Data on certifications and licenses

In January 2015, questions were added to the Current Population Survey (CPS) to identify persons with professional certifications and licenses.

Certifications and licenses are credentials that demonstrate a level of skill or knowledge needed to perform a specific type of job. Certifications are issued by a non-governmental body, but licenses are awarded by a government agency and convey a legal authority to work in an occupation. People may have more than one certification or license; people with a license may also have a certification.



Learn more about these new data in the frequently asked questions page.

 

Highlights of the 2015 data

Certifications and licenses are credentials that demonstrate a level of skill or knowledge needed to perform a specific type of job. Certifications are issued by a non-governmental body, but licenses are awarded by a government agency and convey a legal authority to work in an occupation. People may have more than one certification or license; people with a license may also have a certification.

These are 2015 annual average estimates for the nation as a whole; data are not available for states or local areas.

  • Among the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and over, 17.8 percent held a currently active certification or license. (See table 1.)
  • Employed people were more likely to hold a currently active certification or license (25.5 percent) in 2015 than the unemployed (12.7 percent) or those who were not in the labor force (6.1 percent). (See table 1.)
  • The majority of people with credentials had a license. Among the employed, 22.4 percent had a license and 3.1 percent had a certification, but no license. (See table 1.)
  • Certifications and licenses were more prevalent in some occupations than others: more than three-fourths of workers in healthcare practitioners and technical occupations held these credentials compared with fewer than 1 out of 10 building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations. (See table 5.)
  • The share of employed people over 25 years old who hold a certification or license increases with the level of education. For example, 8.4 percent of employed people with less than a high school diploma had a certification or license in 2015 compared with 51.9 percent of employed people with advanced degrees. (See table 3.)
  • Median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers with a certification or license were 34 percent higher than earnings for those who do not hold such credentials ($1,004 versus $747, respectively). This difference partially reflects the fact that people with certifications or licenses tend to have higher levels of education, and people with more education tend to have higher earnings. (See table 6.)
  • 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). The difference in unemployment rates also partially reflects differences in educational attainment between those with and without a certification or license. (See table 2.)
Employment
  • Among the employed, people who worked full time were more likely to hold a certification or license than those who worked part time (26.9 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively). (See table 1.)
  • 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). (See table 3.)
  • Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic workers were the least likely (15.7 percent) and White workers the most likely (26.2 percent) to hold a certification or license. (See table 3.)
  • For employed people 25 years and over, the likelihood of holding a certification or license increased with educational attainment. In 2015, 8.4 percent of workers with less than a high school diploma held one of these credentials, compared with 51.9 percent of workers with advanced degrees. (See table 3.)
  • Among people 25 years and over with less than a high school diploma, those who held a certification or license were nearly twice as likely to be employed than were those with the same education who did not hold such credentials (78.5 percent and 40.1 percent, respectively). (See table 2.)
Unemployment
  • People with a certification or license had a lower unemployment rate (2.7 percent) than those without these credentials (6.1 percent) in 2015. This partially reflects the fact that people with more education have lower unemployment rates and were more likely to hold one of these credentials. (See table 2.)
  • Looking at these two types of credentials, the unemployment rate for people with a certification, but no license was 3.5 percent compared with 2.6 percent for those with a license. (See table 2.)
  • For people of similar age, sex, race, or educational attainment, those who held a certification or license had lower unemployment rates than those who did not have these credentials. (See table 2.)
Occupation
  • The occupations in which workers had the highest likelihood of having a certification or license were healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (76.9 percent), legal occupations (68.1 percent), and education, training, and library occupations (55.5 percent). In most fields, licenses were the predominant credential. (See table 5.)
  • The occupation group with the highest likelihood of certification, but no license was computer and mathematical occupations, at 8.5 percent in 2015; this was also the only occupation where licenses were not the predominant credential. (See table 5.)
  • Government workers (which include many workers in education and health services) were more likely to hold a certification or license (40.6 percent) than private industry workers (22.6 percent). (See table 4.)
Earnings
  • People with a certification or license earned about one-third more than those without these credentials. Among full-time wage and salary workers, median usual weekly earnings of workers with a certification or license ($1,004) were 34 percent higher than earnings for workers without a certification or license ($747) in 2015. People who held a certification or license generally had higher earnings than those who did not have these credentials, for people of similar age, sex, or race. (The comparison of earnings in these tables are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that may be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 6.)
  • Education is important in explaining differences in earnings by certification or licensing status, as more highly-educated workers have both higher earnings on average and a higher likelihood of having a certification or license (as shown in table 3). Comparisons of workers with the same level of education showed smaller differences in median earnings between those with and without these credentials than the difference for workers overall. (See table 6.)
  • The difference in earnings between those with these credentials and those without narrowed as education increased. For example, median weekly earnings of people age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma who held such a credential ($596) were 22 percent higher than earnings of those with the same level of education who did not hold a credential ($488); college graduates with these credentials earned 4 percent more than those without these credentials ($1,256 and $1,205, respectively). (See table 6.)

 

CPS data on certifications and licenses

These are 2015 annual average estimates for the nation as a whole; data are not available for states or local areas.

  • Table 1. Certification and licensing status of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and over by employment status (HTML) (XLSX)
  • Table 2. Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by certification and licensing status and selected characteristics (HTML) (XLSX)
  • Table 3. Certification and licensing status of employed persons 16 years and over by selected characteristics (HTML) (XLSX)
  • Table 4. Certification and licensing status of the employed by industry and class of worker (HTML) (XLSX)
  • Table 5. Certification and licensing status of the employed by occupation (HTML) (XLSX)
  • Table 6. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by certification and licensing status and selected characteristics (HTML) (XLSX)
  • Table 7. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by certification and licensing status and occupation (HTML) (XLSX)
  • All seven tables in a single file (XLSX)

 

For more information about the certification and licensing data, contact the BLS Current Population Survey office at 202-691-6378 or by e-mail.

 

Last Modified Date: April 15, 2016