Disadvantages and options for job hunters without college degrees

Without a college degree, job seekers are at a disadvantage in today's employment market. But they still have options, according to a report from Georgetown.
(Matt Rourke / AP Photo)

Navigating the job market without a college degree is harder than ever, but there are still plenty of solid jobs to be had, according to a new report.

Some 29 million jobs with annual salaries of more than $35,000 exist for those who haven’t finished college, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

That’s one in every five jobs. Of those, 11 million jobs pay $50,000 or more a year.

Of all so-called middle jobs, roughly half are office jobs, a third are blue-collar positions and the rest are roles in healthcare and technical occupations. Men have more access to such jobs than women do.


Still, job seekers without a college degree seem to be at a disadvantage, according to the report.

In the turgid economic recovery, less than half of the jobs lost in the recession have come back, and nearly all of them require some form of post-secondary schooling, according to Georgetown.

Even in low-skill sectors, such as manufacturing and construction, those without bachelor’s degrees were hit hardest by unemployment. Nearly a quarter of young high school graduates are unemployed, compared with 7% of college grads, according to the report.

The demographic has watched wages tank 12% over the past decade to $19,400 a year in 2011. They hold a shrinking share of the middle class, where 74% had a high school diploma or less in 1970, compared with just 39% in 2007.

By 2020, nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the country will require education and training beyond high school.

“Exposing the American workforce to global competition has placed significant pressure on low-education workers’ wages and employment,” according to the report. “Many American companies have decided to ship parts of their production chains overseas to lower costs and improve profit margins.”


Lower education levels mean more difficulty improving earning power in the future, according to the report.

The study recommends that degree-less job seekers look into associates degrees, industry certifications and other forms of education and training.

The U.S. lags other countries in options such as apprenticeships, with just three apprentices per 1,000 employed individuals, compared with 43 in Switzerland and 40 in Germany. Nearly all American apprentices are men and most are in the construction business.


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