|Non-Degree Certificates Buy High
When Mauricio Lopez came to the United States 20 years ago from El
Salvador to live with his mom, he had a green card, but no high school
degree. He was 18 years old and did not speak English. So, his job
possibilities were limited. For a time, he served as a restaurant cook.
He learned English while working in a building supplies store. He also
became a U.S. citizen. A man who often came to the store owned an HVAC
company. HVAC companies deal with the heating and cooling systems for
The man asked Lopez to come work for him. He asked over and over again
for three years.
“But I was, at that time, again I was afraid, because I didn’t know
anything about no electricity, or anything related to heating and
cooling, you know, job.”
The man said he would pay Lopez to learn the job, but the wages during
training would be low. The training to get a certificate as an HVAC
technician would take seven months.
“You start thinking about bills and all the responsibilities, but he’s
like, 'once you learn, everything’s going to be different, you know'?”
Six years ago, the man made one last offer, and Lopez, with support from
his future wife, decided to go for it.
Within a year, Lopez had his HVAC certificate
and became a senior technician. His new employer was proved right,
everything for Lopez was different.
“So they gave me the certificate with them, and then, life changed, my
life changed real. So, I am happy that I took the opportunity that he
Lopez works for a different company now, and says he is “blessed.” He
makes two times the amount of money he made before, and loves his work.
He is now married and has a baby girl.
Lopez is just the kind of worker described in a new report from the
Strada Education Network, Lumina Foundation and Gallup. The report says
that American adults who hold certificates and certifications, but no
college degree, report better employment and lives than those without
certificates. Lumina says that five percent of individuals without a
college degree have a certificate.
The report is based on the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey of
U.S. adults. The survey looked at Americans’ educational experiences and
attitudes. It involved almost 64,000 participants, ages 25 to 64. No one
in the group had a college degree nor were any in college. All were
It found that adults without a college degree, who have a certificate or
certification, have higher full-time employment rates than others with
no credentials. The report says they have higher yearly wages. It also
says they believe their education path was valuable, and would advise
others to follow.
Dave Clayton is a vice president with the Strada Education Network.
“What was unique in this research is actually asking people directly
about their experiences, and learning that they feel that they are more
attractive job candidates, those who have a certificate or
certification, and also hearing in their own words, their sense that
they would recommend their path to others like them.”
Clayton says the research found that there is more than just economic
value to getting a certificate or certification.
“So the individuals not only are getting the economic and wage benefits,
that are documented in other places, but they also have this sense of it
was a valuable experience for them, in their lives.”
HVAC is just one of many industries for which there are certification
programs. There are all kinds of health care industry certificates, for
example. A CPR certificate means you have learned how to perform
cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. A phlebotomy certificate can help you
get a hospital job drawing patients’ blood for testing. There are also
certificates for work in transportation, like CDLs, or commercial
Clayton says it is interesting to see how the income benefits are very
different, depending on the work the person chooses.
“So security and protective services, architecture, engineering,
construction, mining, certificates for people in those fields, they
report having higher incomes if they have certificates and
Certificates in education, training, library, or office or
administrative and support worker jobs do not earn as much.
Also, the extra income enjoyed by non-degree adults who have
certificates is “considerably larger” for men than women, across all
kinds of jobs.
But whether a certificate brings small or large wage increases, Lopez
says he earns a lot from helping his customers.
“You go there and tell them, look, don’t worry, I’m going to fix it, and
then we walk out of their house and you see their smile on their faces
and it’s like 'Wow.' It’s awesome! It feels good!”
Sometimes, it is not just about the money.