Want a Career in Michigan? The State Says You’d Better Get to College.

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Want a Career in Michigan? The State Says You’d Better Get to College.

In Educational Attainment December 2, 2016

Last month, the State of Michigan’s Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives (LMISI) updated one of their signature publications: Michigan’s Hot 50 – Tomorrow’s High-Demand High-Wage Careers. Informed by demographic and market data, LMISI projects the number of annual job openings, hourly wage ranges, and job growth in Michigan through 2024.

What’s the verdict?

If you haven’t done so already, you had better plan on attending college or a university if you want a good job through 2024.

Of the 50 high-demand and high-wage careers in 2024, 43 will require at least some level of postsecondary education. And 36 of those 50 career fields will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. The era of apprenticing in a job is over. Michigan was a leader in on-the-job training in the 20th Century, and three decades of automation, trade, and economic evolution turned that into a liability. Only a few trades like plumbing, HVAC, and carpentry continue to use the formal apprenticeship model. Employers still have a role and an obligation to train new employees, but their demands are clear. Employers expect their incoming workforce to be well and broadly educated, adaptable, and re-trainable. Exactly the qualities found in university graduates.

Is the list perfect? No set of projections can be, and I disagree with elements of it as well. For example, the Hot 50 list projects that Michigan will have 1,566 truck driver openings a year through 2024.1 Yet, automation threatens to eliminate this entire career altogether, one of the dwindling number of jobs that can support a family without requiring much formal education. Even then, I would note the difference between the trucker’s salary cited in the LA Times article of $70,000/year and the upper limit given in the Hot 50 chart for Michigan truck drivers, $47,840/year.2 In rural Michigan, $48K in a year can be a pretty good salary, but is it one that allows for one spouse to stay home and raise a family full-time if they choose? I don’t know, but it’s not $70K.

LMISI’s data reinforces that the earnings gap between those with a university education and those without one continues to grow. To be clear, this is not because any job is morally superior to another, nor is it something that should happen. But it’s something that is happening and it’s cold economic reality. 2024 is approaching fast,3 and so Michigan and the rest of the United States had better prepare while there’s still time.

Bob Murphy is the Director of University Relations and Policy at the Michigan Association of State Universities.


1. requiring a non-degree award, or a certificate
2. 75th percentile
3. When anybody says “ten years ago” I think of the 90s. Every time.