Jobs ahead sign

The short answer: Go to school.

The longer answer takes some explaining. A recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce finds that there are “good jobs” for people with a high school diploma, some college, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree.

But not all “good jobs” — $35,000 a year for ages 25 to 44 and $45,000 for ages 45 to 64 – are alike.

Work and Economic Opportunity Have Changed

Automation and globalization have changed the dynamics, the center reports. Higher skill levels are needed. Two out of three jobs in the industrial economy required a high school diploma or less, but we are post-industrial today. These days, two out of three jobs require education or training beyond high school.

Still, three routes are open to good jobs: high school, middle-skills, and bachelor’s degree.

High School Route

There are about 13 million good jobs in the United States for someone with a high school diploma, about 20 percent of all good jobs. Prospects, however, are “mixed.” Many high school graduates start at the bottom and work their way up to manager or supervisor in such industries as construction, manufacturing, and retail.

But the share of these jobs in the economy is declining. The net jobs losses over the past 25 years have been in this route. No change is in sight. There will be fewer and fewer jobs opportunities than the other two routes.

“Furthermore,” the center states, “the good job opportunities it provides are primarily for men.”

Middle-Skills Route

Traditional middle-skills jobs – 24 percent of good jobs – include first responders, machinists, mechanics and installers, repairers of industrial equipment, and highway maintenance workers. It also includes technicians in health care, computer information and networking, mapping, and information and records technicians. As you see from all the links in the previous sentences, the gateway for many of these jobs is a community college.

In fact, the center reports, “good (middle-skills) jobs are growing the fastest among workers with associate degrees.” In the past 25 years, 3.2 million middle-skills jobs have been added for workers with associate degrees to just 300,000 other middle-skill jobs.

Bachelor’s Degree (and Higher)

This, the center states, is “the premier route to economic opportunity.” It accounts for 56 percent of all good jobs. We are experiencing “the decline of the manufacturing economy and the rise of the college economy.” The center points to 2008 as the year of this change. It is when workers with a bachelor’s degree held more good jobs that workers without. The middle-skills route started holding more good jobs than workers without a degree even earlier – in 2004.

“The majority of American workers now need deeper knowledge in their fields and also a broader set of general problem-solving and critical thinking skills to perform new tasks,” the center states.

What’s This Mean to Me?

If you are in high school, graduate and seek more education. If you are in community college, graduate and explore your options between entering the workforce from your technical program or transferring for a bachelor’s degree. If you are on the bachelor’s path, press on to graduation.

Or, to return to the short answer: Go to school.

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