The number of Americans graduating from college continues to grow. Researchers speculate on the reason, believing that anything from increased earning potential to improved job prospects drives this growth. No matter the cause, jobs for college grads are available, and in some areas, there aren’t enough candidates to fill the roles.
According to a 2012 study by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, roughly 43 percent of job openings in the United States' 100 largest metro areas required candidates to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. However, only 32 percent of adults 25 and older met this requirement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides similar findings, breaking out the figures even further. Of U.S. workers, almost 21 percent held a bachelor’s degree as of 2010. An estimated 8.4 percent held a master’s degree, while 3.9 percent held a doctorate or professional degree, which would include M.D.s and J.D.s.
The Center on Education and the Workforce, an independent research and policy institute, took a look at employment as a whole, not just job openings, and their findings paint a slightly different picture. By 2018, the Center estimates, around one-third of all jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree. Breaking this number down further, 23 percent of all jobs will require a bachelor’s degree, while 10 percent will require a master’s degree or higher.
Not surprisingly, education level affects earnings. In 2012, U.S. workers with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $55,432 a year, reports the BLS. By comparison, those with a high school diploma or its equivalent averaged $33,904 annually. Workers without a high school diploma or GED made even less, with an average of $24,492 a year. Meanwhile, those with a master's degree averaged $67,600.
Worker’s with a bachelor’s degree or higher can improve their chances of employment by moving to certain areas of the country. According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Washington and the District Columbia were the top areas of the country in terms of the percentage of job openings requiring postsecondary education by 2018. As far as degrees go, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Colorado are expected to lead the nation in job openings requiring a bachelor’s degree by 2018. The District of Columbia, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland should have the most jobs requiring a master’s degree or higher.
Like earnings, educational level affects unemployment rates. In 2012, 4.5 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree were unemployed, according to the BLS. This was almost half the rate of those with a high school diploma, who had 8.3 percent unemployment. The lowest rate of unemployment was for workers with professional degrees, at an average of 2.1 percent, whereas the highest rate of employment was for workers without a high school diploma or GED, at an average of 12.4 percent.
- Brookings: Education, Job Openings and Unemployment in Metropolitan America
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Educational Attainment for Workers 25 Years and Older by Detailed Occupation
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment
- Center on Education and the Workforce: Projects of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018
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