Earning a credential can open several doors to SWFI participants and their families – professionally, academically, and even emotionally. A credential can make it easier for participants to find a job in their new field, lead to higher wages, increase feelings of confidence during their job search, and provide an important building block to further progress on a career pathway. Attaining a credential may even have an impact on the educational success of SWFI participants’ children.

According to a recent study by Strada Education Network and the Lumina Foundation, high school graduates without a college degree who earn a credential have higher full-time employment rates than their peers with no credential (85 percent versus 78 percent). They also earn a higher median annual income when compared to their peers with no credential ($45,000 versus $30,000). Although this study focuses on a wide variety of industries and careers, we pulled the median personal income with and without a credential for fields that many SWFI participants go into after training. As you can see, credentials can boost wages in some of these fields by over 30 percent!

Career field

Without certificate or certification

With certificate or certification

Certificate/certification premium




$5,000 (17%)

Manufacturing or Production



$11,000 (32%)

Computer and Mathematical



$19,000 (35%)









   Source: Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey

The benefits of earning a credential might not stop at the SWFI participants themselves – increasing educational attainment could have an impact on several key outcomes for their children. A 2015 brief by the Urban Institute’s Low-Income Working Families Project examined the impact of parental education on “ever-poor” children (those who are poor for at least one year before their 18th birthday). Compared with ever-poor children whose parents do not have a high school education, ever-poor children whose parents have a high school education or more than a high school education are 11 and 30 percent, respectively, more likely to complete high school. Children whose parents have more than a high school education are also more than twice as likely to enroll in postsecondary education by age 25 and nearly five times more likely to complete college by age 25. These individuals are also more likely to enter their twenties without having a nonmarital birth.

To reap the benefits of earning a credential, SWFI participants must overcome a variety of challenges to move from training completion to credential attainment. SWFI participants often need to rearrange their schedules and family routines to get through training and test preparation – feeling like this work will amount to wasted effort if they fail their exam can lead to a tremendous amount of pressure.  For some, the very idea of taking an exam may bring back painful memories of poor test performance and lack of academic support in the past.

Over the course of the SWFI grants, grantees have shared how challenging it can be to convince participants to take their exams, support them through this testing anxiety, and eventually hear back from participants on whether they earned their credential. Grantees have also shared that some SWFI participants believe they already have their credential once they complete their training program (not realizing that they still need to sit for an exam).

To address some of these challenges, the SWFI TA coaches developed an exam prep tip sheet that SWFI grantees can distribute to their participants as they near the end of their training. This double-sided infographic explains to participants the benefits of earning a credential, a test preparation checklist, and tips to make sure that their test day runs smoothly. The tip sheet even includes a reminder for participants to report the results of their test back to their SWFI program, as many grantees find it challenging to collect this outcome information.

SWFI grantees can contact their TA coaches if they have any questions about the exam prep tip sheet or how to use it with their participants.

 Further reading:

  • The SWFI exam prep tip sheet is ready for grantees to review and share with their SWFI participants. Simply download the tip sheet file and distribute electronically or in print. 

  • The report referenced in this post on the benefits of credential attainment, entitled Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications?, analyzes data from the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey to examine the impact of non-degree credentials on the lives of a nationally-representative group of education consumers.

  • You can read more about the impact of parental education on child outcomes in the Urban Institute brief referenced above. This brief was created for the Urban Institute’s Low-Income Working Families Project.