Why This Counts: New Timely Data on Professional Certifications and Licenses

To data nerds like us at BLS and many of our data users, there’s little more satisfying than releasing an important set of new, needed information. Today is such a day!

When applying for a job, people often point to their education to show they have the necessary skills to do the job. But many jobs also require professional certifications or licenses. While BLS has published statistics on labor force status by level of education for a long time, nondegree credentials, such as professional certifications or licenses, have received less attention in national surveys. That is, until today—BLS now has a stat for that, too!

Professional certifications and licenses are nondegree credentials that show a person has the skill or knowledge needed to do a specific job. These include credentials like commercial driver’s licenses, teaching licenses, medical licenses, information technology certifications, and many others. They are important. Just take a moment to think about yourself and your family members. Chances are that many of you have such credentials. Indeed, three of my four siblings do: as an accountant, a nurse, and a hairdresser.

To learn more about who has professional certifications and licenses and how they fare in the labor market, we’ve added new questions to the Current Population Survey. That’s the monthly survey of about 60,000 households that we use to measure the U.S. labor force and unemployment rate.

From these new data, we find that 25.5 percent of employed people held a currently active certification or license in 2015.

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