Tag Archives: Career guidance

Why This Counts: What Does BLS Know about Certifications and Licenses?

Whether you are an aspiring doctor or lawyer, teacher or barber, chances are you need a license to legally work. Or you may already have a license and are now rushing to get your continuing professional education courses done before the end of the year! Whatever your status, what does BLS know about certifications and licenses and how can the information help?

While BLS and other federal statistical agencies have long produced data on educational attainment, there used to be few public sources of information on nondegree credentials like certifications and licenses. To meet this need, BLS added new questions to the Current Population Survey, the national household survey best known as the source of the official unemployment rate, back in 2015. These data help researchers, policymakers, business owners, workers, and jobseekers better understand how holding a certification or license relates to employment, unemployment, and earnings.

At BLS, we define certifications and licenses as nondegree credentials that show the holder has the skill or knowledge needed to perform a specific job. Certifications come from a nongovernmental body, such as a professional or industry organization. Licenses come from a government agency and show a legal permission to work in an occupation.

In 2016, about 44.5 million people (almost the number of people who live in Spain) held a currently active professional certification or license. People with a certification or license had an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent, compared with 5.6 percent for people without one of these credentials. One-fourth of the employed held a certification or license in 2016.

The prevalence of certifications and licenses varies by a worker’s occupation. In 2016, there were four occupation groups where more than half of workers held a certification or license: healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (77.0 percent); legal occupations (66.8 percent); education, training, and library occupations (55.5 percent); and healthcare support occupations (50.9 percent).

Chart showing percent of workers in each occupational group who had a certification or license in 2016.

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

We also have information on how much workers with or without a certification or license earn. In 2016, the median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers with a certification or license was $1,032—35 percent higher than the median for workers without a certification or license ($765). These broad comparisons do not account for other important reasons that may explain differences in earnings, such as educational attainment and a worker’s specific job roles and responsibilities.

Whether you are a jobseeker, business owner, policy maker, or researcher, BLS data on professional certifications and licenses help you understand the important role that these credentials play in the U.S. labor market.

Percent of employed people with a certification or license by occupation, 2016 annual averages
Occupation With a license With a certification
but no license
Healthcare practitioners and technical 72.6% 4.4%
Legal 63.4 3.4
Education, training, and library 53.6 1.9
Healthcare support 47.2 3.6
Community and social services 33.5 5.0
Protective service 36.1 1.6
Personal care and service 27.9 3.1
Architecture and engineering 22.4 4.0
Life, physical, and social science 22.3 3.1
Total, 16 years and over 22.3 2.7
Business and financial operations 20.0 4.0
Installation, maintenance, and repair 18.3 5.3
Management 19.3 3.2
Transportation and material moving 20.7 1.5
Construction and extraction 17.5 2.2
Sales and related 14.3 1.8
Computer and mathematical 6.8 7.4
Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media 8.5 3.1
Production 8.0 2.2
Office and administrative support 8.2 1.4
Farming, fishing, and forestry 8.3 0.8
Food preparation and serving related 6.7 1.0
Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance 6.5 1.1

Most Popular Items in the Occupational Outlook Handbook

Interested in becoming a detective or a veterinarian or a software developer? You are not alone. These occupations are among the most visited pages of the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, our online career information guide.

On October 24, BLS released the 2016–26 Employment Projections and incorporated these projections into updates of the Handbook, which features 325 occupational profiles. Think you know everything a doctor or a police officer does from watching reruns of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Law and Order: SVU”? Think again. The BLS profiles discuss what workers do in an occupation, the education and training needed to work in an occupation, the pay, the job outlook, and other topics.

Just over one-third of all visits to the BLS website are to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, making it our most popular product. Here is a list of the top 10 most viewed profiles over the past year.

Rank Profile name 2016 Employment Employment change, 2016–26 Percent employment change, 2016–26 Typical education 2016 Median Wage
1 Physicians and Surgeons 713,800 106,500 15% Doctoral or professional degree >=$208,000
2 Registered Nurses 2,955,200 437,000 15% Bachelor’s degree $68,450
3 Police and Detectives 807,000 53,400 7% High school diploma $61,600
4 Lawyers 792,500 74,800 9% Doctoral or professional degree $118,160
5 Accountants and Auditors 1,397,700 140,300 10% Bachelor’s degree $68,150
6 Software Developers 1,256,200 299,500 24% Bachelor’s degree $102,280
7 Psychologists 166,600 22,600 14% Doctoral or professional degree $75,230
8 Veterinarians 79,600 14,400 18% Doctoral or professional degree $88,770
9 Physical Therapists 239,800 60,000 25% Doctoral or professional degree $85,400
10 Military Careers 2,100,000 High school diploma
Note: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not make projections or collect wage data for military occupations. Employment is from the Defense Manpower Data Center.

These occupations have some characteristics in common.

  • Most are well known and involve contact with the public.
  • Most require college or graduate education.
  • All are high paying.
  • Most are large occupations, although not all are among the fastest growing.

Most of us have some idea what workers in these occupations do. Either we come in contact with them on a regular basis (like doctors) or we see them on TV or in the movies (like lawyers). And while there haven’t been a lot of movies made about software developers, millions of people every day use many of their products, like mobile phone apps.

Many of the most popular occupations require a lot of education. Half require a doctoral or professional degree. In contrast, fewer than one in ten occupations across the economy requires that much education. Only two occupations on the list require a high school diploma.

The top ranked occupational profile, physicians and surgeons, is among the highest paid occupations. The rest of the list includes occupations that pay well above the 2016 median wage of $37,040.

Although nearly all the top ten profiles are projected to grow faster than average (7.4 percent), only physical therapists and software developers are also among the fastest growing occupations. Other than veterinarians, all employ over 100,000 workers, and four employ more than 1 million workers each.

Not interested in becoming an accountant or a psychologist? There are over 300 more occupational profiles available for you to explore.

Diagnosing “Grey’s Anatomy” with 5 doses of BLS data

Editor’s note: Elizabeth Cross, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wrote this post.

A television series that blends the professional and personal stories of doctors, “Grey’s Anatomy” is one of America’s most-watched medical dramas. You may know everything there is to know about McDreamy and McSteamy, but there’s still plenty to learn about other facets of the show.

Here are 5 facts from BLS related to “Grey’s Anatomy.”

  1. The drama is set in a fictional hospital in Seattle, Washington. According to data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were 34 general medical and surgical hospitals in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington, metropolitan statistical area in 2016.

Artistic image of doctors and a patient in an operating room.

  1. The show’s doctors and nurses rarely discuss their income or wages, but data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey offer clues. Those estimates show an average annual wage of $90,780 in May 2016 for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington, metropolitan statistical area. That was more than the average annual wage of $79,160 for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations nationally.

Artistic image of a medical chart, stethoscope, calculator, mobile phone, and money.

  1. The series has been praised for its racially diverse cast, but that small-screen diversity doesn’t always match occupational reality. According to the Current Population Survey, 71.6 percent of employed physicians and surgeons in 2016 were White, which is about on par with the current “Grey’s Anatomy” cast. But 7.5 percent of physicians and surgeons in the United States were Black or African American and 19.3 percent were Asian, compared with about 31 percent and 0 percent, respectively, in the current cast. Similarly, 38.2 percent of physicians and surgeons in the United States in 2016 were women, while around half of the drama’s main characters are women.

An artistic image of a diverse group of six doctors.

  1. The show’s writers seem keen on killing off its characters in dramatic fashion. Most of those casualties have involved plot lines away from the hospital, but the few that have occurred onsite may imitate real life. According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 7 of the 11 on-the-job fatal injuries for physicians and surgeons nationwide in 2015 were due to intentional violence by other people or self-inflicted injury.

An artistic image of a gravestone with flowers.

  1. Although some characters have met a bleak end, new ones are always being added to the series. Planning for new workers to fill openings may be grounded in fact: Employment Projections data show that about 290,000 job openings for physicians and surgeons are expected between 2014 and 2024. About 190,700 of those openings are projected to replace workers who leave the occupation permanently.

An artistic image of a hospital, ambulance, and medical helicopter.

Put Your Writing Skills to Work

Editor’s note: This post was written by Alan Zilberman, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are countless ways for people to express themselves through the written word. Social media, blogs, comment boards, and even private diaries are a way to flex the writing muscle. Most writers are happy to offer their thoughts for free, but the sheer quantity of media outlets and demand for content creates opportunities in occupations that put writing skills to work.

Writing occupations communicate ideas and concepts through written language. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

  • Writers and authors compose everything from novels to blog posts. They also write short stories, advertising copy, movie or TV scripts, and plays.
  • Reporters and correspondents, also known as journalists, include workers that write articles for newspapers, magazines, or Internet publications such as online only news services. They may report the news or offer their own opinions.
  • Editors plan, assign, and review everything from newspaper articles to novels. They review writing for syntax, spelling, and “bigger picture” concerns like style and storytelling.

All of these occupations are projected to have job openings in 2024, and all typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry, usually in English, journalism, or communications.

Writing occupation employment, wages, and projected job openings
Occupation 2014 Employment Percent self employed in 2014 Job openings due to growth and replacements,
2014–24
Median annual wage, 2016 Typical education needed for entry

Reporters and correspondents

49,300 14.8% 15,900 $37,820 Bachelor’s degree

Editors

117,200 13.6% 42,500 $57,210 Bachelor’s degree

Writers and authors

136,500 65.7% 26,100 $61,240 Bachelor’s degree

About two-thirds of writers and authors were self-employed in 2014, as were about 1 in 6 editors and reporters and correspondents. Most wage and salary workers in these occupations work in publishing industries, such as magazines, newspapers, or book publishers. People who write and edit for a living can often do so from their homes.

Median annual wages for these occupations ranged from $61,240 for writers and authors, to $57,210 for editors, to $37,820 for reporters and correspondents. (Wages are for May 2016. These wages do not include self-employed workers.) Wages for reporters and correspondents are much higher in metropolitan areas where many publishers are based, such as the New York and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas.

In order to get their work published, a writer or journalist typically proposes an assignment, also known as a “pitch,” to the appropriate editor. Editors are the gatekeepers for the outlets where they work; they read pitches, decide which ones are best for their readers, and approve them accordingly. Editors also take a writer’s initial draft and improve it so it is clearer and more evocative. By researching what editors want, writers can develop a portfolio of their “clips,” which will then increase their chances to build their writing careers. A newer alternative for writers and journalists to get their work published is to self-publish on the Internet, such as in a blog or in an e-book marketplace. If a blog or e-book gains enough attention or popularity, self-published writers could transition into more lucrative writing deals.

Explore all of these occupations and many more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The Growing Need for Eldercare Workers

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Emily Rolen, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tens of millions of babies were born in the United States between 1946 and 1964, and by 2024, nearly 70 million people will be between the ages of 60 and 78. People age 65 and older are projected to make up 23 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population in 2024, up from 18.1 percent in 2014 and 15.5 percent in 2004. As the population ages, they’ll need more workers to care for them in nursing care facilities, retirement communities, or at home.

As a result, occupations related to eldercare are projected to be among the fastest growing in the economy over the next decade. In fact, home health aides, personal care aides, registered nurses, nursing assistants and LPNs/LVNs are projected to add more than 1.6 million new jobs by 2024, or about 1 in 6 new jobs added to the economy. Let’s take a closer look at some of these jobs.

A graphic showing projected growth in eldercare-related healthcare occupations to 2024

Home health aides and personal care aides help older adults, as well as people with disabilities or cognitive impairment, with self-care and everyday tasks like bathing, housekeeping and meal preparation. Home health aides also provide basic health-related services, such as checking vital signs or administering prescribed medications. However, personal care aides cannot provide any medical services. Both occupations work in clients’ homes, long-term care settings, and residential care communities.

Home health aides and personal care aides typically do not need formal education, but most have a high school diploma or equivalent. Both learn their jobs through a brief period of on-the-job training. Home health aides are projected to be the fifth-fastest growing occupation between 2014 and 2024, with more than 348,000 new jobs. Personal care aides are projected to add more than 458,000 new jobs between 2014 and 2024, more than any other occupation.

Nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses work primarily in nursing homes and in hospitals, where they provide basic care. They help patients with activities of daily living, such as bathing, using the toilet and getting dressed. Nursing assistants and LPNs/LVNs listen to their patients, record health concerns and report that information to registered nurses and doctors. Depending on their work setting and the state in which they work, LPNs/LVNs may be allowed to perform additional tasks such as giving medication, starting intravenous drips, or doing routine laboratory tests.

Nursing assistants and LPNs/LVNs typically need a postsecondary nondegree award to enter the occupation. LPNs/LVNs must also have a license. The economy is projected to add 262,000 new nursing assistant jobs by 2024, and LPNs/LVNs are projected to increase by more than 117,000.

Registered nurses, the largest healthcare occupation, provide and coordinate medical care. In 2014 more than 3 in 5 RNs worked in hospitals. They observe patients, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results, and set up plans for patients’ care. Some registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides.

RNs are projected to add 439,300 by 2024, the largest increase after personal care aides. RNs usually take one of three education paths: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program.

Want to know more? Explore these occupations and many more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.