Posted on 28-Feb-16

Americans believe in lifelong learning

Pew Research Center logoThe Pew Research Center released a study last week “Lifelong Learning and Technology.” It defined two types of learners: personal and professional. At IACET, we’re most interested in the latter (though we heartily appreciate the other, as no learning is bad). The results were positive in my mind with almost 3/4ths of the U.S. adult population taking part in some form of continued learning.

Who are professional learners?

In this blog, I’m going to pull together a quick summary of the professional learners results from the study.

They are taking continuing education and training to keep their skills current – over half of respondents cited “for license or certification needed for [their] job” (57%)1. Many industries and state boards require continuing education to maintain one’s license or certification.I recently researched the professional engineering boards and found that 46 out of the 50 states have a regulation in place (and Connecticut is currently reviewing). 

As a bonus, this additional education also expanded their networks and career opportunities. 

The type of profession can influence who receives training. As the Pew chart below shows, more government and education-related employees consider themsleves to be professional learners than all employed adults (63%)2. The report speculates that these two groups require more training or are provided more opportunities to take classes (despite being the smallest segments of the workforce).

 Pew Study Professional Learners Job Type

Where are professional learners taking their training?

Another interesting study result was how the professional training is delivered, according to respondents. The chart below shows that a majority of the training is taking place at a physical location whether it be the office, at a conference or a training facility3. I speculate that this could be due to the heavy influence of government and education staff as seen above. Where do you take continuing education most often?

The Pew Research study analyzed education level (college or higher, some college or high school graduate or less) and the reason for professional learning. When licensing or certification was involved, close to 50% of college grads cited this reason and over 1/3rd of some college. Only 25% of the high school grads (or less) chose this reason4.

Pew Study Professional Learners Training Location

Khaaaaaan! Online learning isn't part of the fabric yet

(Yes, my title reference is to Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.) I found these results interesting. Perhaps it's because I'm a digital marketer always taking a webinar. However, the Pew study revealed a lack of awareness of online learning platforms. In general, respondents were not aware of virtual locations to continue their education5. The Khan Academy might have been a media darling, yet the coverage did little to move the awareness needle with adult learners.

Pew Study Awareness of Online Learning

Are professional learners racially diverse?

While I won’t delve into all of the socioeconomic data from the report, the race results caught my eye. The below chart’s title is negative; however, I thought the professional learners showed only minor differences between each segment compared to personal learners (which is influenced by income and internet connectivity according to the results)6.

 Pew Study Learners Race

In Conclusion

It would have been interesting to dive a little further and segment the professional learners by industry (engineering, nursing, early childhood development, construction, etc.). However, the Pew study did not ask those questions.

Regardless, the study is heartening for those of us in the continuing education and training industry. Americans are dedicated to continual learning new skills for work and play. Technology either has a long way to go yet to be totally disruptive, or it's become so integrated that people don't really differentiate anymore - it's just "learning."  

BBC Future: "The internet now is invisible and ubiquitous."

 What were your takeaways from the study? Share and discuss on your preferred social media platform!


About the Author

Kristy Cartier is IACET's first Marketing Manager. She has managed digital marketing for associations and business-to-business organizations. Kristy holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Agricultural Economics from Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee. While her thesis was on the direct marketing of farmers' markets, she has worked with Kroger, Louisville Gas & Electric, Aptean, AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing, American Ambulance Association and more in her marketing travels. Kristy is a lifelong learner.


 Study reference pages:

  • Page 5
  • Page 19
  • Page 21
  • Page 25
  • Page 30
  • Page 38

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