are not as common as a college degree, they do boost employability and earnings, providing opportunities for those with and without a college degree to advance their career. Attainment of certifications and licenses increases by education level and is generally associated with higher earnings.

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

As the first state-level estimates of certification and license attainment for the United States, the State Certification and Licenses Data Tables are a new tool for specialists in workforce, education, and economic development. Previous state-level research into certifications and licenses sought to categorize and analyze licensed occupations, measure the burden of attaining licensure, or estimate the count of different licenses nationwide. The State Certification and Licenses Data Tables report the labor force status and earnings for the population with and without a certification or license by age, gender, race and ethnicity, occupation, and industry.

The State Certification and Licenses Data Tables have several key limitations derived from the design of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS). First, due to the limited number of questions included in the survey instrument, it is difficult to separate the attainment of certifications and licenses. Licenses are authorized by a government licensing agency and convey legal authority to work in an occupation, while certifications are awarded by non-governmental bodies. Second, the survey does not collect data on the specific certifications or licenses held by individuals. For example, CPS data only notes whether a worker in a computer and mathematical occupation has a certification and/or license or not – it doesn’t distinguish whether the individual held a Comptia Security+ or Project Management Professional certification. Lastly, the State Certification and Licenses Data Tables provide limited information on persons with lower levels of education and in smaller racial/ethnic groups due to smaller available samples. To account for this smaller sample size, the  State Certification and Licenses Data Tables rely on a 3 year estimate of CPS data currently spanning 2016 to 2018.

Despite these limitations, the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute is excited for its state LMI partners to engage with the State Certification and Licenses Data Tables. State LMI shops have the necessary familiarity, data, and tools to understand these estimates within the context of their state. Combined with an understanding of their state’s trends, LMI researchers can utilize these estimates to better understand of the effect of non-degree credentials  on labor market outcomes in their state. LMI Institute will also be publishing public views for a broader audience. See the map above and follow the link to explore the data.


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.

New Report: How Credentials Help Veterans Transition to Civilian Work

According to a new report from Strada, Veterans Without Degrees, veterans not only hold more non-degree credentials than the general population, but veterans with credentials also have better employment and earnings outcomes than those without.

Furthermore, the report found that credentials obtained during veterans’ military service represent marketable skills when they enter the civilian workforce. However, much of the training and education provided by the military is not documented in a way that is applicable to the civilian job market. Given the positive labor force outcomes of credentialed veterans, the report recommends that further steps be taken to make sure that veteran education is better documented in a way that is recognized in the broader economy.

This report is part of a growing body of research into the impact of non-degree credentials on employment and earnings outcomes. The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), with the LMI Institute, conducted research into veteran outcomes in summer 2019 utilizing the Current Population Survey (CPS) microdata, and found similar patterns of attainment and outcomes. That report can be found here. The LMI Institute is also using the CPS microdata to assess the impact that licenses and certifications have in the broader workforce, which you can learn more about here.

Professional Certifications and Licenses Increase Earnings and Reduce Unemployment, New Data Shows

Written by Anuradha Dhar

At the end of June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the Department of Labor released a report on 2018 data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on the role of professional certifications and occupational licenses in the U.S. labor market. Their most recent annual data was released in January 2019.

This data, produced since 2015, is the first to provide such comprehensive insights into the prevalence of certifications and licenses and related earnings. The Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute has been working with this data since 2015 to produce the State Certification and License Database, found here.

Certifications and licenses are credentials that demonstrate an individual’s competency related to a skill or knowledge used in performing specific jobs. Licenses are issued by a federal, state or local government agency; certifications are issued by nongovernmental certification bodies.

Continue reading