I have written much about the value of a college degree. On average, those with a 4-year degree make more money than those with a 2-year degree who make more money than those with a college degree. Education pays.
Yet I have not written much about certificates, another way people can boost their earnings via education, but without getting a degree.
A recent study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce shows that certificates, in many instances, are a good alternative for people seeking to raise their incomes. Here is the punchline:
“Certificates count when it comes to leveraging gainful employment in a variety of ways. On average, certificate holders earn 20 percent more than high school-educated workers – about $240,000 over a high school diploma in lifetime earnings. More than 60 percent of certificates have a clearly demonstrated economic payoff over high school diplomas—i.e., earnings 10 percent higher than the median high school graduate. Moreover, even when certificates don’t provide much of an earnings boost, they can make individuals more employable, giving them access to valuable learning on the job.”
The report also looks at differences in return by sex:
“Certificates provide more bang for the buck for men than women. Men who earn certificates earn 27 percent more than high school- educated men. Women with a certificate, by comparison, only receive an average 16 percent increase in earnings over women with a high school diploma.”
Finally, the authors recognize that the field in which the certificate earns matters:
“The earnings of the median certificate holder who works outside his or her field of study are only 1 percent higher than the median high school-educated worker. Certificate holders who work in field, by contrast, earn 37 percent more than those who work out of field—only 4 percent less than the median worker with an Associate’s degree.”
Bottom line: A carefully chosen certificate program can be a good alternative path to higher earnings.