Bringing the Economy Home

Vocational Certificates Have More Value In Idaho Than In Other States

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

Professional students practice their welding skills in Meridian, Idaho.

Two-year postsecondary certificates hold more economic value in Idaho than in most other states.  That’s according to a report released today that measures the value of vocational certificates.  But, at the same time, Idaho ranks among the bottom ten U.S. states when it comes to the number of people with two-year postsecondary certificates.

The report released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce examines the value of two-year colleges, calling certificates “the gateway to gainful employment and college degrees.”

The first paragraph of the study’s executive summary says it all:

“In America, the postsecondary certificate has become a cost-effective tool for increasing postsecondary educational attainment and gainful employment. Certificates are a homegrown American invention and are expanding rapidly in response to a wide range of educational and labor market demands.” – Georgetown University CEW

Ten states, including Idaho, have the largest share of high-value certificates.  Most of them are in the West and Midwest, in states including Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

“How much value a certificate has depends on many factors, such as local labor market demand for middle-skill jobs.  In some states, certificates offer a large wage premium, while in other states workers with certificates don’t do much better than high school graduates.” – Georgetown University CEW

But, as USA Today puts it, “the devil is in the details.” The paper reports, while vocational training can be more lucrative in the short run, that’s more true for Hispanics than blacks and for men than women.  It also depends on the field.

Quick facts from Georgetown’s report:

  • More than 1 million certificates were awarded in 2010; up from 300,000 in 1994.
  • Certificates have grown from 6 percent of postsecondary awards in 1980 to 22 percent of awards today.
  • Certificates have superseded Associate’s and Master’s degrees as the second most common award in the American postsecondary education and career training system.

Have you considered a two-year vocational program?  Are you a graduate of one? Let us know in the comments section below.


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