Despite the push from policymakers to steer more people toward a four-year degree, a new report shows that 13 million available jobs are still there for those with nothing more than a high school diploma.
The figure was among the top-line findings of a report released Tuesday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which shows how the number of jobs available for certain education attainment levels has changed over time. The center’s researchers collaborated with JP Morgan Chase & Co. to produce the report.
“The fact that good jobs for high school workers have persisted to the extent that they have is a testament to the resilience of this pathway,” the researchers concluded in the report. “The high school economy will likely remain a stable pathway to good jobs in the near term even as older workers with no more than a high school diploma continue to retire.”
In taking a historic look at jobs available for each education attainment level, researchers found that in 1991, there were 15 million good high school jobs, 12 million good middle-skills jobs and 18 million good bachelor’s degree jobs. By 2016, the high school pathway decreased to 13 million good jobs, the middle-skills pathway grew to 16 million good jobs and the bachelor’s degree pathway doubled to 36 million good jobs.
Researchers defined “good jobs” as ones that pay at least $35,000 and average $56,000 for workers with less than a bachelor’s degree and average $65,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
They were quick to underscore that the future economy for those with nothing more than a high school diploma remains uncertain, but as of now it’s continuing to provide good jobs. About 27 percent of young workers ages 25-34, or 2.9 million young workers total, who have only their high school diploma have managed to nab a good job. That figure is down only slightly from 29 percent in 1991.
Overall, researchers found that the high school pathway still provides 20 percent of all good jobs.
“While it’s no surprise that the BA economy has doubled the number of good jobs it provides, it really struck us that the high school economy still provides 13 million good jobs,” Anthony Carnevale, director of CEW and lead author of the report, said in a statement. “We also found it surprising that even though blue-collar jobs declined, middle-skills jobs have grown considerably.”
Indeed, all of the growth of new good jobs available to those without a bachelor’s degree has been in “middle-skills jobs,” especially among those that require an associate’s degree.
Researchers defined the middle-skills industry as those jobs that require more education than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, including certificates and certification programs, licenses, associate’s degrees or some college work. The middle-skills pathway encompasses 24 percent of all good jobs, they found, and most of the industry’s growth was in skilled-services industries and skilled-technical good jobs in blue-collar industries.
“Despite the common misconception that the middle-skills economy has hollowed out, good jobs in this sector have seen robust growth, even in the blue collar sector,” Jeff Strohl, director of research at the CEW and co-author of the report, said in a statement.
To be sure, workers with a bachelor’s degree have access to the greatest number of good jobs – 36 million, to be exact, or 56 percent of all good jobs. Researchers also found that 74 percent of those with bachelor’s degrees or higher have good jobs compared to 38 percent of workers without a bachelor’s degree.