Does Certification Lead to Happiness? National Survey Data on Certification and Job Satisfaction
Track: Business of Certification
Research on the labor market effects of certification tend to either be limited by a focus exclusively on compensation or by limiting analysis to a specific occupation or certification program. Thus, past findings of perceived and actual benefits to certification may simply be reflective of the unique labor market contexts in which such studies occurred. Using a nationally representative data set, the National Survey of College Graduates, I identify the effect of certification attainment on six dimensions of job satisfaction. I then examine how the effect of certification differs across age cohorts, contrasting the experiences of younger, middle-aged, and older certificants. My research finds a generally positive effect of certification on job satisfaction among college-educated Americans, even after controlling for many occupational, employment-related, and demographic characteristics that we might expect to be associated with certification attainment. However, certification’s effects on job satisfaction tend to be associated more with qualitative aspects of working life, such as satisfaction with a job’s contribution to society or the availability of intellectual challenges at work, than with satisfaction in regard to compensation. Certification tends to boost job satisfaction in younger workers, but plateaus and even becomes associated with dissatisfaction in middle age, suggesting either averse selection into certification programs or a failure to meet the career development needs of mid-career workers. Regardless of the interpretation of these results, they point to a need for certification organizations to critically reflect upon how they serve workers in the middle phases of their careers.