What Adults With Certificates But No College Degree Say About Their Job...

Higher Education

What Adults With Certificates But No College Degree Say About Their Job Experiences

By Jeffrey R. Young     May 14, 2019

What Adults With Certificates But No College Degree Say About Their Job Experiences

American adults who never completed college but who’ve earned a professional certificate are more likely to be employed and earn more than those without such certifications, according to a new analysis of Gallup polling data.

Those with no degree but a certificate reported a median annual income of $45,000, compared to $30,000 for those with no degree and no certificate. But the amount of the boost varies widely by profession, and it is more pronounced for men than for women.

That’s according to a new report out today by Strada Education Network, the Lumina Foundation and Gallup that draws on survey answers from nearly 50,000 people aged 25 to 64 who are working but who didn’t graduate from college. It’s a bit of an unusual sample, in that it was collected over a period of two and a half years, as part of an ongoing effort by Gallup and Strada to poll hundreds of people each day about higher education topics.

The report did not specify which certificates helped people more than others, though it said the fields where workers who had certificates but no degrees saw the highest income gains include security and protective services, architecture and engineering, and computer and mathematical fields. In the survey, all qualifications and income data were self-reported, and a professional certificate was defined as “something colleges, universities, and other professional or trade organizations award to those who complete a formal instruction or training program to learn the skills needed to work in a specific industry.”

Carol D’Amico, an executive vice president at Strada, said in an interview that the findings show that plenty of people without college degrees have found other ways to land well-paying careers. “There is no one pathway that’s going to be the silver bullet to create the talent pipeline,” she said. “That might seem obvious, but there are those who might be surprised by that.”

According to a previous Lumina Foundation report, about 5 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 have a professional certificate as their highest credential.

The report is the first in a series that examines survey responses collected with Gallup. Researchers say that one of the biggest surprises so far was similarities in satisfaction levels between non-college educated people with certificates and college graduates who have gone on to complete professional degrees. “What we have found is that at any level of education, when it’s more connected to a career purpose—and when there’s that connection [to] applied learning or internships—people are finding it more valuable,” said Nichole Torpey-Saboe, a director of research at Strada.

The income increase from a certificate was twice as much for men than for women, on average, according to the report. But the survey did not take into account other relevant factors that could have impacted the results, such as how many years of experience participants had, said Torpey-Saboe. She said they hope their finding prompts other researchers to explore the issue in greater depth.

Who Gets Hired

Meanwhile, another large-scale study of who gets jobs was released last week by LinkedIn, which analyzed the trove of data from the profiles on its professional social network.

The analysis focused on what jobs new college graduates are landing—at least among those who use the network. Software engineer came up as the most common job for new graduates, followed by registered nurse, salesperson, teacher and accountant. The prominence of coders is a reminder that LinkedIn skew toward tech compared to the broader population. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Occupational Outlook Handbook lists the fastest-growing jobs as personal-care aides and “combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.” Software developers rank fifth on that list.

Perhaps not surprisingly, LinkedIn said the most entry-level jobs are in New York City, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area.

More than half of last year’s new graduates landed a job in their first year out of college, and LinkedIn officials predict things will improve. “With U.S. unemployment rates at historic lows, this May’s crop of college graduates should be more optimistic about finding a job than in previous years,” said another new report by LinkedIn, its May 2019 Workforce Report.

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