Where Worker Pool Is Large, Employers Demand College Degrees for More Jobs

(p. B1) The median wage for workers with some college education but no four-year degree is $835 per week, about 10 percent less than it was at the turn of the century, after inflation. Workers with a bachelor’s degree typically make one-third more.

Underneath the grim average, however, the truth is that there are better-paid jobs available to workers without the requisite college credential. The trick is finding them. They are not always in the most obvious places.

Keith Wardrip of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Kyle Fee and Lisa Nelson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland have put together a map. Its most resounding and confounding recommendation: Stay out of the superstar cities. Their booming tech, health and financial industries may offer great jobs for the college educated. But if you don’t have the degree, they have little for you.

What’s a good job?

Mr. Wardrip, Mr. Fee and Ms. Nelson define a “good job” in simple terms: It has to pay more than the national median wage, $37,690 in 2017, adjusted for the cost of liv-(p. B5)ing in the area. In Springfield, Mo., the cutoff is $33,100. In San Jose, Calif., it is $47,900. To figure out how many of these jobs are open to people without degrees, the researchers scoured nearly 30 million local job ads across 121 metropolitan areas to determine their minimum educational requirements. They called them “opportunity jobs.”

. . .

San Francisco is not for you

The most striking finding is how these jobs are distributed geographically. In Asheville, N.C., more than four in five job openings for computer-user support specialists do not require a bachelor’s degree. In San Francisco, only about a third are open to people without a degree. Fewer than half the nursing jobs in Raleigh, N.C., are open to people who haven’t graduated from a four-year college, compared with 85 percent in Huntsville, Ala.

. . .

How to expand opportunities to workers without a four-year degree? Part of the answer involves training, for sure. Cities might also try to promote the expansion of the kinds of industries that offer most opportunity jobs. But the enormous variation in educational requirements for similar jobs across the United States also suggests that many employers seem to be asking for more education than the job requires.

There may be good reasons for hospitals in Raleigh to require registered nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. The positions might involve more complex care requiring a higher level of skill. But the large disparity in educational requirements suggests that many employers are demanding more education than needed just because they can be more selective when they have a larger pool of workers to choose from.

For the full story, see:

Eduardo Porter. “Catching the Wave: No College Degree? A Change of Scenery May Help You Find a Job that Pays Well.” The New York Times (Friday, May 3, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses added; bold headings in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 2, 2019, and has the title “Where the Good Jobs Are.”)

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