The best paying jobs in the United States often require successful completion of a study program at a college or university. But a new study suggests there are also millions of good jobs for people with only a high school education.
The study was a project of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Its findings were based on U.S. government information. Financial company JPMorgan Chase provided money for the research.
The Georgetown researchers defined a “good job” as one paying at least $35,000 a year for U.S. workers between the ages of 25 and 44 years. For those between 45 and 64, a good job was said to pay at least $45,000 a year.
The study identified three general paths leading to a good job: a high school education, middle skills, and bachelor’s degree, BA, from a college or university.
The high school path is meant for workers with a high school education or less. The middle-skills group included workers with more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree. Included in this group were people who earned an associate degree or attended classes or training in college, but did not have such a degree.
The report noted that after World War II, U.S. workers with a high school diploma or less were able to get good-paying, middle-class jobs. It said that is because there were a large number of jobs in manufacturing and other industries requiring physical labor. Most of these jobs were filled by workers with only a high school education.
But over the years, manufacturing kept moving toward greater use of machines. In addition, the U.S. and world economies went through major changes. These developments created a need for a more educated and skilled work force.
The report said that in the manufacturing-based economy of the past, about two-thirds of entry-level jobs required a high school diploma or less. Today, two-thirds of jobs require at least some education or training in addition to high school, it found.
The researchers estimated that in 1991, 15 million good jobs existed for those with a high school diploma. About 12 million good middle-skills jobs were available, while 18 million existed for people with a bachelor’s degree.
By 2016, the report found the high school path led to only 13 million good jobs. However, those 13 million jobs were responsible for about 20 percent of all good jobs, the study found. The middle-skills group grew to 16 million, while the path for bachelor’s degree holders doubled to 36 million good jobs.
Anthony Carnevale is director of the Center on Education and the Workforce, and a lead researcher on the project.
“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,” he said. “We also found it surprising that even though blue-collar jobs declined, middle-skills jobs have grown considerably.”
The report said that the long-term future for high school-educated workers is unclear. But it estimated about 27 percent of U.S. workers aged 25 to 34 with a high school diploma currently have a good job.
The financial website Kiplinger.com recently examined a collection of data to identify the highest-paying jobs for Americans without a college degree. Among the top-rated were sales representative, computer user support specialist and power line installer, Kiplinger reported.
As the population ages, America’s health care industry will provide many more jobs for people without a college degree. These are expected to include health technologist, medical secretary, medical assistant and dental assistant, Kiplinger noted.
Other top jobs identified for high school diploma holders included oil, gas and mine service operator, self-improvement education teacher, flight attendant and plumber.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His report was based on information from the Center on Education and the Workforce, VOA News and Kiplinger.com. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
bachelor’s degree – n. a degree given to a student by a college or university usually after four years of study
automation – n. the control of something using machines and not people
decline – v. to become less in amount, importance, quality or strength
installer – n. person whose job is to put things in position and make them ready for use
plumber – n. someone whose job is to supply, connect, and repair water pipes and devices