About one in five American adults carries some kind of professional certification or license other than a traditional college degree. For many, these qualifications guarantee a job and a livelihood, but acquiring them can be a major investment. The big question is how to make sure that workers understand their job prospects in their chosen field before they put their money into training.
This year, the controversy around the costs and benefits of such qualifications has expanded beyond trucking, auto repair and software to an unconventional sector -- yoga.
More and more Americans are signing up to become yoga instructors, committing to hundreds of hours of physically rigorous, emotionally demanding and expensive classes in order to earn the credential, The Wall Street Journal's Rachel Bachman reports.
The number of newly minted yogis registering with Yoga Alliance, a trade group, has increased at an annual rate of 18 percent since 2008. Meanwhile, regulators are taking notice.
Their worry is that yoga students in teacher-training courses are enrolling with the hope of a career out of their newfound expertise. Some might plan to look for work as an instructor, while others might want to open a yoga studio of their own.
If so, then yoga schools arguably have an obligation to make sure their clients understand the financial risks before dropping several thousand dollars on a complete training course. At least, that's what officials in Colorado and other states have said. Yoga instructors disagree vehemently.
Yoga Alliance is one of many industry organizations offering private or informal credentialing for people looking to hone their skills outside of community colleges and traditional four-year institutions. These qualifications cover operating a forklift, giving first aid, working with Microsoft products and more. As Wonkblog has previously reported, they can be valuable on the labor market, particularly for people without a college degree.
Yet these professional credentials usually cost money, and not all of them are really useful. It can be difficult to know in advance whether the training will pay off, or whether the course is just a money-making scheme for the school offering it.
Bachman reports that relatively few new yogis are starting schools of their own, and that the training courses are lucrative for the studios that offer them, which could be cause for concern. She also writes, however, that many students already have full-time occupations and aren't looking to change their careers. They just want to learn more about yoga, their bodies and themselves.
If these accounts of students in training to become yoga teachers are representative of new yogis as a whole, they could weaken the argument for regulation. So does the fact that yoga registrations are increasing as the economy recovers. If these students were hoping for a new career, you'd expect that the pace of new registrations would slow with declining unemployment.