As the pandemic recedes, the emerging global marketplace is characterized by a shortage of talent to fill rapidly changing skills needs. In this market, employers are seeking efficiencies in the process for recruiting and vetting qualified talent and are looking for signals that jobseekers possess needed skills and competencies enabling them to perform on the job. Workers and learners are opting for shorter-term credentials over degrees to gain the skills they need in pursuit of satisfying employment. With the myriad of credentials in the marketplace, how do learners know which credentials will truly prepare them to meet their career aspirations? And how do employers know what the credentials provided on a job application really mean the applicant can do? Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) research points to the role certifications can play in answering these questions and adding value for both workers and employers.
The Value of Certifications to Employers
In industries where they are recognized and valued, certifications can offer a return to employers by reducing the time to hire, increasing the likelihood of attracting qualified applicants, serving as tools for upskilling, and increasing employee engagement. By requiring certifications, healthcare employers demonstrate to practitioners they value professionalism, which can increase employee retention. They also demonstrate to the public that the employer is one that attracts a skilled workforce.
These benefits are not only evident in healthcare. Because of the costs associated with hiring talent, many technology employers are investing in upskilling their incumbent workforce and using certifications to ensure those investments are capturing the rapidly changing environment within which the companies operate. A recent study of information technology (IT) decision-makers and learning and development professionals revealed that the presence of a certification on an application increases the likelihood an application would be reviewed, eases the interviewing process, and positively impacts work efficiency, productivity, and the employees’ contribution on the job. Respondents further believe certification holders to be more innovative, better at problem solving, and better connected to industry resources. In fact, respondents reported that the benefits of IT certifications outweigh the costs with more than 50 percent estimating an annual economic benefit for each certified employee to be more than $10,000.
The Value to Jobseekers and Learners
Certifications are created to assure professional competency among certification holders and are earned by individuals at the start of their career, at a mid-point or as a senior level professional. Though there is limited outcomes data collected about certifications, some national information does indicate that certifications positively affect certification holders in the labor market. Benefits include increased earnings, career advancement, and non-income related or intrinsic value.
In a 2018 study of employment statistics for people with certifications and licenses, researchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the labor force participation rate for those with an active certification or professional license was 30 percent higher, and the unemployment rate was less than one-half of those without a certification or license. Among those who held a certification or professional license, more than 84 percent indicated the credential was required for their job. Exploring Current Population Survey data, the Labor Market Information Institute found that workers who have a certification earn 44 percent more than those without a certification nationally. A more granular analysis revealed that, depending on the state, the premium for certification holders ranged from a weekly earnings difference of $224 or 29 percent in Indiana, to Virginia where certification holders earn on average $714 or 79 percent more than their peers who do not hold a certification. A related study found a 50 percent salary premium for adults who have certification or certificate but no degree (an average of $45,000 opposed to $30,000 for those who do not have a credential).
The IT industry offers a prime example as to the role certifications play for holders. Among 29,000 IT certification holders who responded to a 2021 Pearson VUE survey, 73 percent indicated they sought certification to obtain the skills necessary to keep up with advances in technology. Fifty-six percent sought certification to enhance their resumes. Another 56 percent were hoping to advance their career or receive a promotion, while 26 percent were career changers. The results revealed that the certifications paid off—36 percent landed a new job, 28 percent received a raise, and 21 percent were promoted.
The findings of a Strada Education Network/Gallup poll in 2019 of nearly 50,000 working adults point to non-income related values of non-degree credentials like certificates and certifications. For example, individuals reported a higher degree of marketability and employment. They “see themselves as more attractive job candidates, and they are more likely to recommend their path to their peers.” The 2021 Pearson VUE survey also supports these findings. Among respondents, 91 percent experienced increased confidence in their abilities, 76 percent felt more respected by their colleagues, 76 percent have found greater job satisfaction, and 74 percent experienced more autonomy at work.
Leveraging the Value of Certifications
More research will be required to determine if the trends identified through the anecdotal and limited research described could be repeated in other industries. But, in those industries with strong adoption by employers, certifications show the potential to serve as an important tool in hiring and advancement.
Because of the transparency with respect to the competencies demonstrated by certification holders, employers should consider placing greater emphasis on certifications for recruitment and screening purposes. The competencies which comprise certifications should be articulated as part of skills-based job descriptions, which could, then broaden the pool of qualified applicants. Those competencies could also become part of employee performance review and advancement policies. Such efforts could help to remove bias and diversify the workforce and increase access and opportunity for all workers.
“Certifications Offer Value to Learners and Employers” was first published by Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) on Medium and was republished here with permission.