Professional Training Linked Higher Income for Less Educated, Report

February 5, 2014 Updated: October 8, 2018

Even though higher education has by far the biggest impact on people’s paychecks, completing a certified course might just give the edge one needs to increase wages in the labor market, a U.S. Census Bureau report found.

At the end of 2012, the Census Bureau collected data from more than 230,000 respondents that, for the first time, included questions about alternative education, such as certificates and licenses a person can get for completing courses or meeting some professional yardsticks.

The data shows that among people who attained associate degrees or less, such additional credentials translate into a higher salary and an easier time finding a job.

For respondents with only a high school diploma, or even without a high school diploma, a professional certification or a license meant a $500 higher median monthly salary. Among those with an associate or lesser college degrees, additional certificates bumped up the median income by $300. The advantage dissipated among holders of a Bachelor’s or higher degrees.

About 15 percent of unemployed respondents had some kind of extra credentials, compared to more than 30 percent among those full-time employed. Moreover, three out of four certificate or license holders said such credentials were required by their last employer.

The report doesn’t list specific certificates or licenses the respondents had, but states that most of them were issued by government or educational institutions. The majority of the programs required more than a month of training and were of a technical character.

The report concluded that “while traditional educational attainment provides one route to a productive career, it is not the only path.”

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