Pattye Benson

Community Matters

importance of college education

College Remains Important but Choosing the Right Major Could be Key to Employment

As a community, we focus on the T/E school district’s educational quality and its sustainability during these economic challenging times. Many in this community believe that there is a direct correlation between the quality of education provided in this school district and their property values. For other residents, they look at the quality of our school district as a contributor to their children’s college experience and future job prospects.

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workplace conducted an extensive study on the projection of jobs and education requirements through 2018. A new report was recently released from the center, ‘Career Clusters: Forecasting Demand for High School through College Jobs 2008 – 2018‘ which offers some interesting trends and forecasts.

Everything we know about the job market tells us that a college degree is a passport to employment that provides a decent wage and benefits, albeit some benefits in the workplace are fading in today’s world. We all know that having a college degree does not guarantee employment. However, without a college degree the chances of securing a job providing a decent wage are far less. The Georgetown study reports that by 2018, 62% of all jobs will require at least some college education. The United States will need 22 million new college degrees but the study says we will fall short by at least 3 million.

“A bachelor’s degree is still the best path to middle-class employment and wages in the United States, and while those with only a high-school diploma can achieve the same status, it will become harder for them to find and secure such jobs.” according to the study.

The reports indicates that there are jobs for those with high school degrees, but those jobs are mostly in male-dominated careers – manufacturing, architecture and construction, distribution and logistics and hospitality. The study makes an interesting point that women need education beyond a high school degree to be able to earn the same wage as a man with only a high-school education. This analysis would suggest that at the lower educated levels, women have not advanced as far with their paychecks as those women of higher education. Although there remains a disparity in many workplaces between the salaries of women and men that gap has become narrower in the last decade. This report suggests that the paycheck gap between the sexes is wider among the lower educated. The higher the education, the lesser the salary gap between women and their male counterparts.

In the future, a person with only a high school diploma will have to work harder to reach a middle-class status versus a person with only a few college credits. Opportunities go up proportionately based on the level of education and that growing fields of employment with better salaries will require college degrees. The bottom line . . . a college education is still important and valuable, even in a bad economy. It is the economy that is putting a high value on college degrees. Putting students on a track to reach the college or university level and emphasizing the importance of a degree remains important.

Understanding the importance of a college education, if you look at the original report from the Georgetown University Center of Education and the Workplace, the data suggests the following:

Consider that, since 1983, among prime-age workers between the ages of 25 and 54:

• Earnings of high school dropouts have fallen by 2 percent;
• Earnings of high school graduates have increased by 13 percent;
• Earnings of people with some college or an Associate’s degree have increased by 15 percent;
• Earnings of people with Bachelor’s degrees have increased by 34 percent;
• Earnings of people with graduate degrees have increased by 55 percent.

Although unemployment affects all economic levels, the report suggests that those individuals with postsecondary education will fair better through this recession than ‘high school educated only’ individuals. In addition, that the country’s future economic recovery will focus on skilled rather than unskilled labor jobs. In other words, those that lost jobs that only required a high school education will find that their jobs may be permanently lost; lost either to automation or through outsourcing to foreign competitors.

Using the data from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workplace, the Wall Street Journal created an interactive tool where users can search for the average employment rate and median income of people who studied each major.

Current top 10 college majors with the highest unemployment (10% employment rate or higher)

1. Clinical psychology 19.5%
2. Miscellaneous fine arts 16.2%
3. United States history 15.1%
4. Library science 15.0%
5. (tie) Military technologies; educational psychology 10.9%
6. Architecture 10.6%
7. Industrial & organizational psychology 10.4%
8. Miscellaneous psychology 10.3%
9. Linguistics & comparative literature 10.2%

One obvious trend to recognize is anyone with some form of an undergraduate psychology degree is struggling to find employment. Due to the slowdown in the construction industry, it is not a surprise to see architecture on the list.

The most employable college majors (with accompanying unemployment rate):

1. Actuarial Science 0%
2. Astronomy and astrophysics 0%
3. Educational administration and supervision 0%
4. Geological and geophysical engineering 0%
5. Pharmacology 0%
6. School student counseling 0%
7. Agricultural economics 1.3%
8. Medical technologies technicians 1.4%
9. Atmospheric science and meteorology 1.6%
10. Environmental engineering, nursing and nuclear industrial radiology and biological technologies 2.2%

College students should take note of some recession-proof degrees. There are at least six fields of study whose graduates are virtually 100 percent employed right now. That’s right – certain majors, such as pharmacology, produce graduates who face a zero percent unemployment rate. That’s not bad considering last month’s joblessness rate for people with a college degree or higher was 4.4 percent. Jobs are available for science and technology majors but also it is good to see that education and school counseling majors should be able to find employment.

Looking at the county’s unemployment rates and the rising costs of a college education over the last three decades, we should not question the value of a postsecondary degree as the Georgetown University study confirms its value. However, even if we can agree on the importance of a four-year education, especially once the country struggles out of recession into recovery mode, a pressing problem remains.

Beyond the cost of the college degree is the bigger problem . . . and that is how to pay for it!

I feel like we are living in the slow motion era of the 2nd Great Depression.

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