Good jobs are still out there for those without four-year degrees

Don't panic. You can still earn a decent living without having to get a Bachelor's degree.


The blue collar road to a well-paying “good job” is not a dead end, but more of a route “under construction” with some slight detours, according to a new study and website from The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW).

And at the end of this road are 30 million jobs with median salaries around $55,000 for people without Bachelor’s degrees. That’s more than a livable wage in many U.S. states.

Screenshot of via The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

With support from JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s “New Skills at Work” initiative, CEW launched its “Good Jobs Data” website this month with an accompanying report and informative video on its findings which you can watch above.

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What does a “good job” for the 75-million high school-educated-only workforce entail anymore? CEW says that a good job begins with a $35,000 base salary which turns out to be $17 an hour. Of these 30 million good jobs out there, 14 million of them can earn workers between $35K and $55K.

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of Current Population Survey Annual Social and
Economic Supplement (March), 1992-2016.

Many of these good jobs are now being found in growth sectors in finance and healthcare, reflecting the rise of middle-skilled work requiring some college or technical certification. CEW reports that the number of good jobs decreased for high school-only workers but the number of good jobs requiring an Associate’s degree increased by 83 percent.

As The nation’s workforce adapts to pressures brought on by structural unemployment by re-skilling for good jobs, it has turned out to be a boon for the current low unemployment economy.

CEW says that “skilled-service” jobs have surpassed the amount of lost “good jobs” in dominant employment sectors like manufacturing and transportation. Since 1991, these industries have experienced a loss of around 3 million jobs, due to increased automation and offshoring. What the study found was that skilled-services employment netted 4 million good jobs in that time.

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of Current Population Survey Annual Social and
Economic Supplement (March), 1992-2016.

To maintain this growth, CEW says changing education, especially at the community college level, is paramount. They recommend that post-secondary education must match the demands of the job market. In California, where a majority of “good jobs” are found, the community college system is reinventing itself as a regionally-aligned workforce creator to boost the amount of skilled workers by 1 million.

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So despite losses in good jobs available to workers with just a high school degree, CEW says that there is plenty to be optimistic about. With a little bit of education, American workers have shown that they can still attain good jobs in the new economy and get paid, all without acquiring a BA. Keeping this good news going will be the challenge for policymakers, educators and employers to face together.

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