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Non-degree credentials pay off, but not as well if you’re a woman – report

It's still a man's world out there. Source: AFP/Bruno Ferrandez.

Non-degree credentials generally boost one’s employability in the job market, but a recent analysis has found that there is a gender bias in this economic payoff.

According to the report by think-tank New America, women with non-degree credentials are less likely to be employed than men with similar qualifications. If they are in employment, they rake in salaries substantially lower than men with the same credentials.

“Women appear to pay more for — and get less from — nondegree credentials, particularly if they do not have a bachelor’s degree,” the report said.

Nondegree credentials include educational certificates, professional and industry certifications, and occupational licenses. Since 2003, these sub-baccalaureate certificates awarded by postsecondary institutions has increased by nearly 50 percent in the US.

New America’s analysis refines the country’s Department of Education (DoE) final survey results published last February on work-experience programs and nondegree credentials. The DoE results showed that more than one-quarter (27 percent) of adults held at least one certificate, certification or license. These qualifications were found to generally have a positive economic payoff.

Breaking down the data, however, New America’s analysis reveals the gender gaps hidden in the earlier survey findings.

Men are more likely to be employed than women who hold the same credential type, a trend that is consistent across each type of nondegree credential (certificate, certification, and license).

“For instance, 74 percent of men with a certificate and no bachelor’s degree were employed, compared with 67 percent of women with a certificate and no bachelor’s degree,” the report wrote.

Women are also being paid less than men. Close to half (46 percent) of women with a non-degree credential and no four-year degree made less than US$30,000. Comparatively, only a quarter of men do.

Only 5 percent of women with a non-degree credential and no bachelor’s degree earned more than US$75,000, but there are 17 percent of men with similar qualifications that do.

Healthcare is where women with less than a bachelor’s degree outnumber men the most in the US. Source: Shutterstock

However, women in “male-dominated occupations” buck this trend.

Those in occupational areas, where men comprise at least 70 percent of the workers in a sector (eg. construction and computer occupations) earn more, and sometimes a lot more than those in female-dominated occupational areas (eg. education and healthcare occupations).

The gender gap appears to start even before women re-enter the workforce after obtaining their credentials.

New America’s report found that men tend to pay less to obtain their non-degree credentials and were more likely to have their employers fund their training. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to have paid for the education and/or examination required for their credential on their own.

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