Poster Paper: Labor Market Premiums of Occupational Licenses and Certifications Among Employees without a Bachelor’s Degree

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jeounghee Kim, Rutgers University and Sangeeta Chatterji, Johns Hopkins University


Nearly 58 percent of US adults did not have any postsecondary educational degree in 2016 and had poorer labor market outcomes than those with postsecondary degrees. Recent federal workforce development policies focused on providing them with education and training for jobs that require more than a high school degree but less than a bachelor’s degree. These jobs aim for middle-skilled occupations in high-demand industries with industry-valued licenses and certifications. Literature indicates that well-paying middle-skill occupations that do not require a postsecondary degree are predominantly held by men, whereas any high-paying middle skill jobs largely held by women often require at least an associate degree, suggesting that occupational credentials for adults without any postsecondary educational degree are most likely to benefit men. This study examined the effects of licenses and certifications on weekly work hours and monthly earnings for women and men in the sub-baccalaureate labor market.


Using the Survey of Income and Program Participation of 2008 and its wave 13 topical module on occupational credentials, this study drew a nationally representative sample of 7,744 women and 6,539 men with less than a 4-year college education. Our independent variable was holding a license and certification, and our dependent variables were weekly work hours and monthly earnings. We ran a Tobit regression model to account for zero work hours and earnings for women and men separately while controlling for a variety of demographic and employment characteristics including race/ethnicity, education, marital status, number of children, immigration and citizenship status, English proficiency, and state of residence.


Higher percentages of males than females had licenses (10.42% vs. 8.34%) or certifications (6.68% vs. 3.6%). There was also a gender division in occupation such that female workers with credentials were concentrated in health care services whereas male workers were concentrated in construction and manufacturing. On average, women worked eight fewer hours and earned more than $900 less than men in the overall sample. Marginal effects of Tobit analyses showed that for men holding a license was associated with five more hours of weekly work and $494 more in monthly earnings, and holding a certification was related to three more hours and $434 more in earnings. For women, holding a license was associated with six more hours of weekly work and $458 in monthly earnings, and a certification was related to six more hours and $516 more in earnings.


These findings suggest that non-degree occupational credentials help not only men but also women in the sub-baccalaureate labor market with their work hours and earnings. In fact, the effects of certification on work hours and earnings were greater for women than for men. Federal workforce development policy that aims at middle-skill jobs with occupational credentials can help the targeted low-skilled women as well as men achieve desirable labor market outcomes. Further implications for policy and research are discussed.