A post-secondary education is still the clearest path to a middle class income, new research shows.A study released Monday by the Georgetown University centre on Education and the Workforce found high school graduates who skip college in favour of working their way up the corporate ladder might be hedging their bets on a reality that no longer exists.
Jobs for high school graduates will plummet dramatically in the next 10 years, making up only 37 per cent of the market six years from now, the study found.
That’s a 35-per cent drop from the demand in 1973 and a decrease of 7 per cent since 1992.
“The days when people left high school, went to work in the local industry and then worked their way up the career ladder through a wide variety of occupations are fast-disappearing,” the study says. “Starting out straight from high school on the loading dock or in the mailroom and climbing to the CEO’s corner office is no longer an option.”
Researchers analysed demand for 16 career fields in 2008 compared to projections for demand a decade down the road. Overall, it looks like the hefty sticker price on college education these days will be well worth the investment.
Demand for jobs that require skills gleaned from a post-secondary education will jump 63 per cent, the study found.
Bank on getting a degree in one of the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and maths—if you tend to enjoy creature comforts, as those fields will continue to be among the highest-earning. These fields also require up to 94 per cent of workers to have postsecondary education and training.
College is even more important for women’s earning power, the study found. Ladies need college degrees to make as much as men who only earned a high school diploma in some fields.
The best job opportunities for high school dropouts and high school graduates are in male-dominated fields like construction and manufacturing. But women still dominate fields in business, management, administration, marketing, sales and hospitality.
The middle class will continue to feel the squeeze of a shrinking economy, as jobs with salaries high enough to support a typical family will decline in the next few years, the study found.
A bit of good news: A swell of retiring baby boomers will create about 3 million job openings in manufacturing by 2018, a field that is typically welcoming to high school dropouts and graduates.
“Our grandparents’ economy, which promised good-paying jobs for anyone who graduated from high school, is fading and will soon be gone,” researchers say. “Higher education has become a virtual must for American workers.”